Winter Stillness and Seasonal Transitions
(edited from Toward Harmony Tai Chi & Qigong with Kathryn Komidar & Bill Ryan)
In New England, where we live, we are transitioning from Fall to Winter. Throughout the Fall, the life energy of everything in nature - including the life energy in each of us - moves inward. At the beginning of Winter this process continues deep inside us, and in addition, everything shifts away from any kind of movement, toward stillness and quiet.
This has been happening both on the surface of and deep in the earth. The earth's and nature's energies are withdrawing and moving inward, bringing us the cold and quiet of Winter.
Most of us are not aware of how strongly affected our chi is by a seasonal shift such as this, whether it be from Fall to Winter or Spring to Summer. Since we are part of nature, when nature's energies shift, the energies in our bodies also shift and adjust.
In fact, we have to expend life energy in order to make these adjustments. Our internal energies are rearranged, and we have to grow comfortable with the new arrangement. Our adjustments are not as dramatic as those of animals such as bears that go into and out of hibernation, but we still have to make adjustments that take energy away from our normal activities.
This is why people often become unexpectedly tired during changes of seasons.
The best way to manage such transitions is to recognize that the seasons are changing and to relax into the process. Allow yourself to be tired and slow down your outer activities a bit - or even a lot - to compensate.
Once your system arrives comfortably into its new seasonal mode, then you should feel less tired and more in sync again.
Winter Gathering and Quiet
Your chi naturally shifts with the seasons of the year. If you want your chi, i.e. your life energy, to flourish, then it is a good idea to adapt your practice to conform with these natural cycles.
So this week and in the weeks that follow until Spring stirs, practice in such a way that you gather in more energy than you let out. It's not difficult. In a relaxed way emphasize the aspects of your exercises which involve gathering energy into you. Put less emphasis on the upward, outward, or downward aspects of your activities and play with how you can gather energy into yourself. Keep doing the other aspects, but emphasize the gathering more.
In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, try to practice in such a way that everything inside of you becomes quieter. Let quiet pervade all levels of your being - physical, energetic, emotional, etc.
As you exercise, move, stand, or sit as smoothly, quietly, and effortlessly as possible.
Expend only as much as energy as you must.
Relax your emotions and try to let them become calmer rather than more charged.
Try to let your mind settle.
Seek quiet even in activity.
Allow yourself to follow the natural energy flows of Winter.