December 1, 2016 at 11:41 am #47486
I’ve always had difficulty with the dark part of the year, especially December, along the lines of what is sometimes called seasonal affective disorder. While it seems that some of this stems from the shortened hours of sunlight, it also seems that there are other energetic factors at work. Can anyone suggest any tips for working with these contracting energies of winter?
elephantDecember 1, 2016 at 7:27 pm #47487
Winter tonifies the water element. Themes of rest and rejuvenation are energetically at work. Rather than it being a time for busy activity and doing hobbies you enjoy, it is more a time for self-contemplation, for rest, for quiet. If you can tune into the energy of rest, quiet, self-contemplation, then winter can feel quite enjoyable to the soul. You can appreciate it and feel joy in what it has to offer. If you can look at it as the time for which you can just rest and relax, with no other meaningful obligations, your spirit can brighten up and learn to enjoy the season, along with its associated darkness. Bear in mind also, that during the height of summer say, it might be light from the time you get up until the time you go to bed, so you only get to experience “day” . . . you are short-changed on the night time experience. In winter, with so much darkness, even subtracting sleep, you can experience BOTH light and dark in your wakefulness. So in some ways, it is even more rejuvenating because you can experience both energies in yin-yang pulsation within your direct consciousness during winter. Perhaps on the occasional clear night, you might even be able to see stars . . . something perhaps difficult to experience in the summer with so much light. In short, I think a lot of it has to do with attitude, and not recognizing all the wonderful aspects to winter and taking joy in them. Rather than resisting its nature, embrace it. With all its glory. Go with the flow, so to speak. Flow like “water”. 😉
Part of this is in changing your thinking (earth element). By supporting the earth element, it can feed your metal element (creation cycle) and your depression can vanish.
Of course, you can also work with your depression directly (Healing Sounds, Fusion).
But putting that aside, some tricks other than changing your thinking (as in the first paragraph) would be other things that nurture either elements of EARTH or WOOD.
Changing your thinking, nurtures EARTH as mentioned above. However, any sitting meditation will do. Doing alchemy meditations will nurture your earth element, and it is the time for it. Winter is the time for self-contemplation and going inward. So the season does support meditation. The benefit of nurturing EARTH is that it will support your METAL so you will have less problems with depression that need to be alleviated. Moreover, by strengthening your earth element, it will control WATER in the controlling cycle. Water element gets tonified during winter, and for some folks it can be too tonifying. Earth element can help diminish this, so it doesn’t get out of hand. Too much WATER can drain the METAL in sedation, aggravating depression.
The other technique would be to nurture WOOD. Things such as (externally) buying green houseplants to remind you of spring and to help you feel growing and rising energy in your home (to help you move too much stuck WATER that could be too tonified for you during winter). Activating WOOD can drain WATER in sedation. Using practices, good choices would be doing Tai Chi forms, tendon stretches (QF4 or IS2), or simply going for a very brisk-paced outdoor long walk in the crisp winter air.
**To sum up:
1. Work on changing your perspective about winter: See paragraph 1.
2. Nurture EARTH ELEMENT with appreciation of winter: sitting meditations, alchemy
3. Nurture WOOD ELEMENT: green houseplants, Tai Chi, tendon exercises, long brisk outdoor walks
As above, I’d recommend #1-2 for mild symptoms. If severe, focus on #3.
#1-2 focus on enjoying, and accepting “what is”, for more joy. #3 is more like a pain reliever if the winter energies are too strong/overwhelming and you need a respite.
And obviously Western medicine ideas about taking Vitamin D from lost sunlight and/or full-spectrum light (for SAD) would be worth trying if desperate.
Note: If one did not have any problems with the season, since season is WATER one should do WATER practices (such as standing meditation) if a person wanted to capture the “most amount of energy” from the season. However, this assumes a person is not having seasonal problems and one just wants the most energy. In the case of having seasonal problems, I recommend items #1-3 instead; in particular, there is too much stagnation in the water element and the creation cycle needs to flow better if you are having trouble.
StevenDecember 2, 2016 at 2:13 pm #47489
Thanks Steven. I think I understood enough of that to move forward. The WOOD nurturing approach most appeals to me at the moment. Also, I’ve recently been aware of a sort of “liver congestion”, which is perhaps related. Regarding tendon exercises/stretches – does QF4 include tendon exercises/stretches? Would traditional hatha yoga asana be considered tendon exercise?
elephantDecember 2, 2016 at 10:21 pm #47491
Michael has a few tendon exercises in QF4.
Yoga does stretch tendons, but it is usually combined with muscles as well.
I personally prefer things that are more focused specifically on the tendon system.
Optimal would be the Iron Shirt 2 exercises, although those are difficult to learn.
Other good tendon options would be to learn some of the exercises specifically geared toward the tendons in the second half of the Tao Yin book, OR to look online for “Yi Jin Jing” forms, e.g. those from the tendon-changing classic.
However, without specifically working on the tendons, Tai Chi (any variation) is phenomenal for working on the wood element. Do you know Tai Chi 1?
If you don’t know any of these, one of the most simple and most direct ways to help move congested liver qi, is simply to go on a brisk walk. Walk for at least 30 minutes and do it at a fast pace so it gets the heart pumping. This helps transfer liver qi to the heart (WOOD -> FIRE). This will help not only liver congestion issues but will also help with SAD for reasons mentioned earlier. In fact, since people often don’t move around as much in the winter, I suspect that this all related in your case. Brisk walking is often overlooked because it doesn’t look like qigong, but it is actually an excellent way to move wood qi.
StevenDecember 3, 2016 at 5:55 am #47493
…to go on a brisk walk. Walk for at least 30 minutes and do it at a fast pace so it gets the heart pumping…
I would try to get habit to practice with body in richer ways.
With that kind of attitude one’s bodily awareness could be in quite short time totally transformed.
Sorry, for my broken English.
HOWDYDecember 4, 2016 at 1:42 pm #47495
No, I don’t know tai chi 1. Primordial is the only tai chi I do, if that counts. I have Karin Sorvik’s Tao Yin DVD but I haven’t got into it yet.
That’s kind of interesting about the wood-to-fire connection, because when I do fusion 1 I always have some kind of difficulty getting the flow established from the liver pearl to the heart pearl.December 4, 2016 at 1:47 pm #47497
I’ve thought about this – not parkour necessarily but finding something movement oriented that would really engage the body, in “richer ways” as you say. I haven’t really arrived at anything. The time commitment always seems prohibitive, and other excuses are made.December 4, 2016 at 5:43 pm #47499
No, Primordial Qigong isn’t Tai Chi, although it is sometimes named “Tai Chi for Enlightenment” for marketing purposes. Although, as an fyi, that in no way diminishes the value of Primordial . . . it’s an excellent high-powered form; I do it every day myself.
Karin’s Tao Yin DVD is great. You can just put it in and follow along; no need to spend time dissecting instruction.
If you have a problem with wood flowing to fire, that speaks to a susceptibility to physical additions, such as alcoholism, smoking, drugs, etc. Be careful with addictive substances as may more easily take root, and you find yourself sucked into a drug addiction. Themes and issues around loneliness are also likely present, weak heart fire. Large amounts of stress inflame the liver and either cause or aggravate such conditions, so best to try to remove root sources.
Brisk walking is still one of the best for this situation. And for Tai Chi, if your interest is on the wood->fire flow, in fact the Tai Chi 2 fast form is very good for this also as it gets the heart pumping through its cardiovascular elements, transfer the activated wood qi from the Tai Chi into the fire of the heart . . . another thing to learn in the future when you explore the Tai Chi line. But for now, recommendation would be to put energies into daily brisk walking.
SDecember 4, 2016 at 6:27 pm #47501
Interesting. I find your analysis of wood->fire themes to be absolutely spot on. And the major stress is also present. I had been meaning to formulate some kind of query on addictive tendencies for this forum since I’m in the throes of a confrontation with that long-standing issue right now.December 5, 2016 at 12:28 am #47503
What’s the nature of the addiction?
Psychological addictions such as overeating, gambling, shopaholic, sex addiction, are all different than physical addictions and have a different pathology.
SDecember 5, 2016 at 2:46 pm #47505
My only physical addiction is caffeine. Primarily I believe it’s in the nature of a psychological tendency, though it does manifest in my relationship to substances, primarily alcohol. Just to be clear, this is at a level that I think most observers would deem to be fairly moderate. But from my standpoint it’s a significant obstacle to getting to the next level in my health and practice.December 5, 2016 at 5:23 pm #47507
What is moderate vs. not is entirely subjective. A person can be hooked on a regular, steady low amount of something just as easily as larger quantities. A buddy of mine was once in the habit of drinking a glass of wine before bed each night. It was the only alcohol he drank. However, when he tried to stop, he found he couldn’t. He couldn’t sleep and he felt physically uncomfortable. It might be strange to label a person in that situation as being an alcoholic, especially since most people seeing that situation could easily say “who cares about the one glass of wine”. However, the issue was that he didn’t want to continue, but he no longer had to free choice to make that decision. Alcoholism simply means regular use of alcohol where the person no longer can make a choice to NOT use it. Addiction is defined by lack of free choice, regardless of the amount involved.
Physical symptoms or withdrawal discomfort in the body may not be particularly strong or noticeable–I don’t know what it feels like to you–but it would still fall into the category of physical addiction pathology with wood->fire creation cycle link being broken. It’s why I mentioned in my earlier post that given your situation you were describing, I noticed a susceptibility to physical addictions. Despite the strength of “withdrawal symptoms”, the energy pattern is still the same, and even if you are not experiencing several physical withdrawal symptoms now, that could easily change or progress either with alcohol or other substances.
When it involves addiction to substances, it basically is connected with the wood->fire link. It’s a situation of there being too much wood qi that can’t move, and not enough fire qi. Liver’s got too much and heart not enough. Liver qi feels like it needs to move and flow, but the heart fire isn’t strong enough to take the wood, of which there is typically way too much stagnating in the liver. It’s why the addiction is manifesting. When the addictive substance is consumed, the liver gets occupied with detoxing it, so it is kept busy. After a little while, when the substance runs low, the liver sends alarm signals to the brain saying “we’ve got major problems, we don’t have any more of this to process, send more now!” So for the body, it is quite logical to reconsume the substance. It helps deal with the excessive and hyperactive liver qi, since it can’t escape to the heart. Making the liver just burn up the excess qi right then and there is an easy and quick fix.
This is why “willpower” is not really the solution. It doesn’t deal with the underlying energy problem of “too much wood, not enough fire, and broken flow between”. When this is a big problem, why would the body want to stop clamping down the hyperactive wood with such an easy and quick fix?
*The only real solution to the problem, is to fix the underlying problem.
The too much wood and wood stagnation likely is a combination of high stress (stress attacks the liver), underlying frustrations, feelings of being trapped in a situation you don’t want to be in, unwillingness to make a change out of an unhealthy situation to one that gives your heart joy due to not wanting to move out of your current comfort zone. Connected to this is the low heart fire: feelings of deep loneliness, feelings of lack of self worth, feelings of lack of acceptance of who you are truly are, feeling unhappiness in life tied into this unwillingness to make changes in your life to a way of living that provides happiness.
*Realistically a person needs to make RADICAL changes to these outer circumstances which are the root cause for the inner imbalance if they truly want to break a physical addiction. If a person is unwilling to do that, the chances of breaking a physical addiction are next to zero, regardless of other cute tricks.
That said, things that help lubricate the wood->fire flow will be supportive (although not corrective in and by themselves). These would be
1. Brisk walking (30 mins or more daily)
2. Tai Chi 2 fast form
3. Inner Smile meditation, working on self-acceptance
4. Trying to cultivate patience and gratitude as you go through daily life, to nurture heart fire
5. General wood practices, already mentioned, would be helpful for short-term symptom relief.
However, for actually solving or correcting the addiction problem, you would have to do (See * above) with a complete radical shift, otherwise it is highly unlikely you will eliminate the problem. Quite simply without doing that, continuing to engage in the addiction is the most logical choice the body will decide on. It might not be what you want to hear, but it is the unfortunate truth.
StevenDecember 6, 2016 at 2:52 am #47509
I think that it’s clear that only few can be advanced parkour athletes, but at the core it’s learning to use that time which is available creatively observing and interacting with one’s environment.
HOWDYDecember 6, 2016 at 4:25 am #47511
Junan taiso (junan meaning flexible) is a yogic method of stretching and breathing by means of which the Bujinkan practitioner may develop and maintain good physical condition and wellbeing. The exercises promote relaxation, blood circulation, muscle toning and flexibility, and form a core part of all training sessions. Junan taiso is a form of conditioning and preparation for the body. All major joints are rotated and stretched in a proper manner while healthy breathing and concentration are practiced.
-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bujinkan#Physical_conditioningDecember 6, 2016 at 1:36 pm #47513
Thanks Steven. Unfortunately that all makes a lot of sense. It’s a core issue, perhaps THE core issue of this lifetime, which I might express as being a sense that the worldly destiny is not being realized, is blocked somehow. And like with the practitioners of the 12 steps, I feel that I have reached a limit of what my ego-self can do in this regard.
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