The inherent nature of life is that it is stressful. From the moment we leave our mothers womb we are torn from our place of complete warmth, nourishment, and protection and forced to face a potentially hostile and traumatizing world. Until the day we die we will experience many forms of stress, and suffering.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize and reduce suffering by learning to live in harmony with the forces of nature, as cited by the wisdom of Chinese medicine.
“The wise nourish life by flowing with the four seasons and adapting to cold or heat, by harmonizing joy and anger in a tranquil dwelling, by balancing yin and yang, and what is hard and soft. So it is that dissolute evil cannot reach the man of wisdom, and he will be witness to a long life.” – Huangdi Neijing Suwen
5 elemental and Chinese theory:
Winter is associated with the water element, which is yin in nature. The emotion associated with the winter is fear, which when not responded to correctly results in depression. It relates to the kidney, urinary bladder, and adrenal glands, the organs that correspond to our Jing (essence). One can nourish these organs with foods that contain a salty property and are cooked slowly. Some examples of this would be, Bone broths, soups, stews, root vegetables, miso, sea vegetables such as kelp, dulce, wakame, and warming spices such as ginger, cloves, garlic, and scallions. One can also further support this element using herbs which nourish the kidney such as Cordcyeps, Mucuna, and Reishi, as the winter is the ideal time to tonify the kidney, and also herbs that tonify liver yin such as He shou Wu which will result in quality blood building and prevent the emotions of dissatisfaction, depression, and irritability.
These herbs will healthfully support the bodies transition to spring the (wood element) as water engenders wood according to Chinese five elemental theory. In addition to nourishing these organs it is vital to nourish the yin during this time. Fermented cod liver and skate liver oil, krill oil, Black sesame seeds, eggs, pork, duck, duck eggs, yams, and slightly warmed goat or lightly simmered cow milk with either these individual or combined spices: ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise. These spices in combination with raw honey balance and warm the cold and cloying properties of milk, enhancing digestion and corresponding with traditional Ayurvedic wisdom. This is a powerful yin tonic and is best consumed half an hour before bed.
How we amplify stress and suffering
So much of stress is how we relate to certain universal sufferings experienced by all beings at some point, such as breakups with romantic partners, death of loved ones, sickness and disease, constantly changing life circumstances, and financial insecurity. We become accustomed to identifying with these impermanent circumstances, attaching our sense of self to them and therefore experiencing stress and suffering as a personal phenomenon.
The Nature of Self
Remember that the self is infinite, and eternal. It has no real identity and doesn’t need one. It entirely transcends this concept. The self will continue onwards as it always has and continue flowing with the natural cycles of nature. An example of this is how we enter the world entirely free of our own exertion. We are nurtured into the physical world through the umbilical chord of our mother which provides all of our nourishment through the conception vessel of the Ren channel (our anterior midline, feminine yin side). As we develop a backbone and begin to uncurl from a placenta, to a fetus, and eventually move from crawling to standing, we become more in tune with the governing vessel of the Du channel( our posterior midline, and yang masculine side). When we become fearful because of the above circumstances we have forgotten that both the Ren and Du work in harmony to successfully sustain and carry us through life’s natural cycles. We have become overly identified with impermanent circumstances and forgotten the true nature of reality. This is a form of the ego’s need for identity and forceful control. The truth is that we are not in control of external situations and can never be. In a similar vein, we do not need to always use our yang side to force everything into how we think it should be, sometimes it is better to not react, and to sit quietly reflecting on present circumstances.
How can I can take action?
What we can learn to control is our internal state, through meditative practices such as yoga, qi gong, tai chi, breathing exercises and mindful awareness of thoughts. This does not mean that once we attain a high level of controlling our internal state, that we will be always be in a state of bliss and happiness, and anyone who tries to sell this idea is not honoring both the yin and yang of life. Although we may experience these universal sufferings, witnessing the bittersweet nature of life with a deepened sense of security and confidence, this does not mean that we become detached and emotionally disconnected, another common pathological response to suffering amongst many spiritual communities.
When we are truly in balance we are able to hold ourselves with compassion during difficult times, while still allowing ourselves to feel the full spectrum of emotions. We are able to enjoy the pleasant things in life without grasping to them until they create pain. We can be free in this knowing, such as water is able to move around physical obstacles in its path continuing down stream so that all surrounding life may continue to benefit from it.
Hopefully you gained some valuable perspective from this post.