by Dr. Daciana Iancu
Winter is the time for slowing down. The shorter days and increased cloud cover cause our senses to withdraw. We want to sleep more, ponder more and become more internal. As nature peels away its life forces, our natural tendency is to want to hibernate. There is less drive to be active and express ourselves and more desire to be in a contemplative mood. Even the celebrations that occur this time of year, when not influenced by external pictures from the media, tend to be more cozy, intimate and centered around nourishment.
Modern day life does not allow much time or permission for hibernation. Work pressures tend to intensify before the holidays. Friends and family gatherings may come with pressures and expectations. Yet nature instinctively pulls us strongly in the opposite direction: it calls us to slow down and become quieter and more contemplative.
By going more inward we meet our inner-most feelings. Allowing for time and space to discern these feelings helps us understand ourselves better. As we sink deeper inside, we find the germinating seeds that are likely to sprout in the coming year: changes, projects, new ways of being. We might encounter excitement, gratitude and contentment, but also anxiety, disappointment, even anger and deep sadness. The latter emotions may become amplified by the contrast from external messages that this time of year should be about being joyful and feeling celebratory. Yet anger, sadness and fear are just as relevant as joy and gratitude. They all have important messages about our lives and our innermost needs, desires, and unresolved traumas. And just like the nature around us must go through the harshness of winter to get to the bounty of the warmer seasons, we must go through our inner darkness to reach the light inside ourselves. If we allow room for this natural process to occur, we can prevent illness from occurring and we will have more capacity to achieve our potential in life.
How do we create more space to contemplate on our innermost lives when our environment demands that our attention is turned outward? In the yogic tradition, the physical body is addressed before meditation: postures/asanas and breathing exercises/pranayamas prepare the body and create the space for meditation. In the same way, if we live our lives mindful of taking care of our physical bodies, we create the container for contemplation. For when our physical body is resourced (i.e with sleep, nourishment, and movement), we have the capacity to attend to our emotional life. And when our emotional life is addressed, we can bring in more light and live our lives in closer alignment with our spirit.
Here are some ways we can nurture ourselves this time of year and create more space for contemplation:
Try to go to bed a little earlier than usual. There is always one more thing to do, one more task, chore or email to address before going to bed. Maybe some things can be left for the next day. Strive for 8-9 hours of sleep at night. And if that goal seems impossible, even just adding half hour extra sleep at night can help with efficiency and mental clarity (which will help us get more done in the long run)
Mother nature guides us to what is most nourishing for our bodies according to the season. Choosing seasonal vegetables like squashes, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and healthy grains will not only be nourishing this time of year, but curb our cravings from sweets.
While it may be hard to leave the house on a cold rainy day, the weather looks a lot scarier from inside the house than once you are out there. Investing in good rain or snow gear and going for a nature walk daily, even if short, has endless benefits: heart health, weight loss, staying in touch with the seasons, and especially clarity of mind. When life seems difficult, a contemplative walk in nature seems to shed new light and possibilities on most scenarios.
Breaks in our daily schedule (breathing spaces) allow us to exhale in more ways than just physically. Schedule short intervals of quiet into your day:i.e. take 10 minutes 3 times per day to just be quiet, contemplate, or meditate. If you have to drive a lot during your day, give yourself enough time so you don’t have to rush, and make this a quiet time. Allow more time for transitions, i.e. from work to home.
As the weather outside gets colder, we need to nurture our own warmth, not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.
Physical warmth: sitting by a fireplace, wearing some cozy socks, putting a warm water bottle on our feet at night, going for a walk, or holding a warm drink in our hands
Emotional warmth: an intimate conversation with someone close, singing, doing nice things for others or volunteering. Generosity arises spontaneously when we are nourished and in return, generosity is nourishing to the soul.
Spiritual warmth is nourished when we do the things we love the most. Reading inspirational materials, artistic expression, gatherings of like- minded individuals, meditation, contemplation and practicing self- compassion can also help bring in more spiritual warmth.
Many anthroposophic remedies can help us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most of the ones listed below are available at Urielpharmacy.com and some at Weleda.
Oral Pellets or Liquids:
Aurum Hypericum can help with feelings of depression and anxiety that we might encounter during the winter. It is also helpful for overwhelming situations (like when your in-laws are coming over for dinner)
Three Fold Balance Tablets are made of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. This is a wonderful remedy for this time of year. It is a remedy for transitions, like death or starting a new year, because it helps bring order to the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our being.
Meteoric Iron Prunus. This is a wonderful remedy that helps fortify our immunity for winter colds. It also has phosphorus and quartz that can help bring in more light and Meteoric Iron that gives us strength and fortitude. Overall, this remedy can help us encounter the future with courage.
Rose Copper Ointment rubbed over the kidneys and calves will stimulate more warmth production and improve circulation in the legs.
Solum Aesculus is not only warming, but can also help with protection from the overstimulation that can arise around the holidays.
Rosemary Oil is also warming and can help circulation and it can help digestion as well. It can be used as a massage or in oil dispersion baths.
Aurum lavender rose cream has gold, frankincense, and myrrh in it, as well as hypericum and Aesculus all mentioned above. It is generally rubbed over the heart area to bring emotional calm and protection from environmental overstimulation.
May this time of year be nourishing to your body, soul, and spirit. May you find a little more time for self-care, warmth, intimate connections, and happy nourishment. May you have the fortitude to go through the darkness and may you find the light that shines brightly inside you and each of us! May you encounter the New Year with courage!