We all know that feeling. Our bodies wince, our shoulders hunch over to keep the heat in, and we throw our hands into pockets and gloves reaching for respite. As the cold truly sets in we see our social media feeds fill up with posts expressing disdain for the chill, the lack of sun and threats to move to a tropical island where only sunshine and a breeze with hints of hibiscus and coconut exist. While these feelings are a normal reaction to change, what if we took this time to prepare ourselves for the depths of winter? What if we set ourselves up with an overflowing tool box to combat the depression, anxiety, and general malaise some of us might feel during the darkest part of the year?
It’s important to note that one should not feel bad about feeling bad! That endless cycle exists to torment our minds, which eventually torments our bodies. I once read a beautiful passage reflecting on how a mountain does not stir when a storm cloud passes, just as the storm cloud does not get stuck on the mountain – they both just exist. What if you were the mountain? Strong, tall and (mostly) unbreakable. I encourage you to try this video of mountain pose, practice being strong, whole and able to take on that storm cloud. So, when that negative mind-chatter, telling you that you can’t get out of bed, it’s too cold, and you wish you were somewhere warm, arises practice being the mountain – strong and grounded. Allowing the thoughts to exist and pass is a crucial part to overcoming them!
Preparing for the winter means more than perfecting our layering game with sweaters, winter coats, hats and gloves. It means preparing to go inward. Easily forgotten is our biggest teacher, the earth. Without realizing it, we reflect the energies of the earth. During the summer many of us are outside, bouncing around and taking in the sun. The plants are flourishing, the animals are resting under the shade and some are playfully hopping about. Once the fall comes, we are often refreshed with a crisp sense of excitement – a little excited to wear more layers and thoroughly excited to, literally and figuratively, reap the bounty of the harvest. Autumn is such a short-lived part of the year and I believe this is due to its looming partner – winter. As the winter truly sets in, let us look at it just as we look at any other season. Let’s take time to reflect the energies of the earth. Sure, winter evokes a feeling of death – death of the plants, the leaves, and a time when we see less animals scurrying about. What if we looked at this “death” as a time to say goodbye to things that do not serve us anymore? Like the leaves and pine cones effortlessly falling from the trees during autumn, let our burdens do the same.
I woke up one morning after a night filled with howling wind. I was astonished by the beauty of the rivers of leaves that lined the streets, resting after their night of dancing and twirling around. It struck me, I saw the wind from the night before as a final push for the trees to let go of their leaves. I tried to apply that to my life. What could I finally let go of? Shedding unnecessary layers does not have to be painful and ugly, what if it was beautiful just as the sunshine-colored leaves streaming down the sidewalks? This release also sets us up for new growth. It creates room for discovering hidden layers of ourselves that we might have lost touch with, and what a better time to do this than now? As animals go into hibernation, we can too! Of course this does not mean to stay inside, sleep and skip work, rather we can go inside of ourselves, the very depths of our soul and rest there. Ground yourself, like the mountain, in that place. Feel every part of it. Become a seed, planted deep in the earth. “Many seeds must first be buried in darkness before they can bloom into light. Melancholy, and all the deep creativity it engenders, is a kind of planting,” writes Asia of One Willow Apothecaries. Use this time of darkness to go in, reflect the energies of the earth, and create a beautiful plant that, come spring, will bud in the warmth of the dewy morning air.
I especially enjoy cooking during this time of year. It allows me to be creative and stay warm – two things that I have a hard time letting go of once the winter hits. As my own personal practice, I try and reflect the energy of the earth by cooking with foods that are mostly in season. This means most of my meals consist of root vegetables, squash, broccoli, apples, pears, and the list goes on! As a general practice, I try and make a big batch of soup in the beginning of the week and eat it all week to keep me warm. You can also stay warm by eating foods that create an internal heat. This means saying yes to spices, hot peppers, ginger, garlic, teas, etc. I recently created a soup that was inspired by my yearning to root down. I’ve inevitably named it “Connecting to the Earth Soup” and below is the (not so exact) recipe!
Connecting to the Earth Soup
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
- 4 carrots, sliced into rounds and cut in half
- 2 sweet potatoes, cubed
- 1 large or 2 small parsnips, sliced into rounds and cut in half
- 4 c vegetable (or chicken) broth
- 4 c water
- 1 can of coconut milk (lite)
- 1 tbsp green thai chili paste (you could use the red thai chili paste as well)
- salt and pepper to taste
- one or two dashes of celery seed
- Chop all of your veggies.
- Saute the onion, garlic and ginger in some olive oil in a big stock pot on medium heat. Be sure not to burn the garlic (says my internal Italian grandmother)!
- Once everything smells amazing, probably after about 6-10 minutes, add in the broth and water and bring to a boil on high heat.
- Let boil for about 15 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and add in all of the vegetables.
- Leave this on the stove for at least an hour, preferably two. Make sure you stir the soup about every twenty minutes. If your sweet potatoes are falling apart and the carrots seem tender you can move to the next step, or you can let it sit on the stove for however long you’d like.
- Add in your can of coconut milk, tablespoon of thai chili paste, dash of celery seed, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Let this sit on the stove for about 15 more minutes.
- Be sure to stir this as well so the coconut milk doesn’t separate.
- At this point, your soup is ready. Enjoy!
Creating roots during the winter season can be one of the most helpful things we do for ourselves. Think of it as self-care. Our well-being depends on us taking good care of ourselves, so hunker down and grow those roots! Go deep into the earth and plant yourself, allowing the seed (you!) to be nurtured and cared for. Your roots will thank you. When the storm cloud passes, they’ll keep you from being uplifted. They will keep you strong and steady.