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 Living In The Season: Winter

~by Susan Weiser Mason

(Rukmini Walker’s Sister)

Here in Damariscotta Mills the lake is frozen solid and expansion cracks groan in the frigid night air. The wind is bitter, and if I stay out too long I could put my life at risk.

In the world of Five Element Acupuncture every season has an energetic texture that presents opportunities and tasks. What does winter invite, or demand? 

When days are short, I secure the evening with a fire, a book, a bath, and going to bed early. There is little excess activity, but then my children have grown. When it gets dark, I’m not inclined to leave the nest. For me, surrendering to the constraint of this season is both comforting and nourishing. As I understand it, winter calls us all to replenish our reserves, and that requires rest and self care. 

It is during this dark time that, drip by drip, somehow my reservoir starts to get filled up again. I remind myself that I must permit this to occur, knowing winter is foundational to the entire cycle of the seasons. I need patience, for changing gears is not without some resistance, but in the end I appreciate winter’s embrace and the opportunity to take refuge.

Summer expansion is a well known phenomenon, and not a problem for me. My difficulty arises when I try to live the entire year as though it were summer. To insist on being productive all the time, and filling up every void and silent place is exhausting, especially in January. Depletion need not be the norm. We require adequate reserves. We need gas in the tank! The rest of the year depends on the reservoir we each build up in Winter.

Consider the dormancy of trees! What looks like sleep is far more mysterious. It’s closer to a caterpillar’s chrysalis undergoing a wondrous transformation. Something powerful is at work here that’s not immediately apparent, and it’s at work in us, too! 

In time, the tree will be coiled and ready for the exuberant surge of Spring. How about us?

In closing, I need to mention how anxiety can be an undercurrent that accompanies Winter. It may feel like an anticipatory fear that is alert to all things that could go wrong or come undone. Winter can amplify these feelings because it demands that we let go, and sit in a place of not knowing. But if this anxiety is left unchecked it can keep us spinning and derail our ability to settle into the essential task of winter, which is to rest and restore.

On top of this, we now have an ambient anxiety floating around due in part to the unsettled and uncivil political landscape that promotes fear in order to disorient and manipulate. So protect yourself! Build your reserves and get strong! How else can you prepare to meet the challenge? 

Of course this ambient anxiety is not new. It has been the constant companion of marginalized peoples for centuries. But now that so many more of us are feeling threatened, surprise, it’s suddenly urgent. 

We are all living with the consequences of imbalance, and that tends to cause greater imbalance. Modest as it may seem, living intentionally in the seasons begins the real work of turning that imbalance towards the promise of health, for each of us and for our dear planet.

Susan Weiser Mason has been practicing Traditional Acupuncture in Midcoast Maine for twenty seven years. Susan earned a Master’s of Acupuncture degree from the Traditional Acupuncture Institute (now called Maryland University of Integrative Health). In 1986, she opened her Traditional Acupuncture private practice in Bath, Maine and moved to Nobleboro in 1989. She earned an advanced degree from the College for Traditional Acupuncture in England in 1989. Susan served on the board of the Maine Association for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for many years and was involved in drafting the Maine Acupuncture Law in 1990. Since 1998, she has served on the teaching faculty of the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture in Gainsville, Florida. Learn more about her on her website here, or call #207-563-1571.