Time to Nourish the Inner Life!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the season of winter is connected with the water element.  Its power is deep and yin.  The water element is the deepest principle governing the wellbeing and continuity of our lives.  It connects us with the deep mysteries of life and death through our ancestral inheritance and the major developmental cycles of birth, childhood, puberty, adulthood, midlife, and old age.

To be in harmony with nature’s rhythm during winter, we need to gather our energies, replenish ourselves, build up our vital qi (life force), and stay warm.

It’s also an optimal time to spend some “soul time” to connect with the richness of our inner world, to see what needs clearing out and what can be newly seeded in our lives.  

Winter is also a good time to be even more aware of conserving our energies and resources, and not to  deplete or stress ourselves through excessive active, outgoing (yang) energy.  Like nature in her resting period, this is a time of inwardness, reflection, quietude and rest.

It’s a great time to build up our inner resources on all levels, and to keep ourselves moving towards the promise of new life in springtime.


The water element represents the energy storage and conservation that forms the basis of our over-all vitality on energetic and physical levels.  This has direct impact upon our mental and emotional states.  According to TCM, we all come into this life with a certain amount of capital to spend.   This is the life essence (Jing) which we have been given through the genetic line of our parents and ancestors. 

Throughout our lives, we withdraw from the reservoir of our life essence.  It’s very much like spending what we have out of our savings account.  But do we re-invest or rebuild our account?  There is no automatic way in which interest is accrued if we are only spending our reserves.  The wise have taught the importance of building up our reserves consciously and not just spending carelessly.  Listening to our body’s changing needs, cultivating healthy life style habits, energy cultivation, and spiritual practices are important skills to fine tune to prevent depletion prematurely or too quickly.   


Physically, the kidneys and bladder organs, which deal with the body’s water metabolism, are also involved in regulating the functions of different energy centers and parts of the body, including the reproductive organs, urinary tract, spinal column, back, the brain, bones, bone marrow, teeth and ears. 

The most important energetic center in the body in strengthening the vitality of one’s essence that is connected with the kidneys is the the lower abdominal area under the navel (tantian, the lower field of elixir).  This is also connected with the lower back and some very important energetic points referred to in acupuncture as Ming Men, (the Gate of Life) and  Qihai (Sea of vitality).

There are several meridians (energy channels) which exert influence upon the multi-faceted functions of the kidney and bladder:  the bladder meridian itself, running from the head, neck, back, hip, posterior leg and feet.  The bladder meridian is directly connected to all of the body’s organ systems through their associated points called the back shu points which transport qi to the organs and have a direct effect and communication with them. Then, too there is the central channel, called the Du Mo, which runs through the spine itself and the central nervous system and the mental-emotional patterns associated with the organ systems.


The water element is the receptive, feminine, dark and hidden aspects of our psyche.  Like the moon, it also relates to the unconscious and to the emotions.  Water needs to stay in motion – it has a rhythm, a cycle, which is mostly ruled by the movement and gravitational pull of the moon.  Like the earth, human beings have cycles, too – times of floods, stagnant pools, droughts, free flowing rivers and streams.  And when emotions are released, as during winter rains and floods – we gain a fresher and lighter perspective in our lives.  But if we hold in water, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, we experience a lethargy and heaviness, and find it difficult to express ourselves.

When there is a deficiency in the water element, it may make it difficult for us to slow down, to relax or rest, or simply to let go.  It is also difficult to reflect deeper upon our lives, or to turn to the richness of the inner life.

While the water element can be related to the emotions in general, specific emotional imbalances associated with weakness in the kidneys are fear, general anxieties, timidity, and weakness in willpower.  Balance in the water element allows fluidity and flow, and we are able to rest and nourish ourselves, and experience awe and wonder at the mysterious unfolding of life.


From The Sage’s Tao Te Ching: 

The physical atoms that make up your body

Have been completely replaced

In the past nine years

Yet you remain

You may feel the effects of age

But your spirit is always renewed

In each and every moment

Remember this when you are tired or ill,

Let each breath renew your spirit.