In Chinese element theory winter is an expression of water energy. This quality of life force is experienced as an internal dwelling, deep processing, incubation, stillness, as well as endurance, determination, fluid movement, ambition and inherited reserves and ancestral qi. The two pathways that embody this quality of energy are the longest and cover a great portion of the body.
The Pang Guang (Bladder) pathway starts at the inside corner of our eyes, streams over our crown, down our neck, encompasses our back, down our legs and wraps to the sides of our feet. Shen (Kidney) pathway starts on the soles of our feet, connecting us to directly to the energy of the earth. Like a fresh spring it makes its journey pushing up our legs and deep into our core and expands through our chest.
The direction of flow of pathways is openly reflective of the different qualities of water energy. Pan Guang is swift, it moves more like rapid water, it stores things, but not for too long. It’s able to take from the depth and move into transition. It distributes our vital qi throughout our body. In the case of energetic depletion or blocks, access points along this meridian can be activated to restore and revitalize.
Shen is often the translation for the heart or spirit. I love that it is also used to express kidney energy (see side note below). While Pan Guang reflects the yang aspect of water, water Shen represents yin. While Pan Guang has a streaming quality, Shen is more pulling and condensing; like pulling sap up from the root system to the top of the tree. This energy is methodical and attentive. It can hold things for a long time and has a deep memory. It is the seat of our will and vital nourishment. Points along this meridian can replenish our body, stimulating our deep organs, and lift up our spirit and reconnect us to the fire in our chest.
Side note [In elemental theory we look at the five unique expressions of energy, however, when observed in depth we find the five can be reduced to two- yin (water/kidney) and yang (fire/heart). When we look at the two, we find they are really one, and as the Chinese realized, we see all energetic movements come from one. From the one, we can pop back out into the realm of distinction and more of an understanding of what each quality of qi we experience and the root of any imbalances or stresses. This allows us to work with the energy we are embodying rather than the energy we can intellectually understand.]
Winter is a time when water energy is abundant in nature. It’s strong resonance activates our water energy within us. If we are attentive we will naturally be in line with the season – we will eat things that nourish our body, our attention and activities will be more inward focused. We will rest more and nourish our minds with contemplation. If we distract ourselves we are likely to run our resources dry, fatiguing our minds and body. As the ancient Chinese realized, man is but a vessel between heaven and earth, made from as much as heaven (yang qi) as earth (yin qi) we sustain by maintaining our balance, thus we need to be mindful of both our heavenly and earthly selves.