Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Atmosphere of Winter

Although winter in Northern California is not characterized by dramatically low temperatures, it is a distinct season which brings rainy cool weather, chilly tule fog, and short daylight hours. As protected as we are from the seasonal changes by warm fleece apparel, central heating, and the electric light bulb, the human body is a dynamic organism whose inherent biorhythms are affected by the wintery atmosphere. Some people notice having less energy and initiative in winter; longer hours of sleep and warm foods seem more appealing than during the spring and summer months, and a period of semi- hibernation may feel appropriate or difficult to resist.

The authors of the Nei Jing, the seminal text of Traditional Chinese Medicine, recommended specific behaviors and practices for those who wished to guard their health during the winter. This text, also known as "The Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic" is over two thousand years old, but its words have retained their relevance despite the passage of time. For although technological innovations have eased our relationship with nature and the elements, the ancient physiology of humans which evolved over thousands of years has not been altered by modernity. Here are the recommendations from the Nei Jing on living in harmony with the atmosphere of Winter:

"The three months of Winter are called the period of closing and storing. Water freezes and the Earth cracks open. One should not disturb one's Yang. People should retire early at night and rise late in the morning and they should wait for the rising of the sun. They should suppress and conceal their wishes, as though they had no internal purposes, as though they had been fulfilled. People should try to escape the cold and they should seek warmth. They should not perspire upon the skin, and they should let themselves be deprived of the breath of the cold. All this is in harmony with the atmosphere of Winter and all this is the method for protection of one's storing."