Last Monday morning I opened the curtains to see everything coated in white. What a welcome surprise! I moved quickly through preparing my son’s breakfast and lunch, eager to be done so that I could make my way into the woods. I was yearning to be part of those early, unmarked moments; “first tracks” as we used to say in skiing. Only, I didn’t actually care about laying down the first imprint as much as I cared about the experience of everything being covered, quiet and untouched. More than anything, I needed the deep, deep quiet and the way that the external stillness holds me and reminds me of a place inside.

Winter is the time of the Kidney in Chinese Medicine. In this tradition, organs represent both the physical health of the body, and so much more. The Kidney is said to be the home of our deepest essence. This is where our truest nature resides. This goes beyond a job, the roles you play, your history. And while it includes all of this, it is transcendent of this. To line yourself up with your deepest self is to slow your pace, do less, retreat more. Now is the best time of all the seasons to go inward. This is the time to turn in. To slow down. To semi- hibernate. To nourish the roots. To take stock. It is the time to listen more deeply than we usually do.To do this requires that we learn to say “no” more often as a way of creating room for tuning in at this level. It means saying “no” even to the things that we enjoy, or feel we must do. Where is an easy place in your life this week that you can begin practicing “no”?

Without unstructured and open time in our schedules, we run the risk of creating more of what we do not want. Pressed beyond our limits because of stress, lack of sleep and busyness, we erode the health of the kidneys along with the very best in our nature. We know this. Somewhere inside we do understand that there are ways that we live that take a toll on us. And yet we continue. Why is this? Maybe we are so caught up in keeping up that we lose sight of what is truly happening. Maybe we have created a story in our minds about what it means to be busy; it means we are important, safe, not lazy. Maybe the busyness itself is a shield against knowing what we would rather not know.

While Winter is the dormant part of the yearly cycle, it is far from a time of nothing happening. To the contrary, this season is the essential precursor to the time of more creativity and outward expression that comes in the Spring. This is the lull, the hush, the void, the pregnant pause that precedes birth and growth. To change course or to nourish well for the next season of our lives demands going in. Without this level of contemplation we doom ourselves to create over and over again what it is that we do not want, but have always done. And so keep doing.