Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements


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As we age we lose water, and our bodies begin to dry out. Our bones and hair become more brittle, our skin loses its elasticity, our minds may lose their accustomed flexibility. While acknowledging these changes, Traditional Chinese Medicine gives us numerous mental, physical, and nutritional tools to help retard the progression of the apparently inevitable by offering ways to augment the water reserves within us.

Fear is the emotion associated with the Water Element.

Winter under water or, conversation with the elements / James Hopkin. - Version details - Trove

In a healthy way, fear is an emotion that moves and directs us to remain alert and attentive to our surroundings and situation. When confronted with danger, constructive fear can guide us with a message of caution and restraint and fill us with a sense of readiness and courage to face whatever situation might present itself.


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When Water is out of balance, fear becomes an obstacle to movement. It might manifest as chronic anxiety or as an intense phobia, but in either case it often signifies a deficiency in the Water energy and a corresponding lack of grounding, causing the energy to be trapped in the chest.


  • Winter, from December 21 to the spring equinox of March 21.
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  • The Five Elements: The Water or Kidney Element;

Physiologically, fear increases adrenalin production, which accelerates the heart rate; we begin to perspire, our muscles tighten, and we hold our breaths. These physical reactions feed our fear and create a vicious cycle: Traditional Chinese Medicine says that excess fear injures the Kidney energy while a dysfunction in the Kidney energy, in turn, further increases our fear. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that the Kidneys called the Storehouse of the Vital Essence operate like a pilot light that can spark light within the entire body, mind, and spirit. Kidney Fire vitalizes the system and separates the pure aspects of Water from the impure.

The contaminated parts of Water are transported to the Urinary Bladder for storage and elimination, while the pure parts are transformed into a mist, which is circulated freely throughout the body.


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This action sends warmth and energy to every cell in the body. In metaphorical terms, Kidney Fire provides the driving energy and resolute will power needed to overcome obstacles and press forward to accomplish our goals in life. The Kidneys also have a vital yin, or cooling and lubricating, function that assures that all the structures within the body and mind are lubricated and misted. This process keeps the body and mind flexible and prevents excessive friction from building up. In Western medicine we know that the kidneys regulate water metabolism and stabilize the heart and blood pressure.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney energy is also said to be responsible for healthy teeth, bones, and bone marrow.

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Because the ancient Chinese medical scholars considered the brain and spinal cord to be extensions of the bone marrow, the Kidney is thought to rule over the skeletal structure and function and, consequently, over intelligence, reason, perception, and memory. Every few seconds, urine is passed from the kidneys to the bladder, where it is stored until it is eliminated through urination.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Urinary Bladder is compared to a reservoir where the waters of the body collect.

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Depression, fatigue, difficulty adapting to new circumstances, or a general sense of foreboding are considered symptoms of an imbalance in this organ. Once we deplete our reserves, or if the bladder is leaking, acupuncture and herbal remedies can be used to revitalize the organ functions, and attention to diet, exercise, and meditation can help restore its healthy functions. Below is a table summarizing the basic correspondences associated with the Water element in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Excesses and addictions of all kinds sex, drugs, work, over-training in sports , constant stress, trauma, childbirth and heavy menstrual bleeding can all lead to kidney depletion.

Keep your home warm and safe from the elements this winter

On an emotional level, unsteadiness, fear and an unwillingness to face our spiritual pain are all symptomatic of disconnection from the deep wisdom of our bodies and our relationship to life itself. While kidney issues can manifest any time of year, the winter is our season to take extra care with them. Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM also provides remarkable and extremely effective herbal and acupuncture protocols for tonifying and strengthening our kidney essence.

Keeping our lower backs warm and well covered during the winter helps protect vital kidney Zhi. We can also eat foods that enhance the water element and aid in healing our kidney energy.

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Salt is key to kidney balance, but it must be noted that table salt is quite damaging. Replace it with sea salt, which should be used judiciously. The following foods are beneficial and are connected to our kidneys and as is true with all things, should be consumed in moderation.

Grain: Barley, buckwheat, black rice Vegetables: Beets, burdock, asparagus Beans and Pulses: Adzuki, black beans, black lentils Sea Vegetables: arame, dulse, Irish moss, kelp, hijiki, nori, wakame, kombu, spirulina Fruits: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, purple and black grapes, watermelon, black raspberries, mulberries Fish: blue fish, caviar, scallops, oysters, clams and mussels Nuts: chestnuts, black sesame seeds, walnuts Condiments and Seasonings: tamari, shoyu, miso, tekka, gomasio, umeboshi, salt cured pickles these last two are also sour Chinese Tonic Foods: Reishi ganoderma mushrooms, Cordyceps mushrooms, Schizandra berries.

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Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements
Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements
Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements
Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements
Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements
Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements
Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements Winter Under Water: or, Conversation with the Elements

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