Braving the Thaw

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Braving the Thaw

I used to say, “I have a harder time thawing into spring than freezing into winter,” and I wasn’t just referring to the Maine weather. The transition between winter and spring often made me feel unsettled and antsy, yet stuck in a rut and unable to move forward. This was my emotional mud season.

It’s been over twenty winters since then, and even though it’s smoother traveling now, I still try to be extra gentle with myself this time of year.

According to the Five Element tradition of Chinese medicine, this is the turning point between the dark, quiet time of winter and the bursting, enlivening time of spring. Many of us will begin to feel restless or yearn to stretch, move, and try something new. However, much like the buds of delicate flowers, it’s not quite time to burst forth yet. It’s still winter, and even milder climates are vulnerable to a sudden frost.

So how do you move towards the liveliness of springtime, without forsaking the rejuvenating power of winter? Here are a few exercises that can help you make a smooth transition into warmer months ahead.

Drop into your hips

The next time you feel pre-spring restlessness welling up, try dropping a little deeper into your body. Bring your awareness to your pelvis, feeling its strength and stability. Take a few deep breaths, and imagine that you have, as my teacher Thea Elijah would describe, a heavy tool belt around your waist. Spend at least a few minutes practicing this, then check in with yourself. Do you feel more settled? More centered? This is a great exercise to practice in winter, especially late in the season when we begin to feel antsier.

Practice not knowing

It’s natural to make lists and plans and create lots of new goals, as the days get longer and the trees start to bud. In the meantime, try allowing yourself to rest in the unknown for just a little longer. When facing a challenge in your life, rather than struggling to find an answer, can you pause and tell yourself, “I don’t know”? Maybe something you never even imagined is waiting to be discovered deep inside of you if only you took the time to be still and listen.

Stay dormant a little longer

Spring is all about change and growth. Look at nature in the springtime. It’s bursting with life! This same kind of energy is waking up inside of us. But before it does, there is a dormant time that is essential for new growth. Can you acknowledge the desire for change, while still allowing yourself to just “be” where you are right now? Imagine yourself as a seed, deep beneath the surface of the earth, storing energy, waiting for the right time to sprout. Savor the stillness and darkness of winter just a little bit longer, and you will bloom even more brightly later.

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Some areas certainly have more signs of spring than others. For instance, the Northeast just got hit with a few feet of snow, while folks in Seattle are admiring the cherry blossoms! No matter where you live in the northern hemisphere, I encourage you to savor the remaining days of winter. Take the opportunity to sleep longer, dream more, and find wisdom in the silence. Most importantly, rest and replenish your resources.

Spring will be here soon enough.

Note: This post was previously published back in February of 2014, while I was still on the fence about blogging. I liked this post and thought it was worth keeping around, if only for a gentle reminder to myself. Content and images have been edited. 

Sharon Gray

I’m a practitioner of Chinese medicine, specializing in digestive health and self-care. When I’m not teaching or writing, I’m most likely changing diapers, plunking my banjo, or making an impressive mess in the kitchen. Learn more here

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