The fearful dark and cold of winter led our ancestors to create rituals of light. They hoped that by celebrating the light, the Sun would lengthen his days again. Imagine how bleak the unending winter landscape could seem if you were without fire, and how joyful and cheering the fire would feel when you came in from the cold.
The traditions surrounding the winter solstice (and the “coincidental” timing of Jesus’ birthday within days of the solstice celebration) have created a conflict within the typical upstate New Yorker’s soul: At precisely the same time we should be hunkering down for an extended time of self-reflection, solitude and hearthside chats, we run around like gerbils on a wheel making preparations for our festival of Light.
For those of us who grew hardy and resolute to the steel gray skies of late November and December, we simply act as though nothing different is happening. Now that we have central heating, electric lights, movie theaters and shopping malls, none of our summer running about has to cease. As a matter of fact, we can triple our festival preparations because we’re so much more efficient!
But the elements ultimately demand their due from us. The Kidneys and Bladder are the Water organs. The Kidneys store our vital life force. Kidney energy is what determines how hardy or frail we become. Winter is the gift that Nature brings of forcing us to move less and accomplish more sitting by the fire instead of galloping through the fields. In Japan many people wear a scarf around their lower back to guard their Kidney energy from the Wind. Try it and you’ll feel how much more efficiently your body stays warm!
The Kidney meridian in Traditional Chinese Medicine rules the bones. Weak Kidney energy can manifest in lower back pain and osteoporosis. Throughout the Great Lakes region more people than usual exhibit the Kidney symptom of dark circles under the eyes.
The Bladder meridian runs along the entire length of the posterior body. It assists all of the other meridians in the body and helps to keep our bones sturdy and upright. The ears correspond to the Water element: they contain fluids and bones to assist with hearing and equilibrium. Balancing the Water element within ourselves will help to keep our bones strong, and our hearing sharp.
So we must honor the Water element with plenty of time for introspection during the dark parts of the year. We can dare to look at the shadow parts of ourselves, knowing that the light will return with the Spring.