water element

The Importance of Winter

(Winter excerpt from my book, Divine Nourishment, A Woman’s Sacred Journey with Food)

Take time to embrace the benefits of winter.

Winter is a challenging season for many. Societal demands and winter are like oil and water. Nature pulls in, slows down to rejuvenate, restore and rebuild her life force for the next cycle. Her energy goes into the depths where it is still. She reduces the outward demands to take time for restoration and to gather energy for herself.

I vote for vacation time in the summer to play and vacation time in the winter to rest and rebuild.

The kidneys and the bladder are the organ systems ruled by winter. They relate to the water element, which governs this season and represents the death part of the natural cycle—the trough of the wave—the dark side of life. Our modern society does not support honoring this season, when the natural flow calls for slowing down and resting. Many find it an impossible luxury. The demands for survival are too intense. When the energy moves inward, the natural desire for inner exploration is not an option. The pace of life continues as it does the rest of the year. Unfortunately, this lifestyle is not in the flow of nature, and depletes our kidney energy, where we build and store our life force.

The wounding of the feminine influences the level of our deep-seated fear. The season and water element of winter has a direct relationship with fear. The combination of not taking the time to rejuvenate in winter and the stress caused by fear is damaging to our kidneys, depleting us of life-force energy. It is a vicious cycle. This energy that fuels our life and supports us to grow and manifest our self is not available. After a certain level of depletion, our life-force energy is insufficient to nourish the health of our organ systems; we are vulnerable to disease. This is a collective cultural issue and one of the more serious imbalances in modern society. Fear is a major factor that keeps us from being able to live by nature’s wisdom. We are running as fast as we can simply to survive, physically or emotionally.

The need to simplify our life is evident and will take a readjustment in our priorities and sense of values. This is an indication of the transformation that is available when we live by nature’s wisdom. Our pace unravels our conditioned world to support natural flow. Without time to gather our energy and connect with our self at the depths of our being, we basically limp through the rest of the entire cycle and can’t access our deepest self to support growth. Some push beyond with the help of stimulants such as coffee and sugar. This forces their kidneys and adrenals into constant overdrive until they give out, never addressing the chronic fight or flight mode of our unconscious.

Winter is the season and element that supports us to take time out to go to the depths of our unconscious and meet our self. Winter supports us to explore the part of us that is in fear, so that we can soothe it. It is the season that many avoid so they can run faster and faster, until they collapse.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to embrace this season and element. After reading this book, if you find it is possible that your kidneys and adrenals have been working overtime I suggest getting extra acquainted with the foods, tonics and energy practices that rebuild your kidney energy.

Make sure the kidney-building foods are incorporated all year long as they come into season, and find a way to nourish your self by checking out of your routine and checking in with nature when you take time to rest.

The combination of healing the feminine wound, soothing the fears, resting, consuming nourishing foods with appropriate cooking methods, tonics and energy practices will greatly support your kidneys. This foundation gives you the force to create and sustain life—just at it does for nature.

Following is a list of foods and cooking methods that will support you to rebuild your kidney energy.

Optimum Cooking Methods for Winter

Winter is a time to cook foods slowly. This cooking method brings the energy of the food deep within where your nourishment is needed in winter to warm your core. Soups, braised dishes, roasted foods, such as root vegetables and meats warm your body, restore moistness and nourish deeply. The colder your environment in the winter, the more warming you’ll want your food.

Seaweed is one of the most nourishing and moistening foods for our water organ system. It is a wonder food in supporting your kidney energy. I eat it in soups in the winter and as a salad in the summer.

It is helpful to make a list of foods that are in season to put up on your refrigerator as a reminder for your shopping. Include foods of all five flavors: salty, bitter, sour, sweet, pungent. This ensures that all your organs are being nourished each season. Include an abundance of foods that nourish the kidney and bladder from your list of foods for kidneys and water element. Some you will eat in winter, some are in season at other times of the year. This allows you to nourish these organs all year around. However, winter is the optimum time to focus on nourishing and building kidney energy.

Sample Winter Shopping List

Select foods from each category of flavor for your daily meals

This list varies according to where you live. If you live in the tropics, your winter list will be quite different than someone living on the northeast coast. The best thing to do is to investigate what is in season in your area. Naturally salty foods nourish the kidneys and bladder. Some foods in the following list will be in more than one category. They nourish more than one organ system. They have a combination of natural flavors.

In the tropics farmers’ markets continue in winter. Try to buy your produce at one of them. You can ground yourself with food that is growing locally. If that is not a possibility where you live it is best to buy food that are grown as close to you as possible. For instance east coast shoppers can buy Florida produce instead of California produce, or vice versa.

Salty Nourishes Kidney, Bladder

Cheese, kelp, mineral salt, miso, nori, salt water fish, seaweeds, soy sauce

Sour/Nourishes Liver, Gallbladder

Lemons, limes, olives, raspberry leaf tea, rosehips, yogurt

Sweet/Nourishes Spleen, Stomach 

Almonds, amasake, beef, beets, butter, carrots, cheese, chicken, coconut, dates,

dried apricots, dried beans, dried mango, eggs, fennel seed, grains, honey, kale, lamb, licorice root, milk, molasses, olive oil, oranges, pork, rice syrup, salmon, sesame seeds, shrimp, sunflower seeds, tangerine, turkey, turnip, walnuts, whitefish

Pungent/Nourishes Lungs, Colon

Cabbage, cardamom, cayenne, cheese, chili, cinnamon, clove, coriander seed, cumin, garlic, ginger, horseradish, jasmine, onions, peppermint, peppers, rosemary, sage, thyme, turmeric, turnip

Bitter/Nourishes Heart, Small Intestine

Amaranth, artichokes, bitter sweet dark chocolate, cardamom, chicory, cinnamon, collard greens, dandelion root, fenugreek seeds, kale, kohlrabi, quinoa, rye, watercress, wild rice