The strength of the Bear lies in his power of introspection. If you study the Bear in nature you will see that it seeks honey, the sweetness of life, within the hollow of old trees. In winter, it enters into the cave (known to ancient Daoist shamans as the “eternal womb”), to hibernate and digest the year’s experiences, in spring it wakes up joyfully and hungry with the opening of spring flowers. It is fascinating to observe the Bear’s movements and character throughout the seasons. In Qigong we work with the Winter Bear, and our movements are similar to those of the Bear in nature. Ancient Daoists observed these movements and created sequences and exercises to replicate this, channelling the energies of the Bear. The winter Bear is the hibernating, resting and digesting side of the energy of the animal. In our own bodies this entails nourishing the deepest systems in our body, the primordial energy of the kidneys, the spine and the brain. We do this through seasonal exercises and food and herbs.
Winter is an auspicious time for cultivating the art of introspection. In the cave of introspection we can attune ourselves to the energies of what the Daoists referred to as the Eternal Mother (Great Void), to receive deep nourishment. Winter is a time to allow ourselves to listen to those answers that are within us. Each and every one of us has the capacity to enter the silence and to know. The Winter Bear is this female receptivity within us, regardless of whether you are male or female. It is spacious, quiet and filled with wisdom and healing. It is Yin, female, receptive, quiet, deep, slow.
It is a favourable time for meditative practice that allows us to cultivate our inner seeing, allowing visions to come through and listening to alternative answers for our goals and dreams. It is a time for dreams and inner rest. According to Qi Gong the colour that corresponds to the winter is sapphire blue and the element of the season is Water. Cultivating seeing the kidneys in sapphire blue, the bones, spine and brain has a calming and restful effect on our nervous system. It is said that blue is the Soul Body’s healing colour. In our practice we work with colour, sound and intention as a complement to the movement to intentionally cultivate our energy and allow for it to flow to the deepest systems in our body.
Winter invites us to meditate more, allowing ourselves enough rest, early nights and longer sleep cycles. It urges us to explore the quality of stillness and importance of peace and rest. In our practice it is beneficial to keep this in mind as we move on our mats, turning our perception inwards. Allow your practice to nourish you. Allow yourself the space to retreat into your inner world, to meditate, to dream and to rest.
Setting intentions and using positive affirmations are a proven and powerful way to re-program our subconscious, installing new believe systems that changes our thoughts and life. Positive affirmations that work well with the energy of winter are ways to attune ourselves with feeling nourished, safe, peaceful and still. A great affirmation is: I have a spirit, mind and body that are at peace. Life supports me, all I need is always taken care of. I am safe. There are plenty of other powerful affirmations, what is important is that what you affirm resonates with you.
Eating seasonal and nourishing food that supports the body and using specific herbs can be especially beneficial in winter. Foods and herbs that are great to include in your diet to support kidney health in winter include:
Lemon, parsley, millet, barley, dandelion, red clover, nettle, grapes, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, ginger and turmeric.
Tune in to the energies of the Great Bear, feel nourished by your thoughts, practice and deeds this winter, enjoy some needed rest and repair.
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