Jan/Feb Newsletter – 2021
Hello Beautiful You!
We are fast approaching spring. In a way, I am so grateful for the coming months of more light and warmth, yet… I’m enjoying this time of rest because, thanks to 2020, I’ve realized I simply don’t let myself rest enough!
I know I sound like a broken record repeating the same mantra from last month to this month, but it bears repeating that living a good life does not mean we have to be going all the time. Living a good life involves taking time to just be, and I feel like winter pre-pandemic was not conducive towards that kind of life for me. I know that not everyone is in this boat with me, you have kids (bless you!), other people you care for (bless you!), extremely demanding jobs, and so on, yet I ask since we are living lives that look radically different than before: is there a way that you can slow down, just a smidge, between now and when the warmth of spring melts the proverbial chill of winter away? Just to sit, and let winter do it’s magic?
We don’t have a lot of time left do let winter do it’s thing, unlike the Gregorian calendar, where the spring equinox is on March 20, the Chinese calendar marks February 12th is the official start of the New Year – or Spring. Imbolc, or Candlemas, is the Celtic/Gaelic beginning of spring, a time of new beginnings, the start of the lambing season was just last week (February 1st-2nd) as well.
In the Chinese Medicine calendar, this is when the Yin time of year reaches the terminal point and touches upon the Yang that is within – a true reminder that there is a seed of Yang within Yin, and the seed of Yin within Yang.
If we are in contact with the underlying currents of the workings of nature, we know that even the coldest nights have a spark of light and heat, and the hottest days have a chill of darkness and cold. This contact bears great gifts and responsibilities.
Spring cleaning should now be done, clearing the way for new growth to burst forth with the return of the light and Yang. I’ve been doing a lot of little things around my house, and even repainted the room that I work in! It feels good to have “cleaned” this room in more ways than one! Next up… the dreaded closet.
I’ve started thinking about the transition from winter into spring. How I frequently come down with a cold around this time, and given the current state of affairs I thought it was fitting to share some strategies that are applicable from fall through early spring – one last time for the season. These strategies will be in a book that I plan to release in the coming months on seasonal pathogens. As books go – they seem to have a mind of their own when they are “finished”.
First things first, with regards to all pathogens – wash your hands, and keep your hands out of your mouth, eyes, and nose unless your hands have been washed first! Hand sanitizer works great when you are out and about, but nothing beats simple soap and water.
Continue to keep that neck of yours covered with a scarf or neck-warmer. This goes for windy days warm or cold, or any time the temperature dips low enough for you to have sweater on. There are “wind gates” in your neck – acupuncture points – and by keeping those points covered and warm, you keep your own internal warmth and defense system safe! (Keep your head covered too.)
Even on the warmer days, keep your abdomen and lower back toasty warm by tucking in your shirt, wearing a haramaki, or through wearing high-waisted pants. The abdomen houses our digestive fire, and the Kidneys and Ming-Men in our lower back which are the source of our innate fire. Keep that warm and covered, and you protect your precious Yang! If your abdomen is cool to the touch, consider soaking in a warm salt bath, and using a heating pad when you rest at night before bed.
The Standard American Diet is not beneficial towards our Yang and immune systems – eat more cooked vegetables: green, red, yellow, orange, and purple, eat whole sources of protein (not factory-made!) and warming soups and broths. Whole starches (sweet potatoes, squashes, whole grains if you tolerate them) are great because they are nourishing and provide the warm sweetness that we crave this time of year. Avoid typical sugary, carb-heavy, raw, cold foods – that includes food ranging from smoothies, salads, ice cream, soda, candy, cereals, iced coffee, baked goods, pasta, pizza, and so on. Watch your fruit intake, because fruit is healthy in moderation but in large doses negatively impacts the digestive fire (see: Dampness paper). I need to take my own advice: I love baking this time of year, and since I now live alone, well, I’m sure you all can guess how these every once in a while treats get eaten…
I’m an urban dweller, so this may not apply to those who have more access to the outdoors or not, but… get outside for a walk every day (weather permitting), preferably in the sun, preferably for at least a half hour. Bundle up, get the right shoes on and whatever other gear you need, and move that body. While those of us in the Northeast (or other northern parts of the US) are not making Vitamin D in the sunshine this time of year, it is very important for our mental health and our circadian rhythms to be exposed to light and outdoor movement. Being in nature, even in the cold, even on a track in the city, is still better for us than being cooped up inside day after day.
I’ve been doing some more reading about vitamin D supplementation, what it means for those of us with autoimmune disorders (and chronic low D levels in our blood), and how best to work with the results. To this I say: get your vitamin D checked, and supplement as directed by your doctor, preferably with cod liver oil and other oils high in D.
Take care of your spiritual and emotional health: meditate, read inspiring poetry, spend time with yourself loving on yourself. Carve out time every day to take care of you, even if it is just 20 minutes, even if all you can get is 5 minutes. Make that time precious as the rarest metals on Earth and cherish them as necessary facets to a life well lived.
As far as herbs and teas for this time of year…
I’ve been back on the sesame hot cocoa here and there, which feels so wonderful.
I don’t have a tea recipe for you this month, but I do have an herb of the month: citrus peels.
I adore citrus peels. And instead of a big long write up about them, I decided to take a deep dive into them and share some key take-aways from a Chinese Medicine perspective. Make your favorite cup of tea, or the sesame hot cocoa and settle down for lots of talk about peels, and digestion, and phlegm!
Click here to watch the video! Enjoy!