The Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is upon us. We have been deepening into the dark time for weeks and we have many yet to go. The sense of burrowing, slowing, a dying back and returning into the depths walks with us this time of year.  

And yet, the solstice marks the returning of the light. Even as we are in the shortest day of the year, and the night is   dark and long, the light begins to rise. The solstice always makes me think of Hexagram 24 of the I Ching: The Return.

The Return speaks to the rising light, but also of turnaround, of making way for new energy to come in. It’s a time of stillness, when we need to rest in preparation for the rising energy to come. We step into the eternal cycles of nature as darkness begins its return to light.

The solstice invites us to turn within to our inner light, to the depths of our own being where we see our connection to the All. It is the point of light in darkness, the seed of our relationship to the cosmic forces of life itself.

As we enter the solstice days, and the darkness reaches its deepest point, remember the light always returns.

Winter governs the water element, or Zhi. It is the dormant season, when all life force burrows deep in the bosom of the earth. It is a gestational time of replenishing the wellspring of life so that when spring comes, the gathering energy will burst forth with new growth. The Zhi, or spirit of kidney energy, connects to the unified field of consciousness and our instinct to perpetuate life and “surthrive”. It gives us courage to ally ourselves with what the Chinese refer to as the Tao (the “Way” or primordial nature of the Universe) and our innate wisdom.

Wherever you are, wishing you great blessings for the solstice, and for the return of our collective light.

 Safe travels and happy holidays!


Spring Is Really Here

I've just returned to Southern California after a trip to NYC, where spring is really happening after a few "false starts". March and April -early spring- are often marked by a roller coaster of weather patterns, and it's been the case on both coasts this year. We are in the Taoist wood element in springtime, and nothing is more representative of that energy than the trees. The last day I was in the city, I wrote, "The trees. They've been speaking to me the whole time I've been here, reminding me of deep roots, belonging and holding connection with heaven and earth simultaneously. The trees are so different in the effervescence of Southern California, and I'm continually reminded here of my own roots. Something in their leafless branches reaching skyward, knowing that in another week or two, new life will burst forth from them and a new cycle will be made visible. My heart is full, a mix of some slight sadness and a deep and abiding love of life."

The 5 Elements: The Wood or Liver Element 

Spring is upon us. We’ve been feeling it for weeks, a stirring in nature, the light rising, a shedding of the deep interior energies of winter. Spring marks a miraculous bursting of energy from the still, dark regions of the underground. In Eastern medicine, spring carries with it the energy of wood. Sap, which is nature’s lifeblood, courses through the trees; new life pushes its way up from the depths of the earth into the soft sun of March and April, and we are surrounded by a bright sense of renewal and creativity. 

The wood element (or Hun) is associated with the organ matrix of the gall bladder and liver. Hun is connected with the color green, its flavor is sour, its direction lies in the east, the dawning of new life. Just as tree branches reach towards the clouds, so wood is the bridge between Heaven and Earth, Spirit and Body. Its associated chakra is the Third Eye, and its associated planetary counterpart is Jupiter. Wood is represented by the mythical dragon, the most mystical of all beasts. 

The hours for gall bladder are 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.; liver is 1 to 3 a.m. Liver is governed by the Hun, our ethereal soul, (or literally translated, “cloud-soul”). The Chinese text of The Golden Flower states “In the daytime the Hun is in the eyes and at night in the liver. When it is in the eyes we can see. When it is in the Liver we dream.” The Hun gives us visionary inspiration during our waking hours, and in dreams takes us into the mystical realms. It sharpens our intuition and enhances creativity. The liver in its healthiest manifestation governs the will, vision, social justice, focused direction and self-responsibility. It gives us a grounded sense of clarity and hope, and the power to dream. It’s interesting to note that in Chinese the acupuncture point Liver 14 is called “The Gate of Hope”. An unbalanced liver connects to depression, hormonal distress, insomnia, nocturnal anxiety and uncontrolled bursts of anger or irritability. Physical issues may include sinus and eye problems, brittle nails, migraines, rashes and painful menses. Liver energy is freed by chanting, pranayama or qi gong breathing; creative outlets like journaling or painting; and telling our emotional truth. Good liver exercise includes dancing, swimming and walking as well as more aggressive exercise like martial arts or boxing. In addition, we can nourish and assist liver healing with foods and herbs that enhance the wood element. Keep in mind that fried foods and excess meat and dairy place a very heavy burden on the liver. 

Grain: buckwheat, oats, rye 

Vegetables: broccoli, parsley, lettuce, kale, collard greens, carrots, alfalfa, beets, leeks, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, artichokes, cucumbers, celery, endive, radicchio, escarole, watercress 

Beans and Pulses: mung, Lima, green lentils 

Fruits: limes, lemons, grapefruit, green apple, sour cherry, avocado, plums, quince 

Herbs: Milk thistle, dandelion, chelidonium, gynostemma leaf, spirulina, turmeric 

Chinese Tonic Foods: Reishi mushrooms, Lycium berries (Goji), Schizandra berries.

Spring is a perfect time to cleanse the body-mind, to weed our personal garden. What needs shedding in your life this spring?  

trees green.jpg

Thoughts On Leaving The Old Year and Entering The New

Here we are in the deep, dark stillness of winter. The days surrounding the winter solstice and going towards the New Year are a time of joy, sadness and hope, death and rebirth for me. The veil between worlds is gossamer thin, and a reminder of how precious and sacred life is.

What an amazing time to be alive! This year has been so full of changes, crises and incredible openings it almost makes me dizzy. There have been moments along the way when I have been disheartened, yet there is so much richness in the midst of it all that all I can do is say thank you.

Thank you for the gift of life, and this incredible human journey we are on.

What would your life look like if you let go of whatever it is that keeps you shrink-wrapped in smallness? What are you grateful for that is working in your life? What have your triumphs been, no matter how small they may seem? I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, but I believe deeply in the causes we make. What would it look like to nourish yourself more deeply? What would it look like to listen to the call of your dreams, even if that call “broke the rules”? What would it look like to believe in the power of your own life and actually trust it enough to take that first step?

This has been a tough year, this one. We have collectively been challenged to the core as we witnessed the consequences of terrible mistakes we have made as a species, and yet we have had the extraordinary opportunity to participate in our own evolution. We have ridden the waves of sometimes-violent deconstruction -of systems, relationships, homes, and lives- and have also been given windows of tremendous spiritual ascension. We have been deeply shaken and uplifted. We have been called to live from our hearts' wisdom more than our pockets' motivation. We have the chance to step into a new dream, one of our own creation, that asks the most of us but also honors the best in us.

With love and best wishes for an expansive new year.