The Winter Solstice marks the true beginning of the cold, winter months when many animals hibernate, many plants draw their energy back into the earth and activity in nature tends to move underground. Although much of nature appears lifeless above ground, under the surface life is still continuing with many of the plants already preparing for germination and sprouting in the spring.
In the old farming cycles, it marked a time when work outdoors lessened and time was spent mending and sharpening the tools in readiness for the next planting season. In the Chinese Five Elements it is the time of the Water element. This is perhaps the most important element for the Tai Chi and Qigong practitioner. Tao Cheng wrote in the 11th century, “Water gives way to obstacles with deceptive humility, Water conquers by yielding; it never attacks but always wins the last battle.
The Sage who makes himself as Water is distinguished for his humility, He embraces passivity, acts from non action and conquers the world. ”Tai Chi as a martial art is founded on this idea of conquering by yielding, of using one pound of your own force to move one thousand pounds of your opponent’s force. The Tai Chi master moves only in response to his opponent’s movement and wins through embracing passivity.
In life there is much value in learning to embrace passivity; of only acting from non-action. All too often when we face challenges, we feel we must do something to fix the situation. However, there is a danger that rather than making things better, our actions exacerbate the problem
Perhaps it might be better to observe the situation with curiosity and to only act when the path of least resistance becomes apparent to us.
In stillness the way forward reveals itself to us. The Water element governs the kidneys and bladder, the brain and spinal cord, the reproductive organs and all fluids in the body. The kidneys store our Jing; our life force, and also provide our bodies with warmth.
The water element is linked to the emotion of fear and in Traditional Chinese Medicine lack of hydration is regarded as the root of fear and anxiety. Lack of hydration can be caused by not drinking enough but more commonly it is caused by stress. Stress always causes dehydration; which in turn causes more stress that leads to further dehydration.
The remedy lies in non action. As we slow down, we allow our bodies the chance to rehydrate. This is why Qigong is so powerful at helping to combat stress.
So, in the winter months ahead, perhaps see if you can balance action with some times of non-action; of taking a little time to appreciate the moment and cultivate some stillness.
Often when we are too busy, there is no space in our conscious minds for solutions to rise into our awareness. When we embrace stillness, when we calm our monkey mind, we create the right environment for our inner wisdom to rise up and guide us. Practicing Tai Chi and Qigong teaches us to find stillness within movement and in doing so to connect to our inner wisdom.