We have spent the last few months in the Metal phase, but now that winter is (theoretically) setting in we are moving into the Water phase of the year. As I mentioned when we entered the Metal phase, each phase (or element) has their own correlations with the world around us. As the Water phase takes precedence, the days begin to get shorter and darkness becomes more prominent. The weather becomes colder as winter sets in. The trees have gone (or should have gone) dormant and the animals have started settling in for a long winter of hibernation. The Water phase embraces stillness, like taking a slow, leisurely walk after a new snowfall.

Water is considered to be the beginning and end of life. It is the foundation for a healthy being, but also the last thing to leave a body at death. Water is considered to be the “most yin,” which means that in the cycle of a day Water is the darkest part of the night; in the cycle of a year, Water is the coldest part of winter. In our bodies, Water is the deepest part - our bones; it is the basic structure of a Human Being. The Water element also affects our ability to hear and to listen.

Within the body there are 12 primary channels and 12 organs that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acknowledges. Each element or phase corresponds with two corresponding channels and organs, a yin and a yang pair (except for Fire, which we will get to over the summer). The Water element incorporates both the bladder (yang) and the kidneys (yin) as well as their corresponding channels. As always, organs in TCM and modern medicine often correlate, but are not identical in their functions. In TCM, the bladder is where water is stored whereas the kidneys control the water in the body - helping to keep all areas of the body well lubricated and moving smoothly.

Between the two kidneys is the Ming Men, roughly translated in english to mean “Gate of Life.” This space is the storehouse of Jing. Jing is roughly translated to “essence.” This essence is what connects us to our ancestors, similar to DNA; but, unlike DNA, Jing gets used up as we age and death occurs when Jing is gone. The Ming Men and the Kidneys work very closely together to preserve Jing. As Jing gets used, signs of aging appear: greying or loss of hair, achy back and knees, forgetfulness, menopause, incontinence, etc. There is no way to hold onto Jing forever, our body uses it as supplemental energy, but there are ways to slow its usage.

1. Keep your low back warm. As the weather is getting colder, it is more and more important to work to keep the area around the kidneys and Ming Men warm and nourished. Pull out the sweaters - make warmth part of your fashion statement.

2. Take time for Stillness. Remove yourself from the hussle and bussle of society, even for a short period of time each day. Sometimes we can’t completely remove the stressors of our life, but taking some time away from them each day can help keep our foundation strong and, as an added bonus, sometimes give a little different perspective on these stressors when you do return to them.

3. Use food as medicine. Sometimes in our stressful lives, even eating can be difficult to fit into our schedules. Making sure we get enough substance throughout the day means our body doesn’t have to dip into its reserves for energy. Warm foods are easier for the body to digest, which means the body can use the energy gained from these foods for other activities during the day, not just digesting food.

Through Acupuncture and Moxibustion (Moxa) we can work together to keep your own Water element strong and healthy during what could be a long, cold winter (when it actually decides to come in full force) here in the Upper Peninsula.