The Way of the Water Element… Seeking Balance this Winter

“…Water gives way to obstacles with deceptive humility.  For no power can prevent it from following its destined course to the sea.  Water conquers by yielding, it never attacks but always wins the last battle.  The Sage who makes himself as Water…embraces passivity, acts from non-action and conquers the world.”  -Tao Cheng

In Chinese Medicine there are five elements identified in nature that provide information about one’s health and well-being.  These elements include Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal.  Of these elements, Water signifies our deepest energy, reflecting our inner-most thoughts and fears.  The season of the water element is winter, when bears slumber in dark caves and water flows under streams, coated with a hard layer of ice.  Movement is slowed, trees echo a high-pitched creak as their sap freezes, and plants’ energy is directed to their roots.   It is a time for reflection, for stillness, and for solitude.

In Chinese Medicine, illness’ that are associated with an unhealthy Water element include conditions such as, arthritis, which is characterized by stiff, swollen, and creaky joints that often are worse with cold, blustery weather.  Other conditions suggesting that the Water element is out of balance might include frequent urination, lowered libido or sex drive, water retention or swelling, adrenal or chronic fatigue, and low back or knee pain.  Patient’s presenting with deficient water energy will often moan and groan, complain of fatigue, lack of motivation, depression, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, and weight fluctuation.

Healthy Water type individuals are tenacious, tough, and have significant reserves of energy that lie beneath the surface.  These individuals are often represented by the strong endurance athletes that continually push onward.  But if their solitary character is in excess, and Water proceeds to suppress the naturally opposing Fire element, they will appear inflexible, hard, and insensitive to others.  Sadly in this case….faith, desire, and motivation all weaken and leave one feeling cold and alone.  They may lose their direction in life.  In these cases mile to severe depression may even set in.

So where does one go when the solitary nature of winter isolates them from not only their friends and family, but also from themselves?  The answer can be found in the healing use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, proper nutrition including savory soups and hearty grains, and also in changing our surroundings.  Incorporating colors including warm oranges, fiery reds, and bold bronzes into ones daily life in the form of candles, flowers, clothing, or other décor will invite a balance of Fire into the picture.  Seeking relationships and friendships where one can trust enough to be open as opposed to shutting down or hardening one’s heart can also encourage harmony in one’s life.  Alpenglow…that soft pink hue on the snow….is a good example of a healthy Water element, balanced nicely by Fire, in the high country.  Seek it.