Chinese Medicine Daoism Health

Winter Health on the Mountain

Yosemite Gateway
Yosemite Gateway

No one can deny the great health advantages to living in a mountain community. There is clean air and less stress from over crowding. My husband and I moved to Pine Mountain in November. He was born in Pasadena and I hail from the great white north. I return in my mother’s stead who was born on a Canadian mountain in a cabin without electricity or running water. It is my first winter heating an all-electric summer cottage with a pellet stove. Perhaps this kind of living is in my blood? Each of our reconnaisance trips to the mountain was more welcoming than the last. I heard a lot of people wax poetic about the beauty of four seasons when we were looking for a home. In this case beauty is more than skin deep. Isn’t it usually? Did you know that the majesty of four seasons has benefits for your well being too?

Trusty Pellet Stove
Trusty Pellet Stove

Answers in Chinese medicine come from an ancient source written in 300 BCE: The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. My quarter century teaching and practising seem like a drop in the bucket comparatively! The Yellow Emperor is a sage who generously explains the subtleties of medicine to his inquisitive student. The first page decries the unnaturally short lifetimes of the Emperor’s contemporaries. Why it asks did ancient people live to be over one hundred years when they are now sick by fifty? It is a book way ahead of its time! Abandoning suspense, the second chapter reveals the secret of longevity: living in harmony with our nature and the four seasons. It is worth noting that in our language ‘season’ is also defined as maturing through exposure to the weather.
Imagine if you had the energy of Bambi bouncing through a sun-dappled glade in spring? I say to dissenters, “You are never too old for lofty goals!” Winter is not just an opportunity for bears to hibernate and stop looking for food and water in our neighbourhoods. People are healthier when they slow down in the colder weather too. Give yourself more time if you have any control over your deadlines at work. Winter is the night of the year and summer its day. It is just as vital to rest now, as it is to get a good night’s sleep. Winter blues are the body’s way of keeping us closer to home so we can get that extra downtime. If depression persists with more rest, then other factors may be complicating the situation such as a lifetime of overwork or an unsuitable diet.

Dappled glade, from Kevin Quinn
Dappled glade, from Kevin Quinn

In the winter the Yellow Emperor admonishes us to go to bed early and sleep late until the sun rises. In the canyon I would say that is a good long winter’s nap! During sleep energy retreats in our bodies the way sap drains to a tree’s roots, causing its leaves to fall. Resting in winter is the same as putting money in the bank for a pleasant retirement. You will have a healthier spring when your winter is well spent. Add those winters up and you will have the vitality to enjoy your retirement, not just the money. Keep your body warm so cold does not damage the energy you are stockpiling for spring. Do not expect to make huge strides in your exercise routine. Save your workout goals for the summer when it is warm. Winter is about maintaining rather than making progress. Choose to spend the season living as if all your desires have been met.


By Celia Quinn

I have spent a quarter century practicing and teaching acupuncture and herbalism. I prefer the classical techniques of the ancient sages described in the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine. Unlike many practitioners, I specialized in the use of the pulse as a diagnostic tool. I have studied Chinese medicine with Jeffrey Yuen, Daoist priest and Shing Yi, a sister to Tai Ji, with Shifu Kenny Gong. I am currently retired, healing chronic illness and writing poetry.

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