Saturday, February 5, 2011

Go with the flow of the seasons

I have always enjoyed the seasons. It bothers me when folk complain in summer, "It's too hot!" or in winter "It's too cold!" or in spring, "Roll on the summer!" or in autumn "This is dreary!" Life is too short, too precious, to wish it away, to not enjoy the present.
Taiji philosophy has enhanced my enjoyment of the seasons. In taiji the advice is to go with the flow of the seasons. Watch what happens in nature. Don't fight nature. Find nature's Dao. Modify life and practices according to the Dao.
This is from the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine, the Neijing. This ancient text comes form the third millennium BCE:
"During the winter months all things in nature wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period, just as lakes and rivers freeze and snow falls. This is a time when yin dominates yang. Therefore one should refrain from overusing the yang energy. Retire early and get up with the sunrise, which is later in winter. Desire and mental activity should be kept quite and subdued. Sexual desires especially should be contained, as if keeping a happy secret. Stay warm, avoid the cold, and keep the pores closed. Avoid sweating. The philosophy of the winter season is one of conservation and storage."
Ancient wisdom indeed! In the modern world we have devised many different ways of overcoming nature. Much of this is beneficial—warm clothes, warm houses to name two. Yet, according to the Yellow Emperor, we go against the flow (the Dao) at our own peril. There is much sensible advice in the ancient text.
In taiji exercise, the Dao requires a gentler, softer, more yin approach in winter than the other seasons. I am enjoying the winter. I am looking forward to spring when I can take my practice outside once again. But for now, conservation and storage feels good.