The ultimate yin energy is upon us on December 21st as Winter Solstice approaches and we experience the shortest day and longest night of the year. This year, we will also have a Solstice Full Moon to illuminate the night sky.
In Chinese medicine, the day after Winter Solstice is when yang begins to rise again. As yin was dominant with the lengthening days, yang ascends slowly to overtake yin. Yang dominates after Spring Equinox when yin and yang reside in balance for a brief Earth day.
The beginning of Winter also moves us from the Metal Element into the Water Element. (This statement needs a little clarification: For many of us that study the 5 elements, the Earth element/phase represents the 18 day transitional period between each season; therefore the Earth element is between the Metal and Water elements, and so forth).
The Water Element has many correspondences, like the season of Winter, the color of black/dark blue, and the flavor of salty. Instead of writing it all out for you- listen to this week’s episode of The Herb Walk Podcast where I discuss Winter Solstice, the Water Element, and deer penises (you’re just gonna have to listen to find out why!)
As we move deeper into the dark time of year, instinctually we know to slow down. We feel the need to go to sleep earlier, sometimes ridiculously early for me, as it is pitch dark by 5pm and the coziness of my bed is overwhelming as the cold darkness engulfs me. But the hustle of the holidays is counter-intuitive to our natural urge to hibernate, retreat and restore.
Instead of spending time indoors, nourishing ourselves with slow cooked stews and teas, we run around mad buying gifts and preparing for endless parties and indulgences. A lot of this energy can be fun as we gather with friends and family to celebrate the holy days around the world. All the running around and monetary stress often lowers our immune system as we resist the wisdom of our bodies. Something archaic within us knows we should be home resting with a warm tea (or toddy!)
To honor this instinct in me, I’ve gone back to my home in the Redwood forest on the coast of Northern California. I feel the need to withdrawal to the seclusion of the forest, innately drawn to the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean, where I have always felt at home. This year, more than most, I know it’s necessary to be in my comfort zone during the darkest month of December. I need to stay balanced, nourished and insulated instead of hurried, frazzled and distracted with extraneous seasonal events.
This time of year I need to be on tree time. On their time I can slow down enough to hear these ancient beings remind me that even with all the intensity and seemingly insanity in our human world, there is also an immense beauty and connection that surpasses any injustice we witness on our minute mortal scale. I am reminded that we have worshipped and communed with trees for millennia, as our Solstice and Yuletide rituals, and Christmas trees still emulate. Being in an ancient forest is my way of celebrating Solstice, the return of the Sun.
How are you honoring these dark holy days before the return of the life-giving Sun? I will for sure be humming my own version of O, Tannenbaum and sipping a warm conifer cider.