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Cultivating Inner Fire in the Cold and Damp Season

The four elements (Earth, Water, Air and Fire) are a metaphor for different types of energy in our lives that act in observable patterns. They can manifest on many levels, from singing a song to eating a bowl of soup. Every thought, every action, every exposure and everything we consume all has an elemental action, either increasing or decreasing. Using this metaphor can help us understand what we need more or less of in our lives, and how we can get it.

In cold and damp weather, it becomes increasingly important to proactively bring the fire into your life, which brings hot and dry energy to counteract the cold and damp. Many people find themselves having poor circulation, poor digestion and low energy this time of year, which is a direct result of the weather.

Think of this game as putting things on the other side of a balancing scale: too much will tip the scale and create imbalance in the fire element. Moderation is key.

The first and easiest way to cultivate fire is physical movement. People, especially of cold and damp constitutions, will want to hibernate or be lazy this time of year. It is crucial not to let yourself do so. Jump rope, exercise, climb, stretch, dance around the house, jump up and down. Do what you need to do to keep your blood moving and your internal temperature up.

Staying physically warm also prevents the fire from dying down in the first place. Take baths, wear warm clothes, heat the house, and eat warm foods. Don't go outside with your hair wet. You know, all those stereotypical mother-nags.

Foods have their own energy. Cold and damp foods (which are the ones you want to avoid this time of year) are sugar, milk, coconut milk, raw fruit, some raw veggies like cucumbers, and many grains. Examples of hot and dry foods include garlic, chicken, eggs, chickpeas, and chilis. The way you prepare the food is also important. Hot soups and stews are fantastic this time of year. Were I to summarize, I would say avoid smoothies and ice cream and eat soup like there's no tomorrow and excuses suck.

Emotions hold an immense amount of sway over our inner balance. Fear, worry and sadness are exacerbated by winter, and it is important not to get mired in them, as they all extinguish fire. Many people underestimate their personal power to change emotional patterns due to stories they hold about who they are and how they operate. Throw away those stories for a moment and give yourself a chance to rewrite things. Fire does not care about the past, or about what you supposedly can and can't do. What gives you joy? What gets you passionate? What makes you feel wild? What kind of light do you want to shine in this world and how are you going to get it out there? These are all questions that a strong inner fire will answer.

The fire element is all about living fearlessly and authentically through ambition, action and leadership. Fire is not afraid to step out of its comfort zone, and is not afraid to say its opinion or refuse things it doesn't want. Some people naturally have a lot of this in their personalities, and winter can actually help balance them out. For people with predominant watery personalities (cold and damp), winter throws them out of balance. These people can cultivate fire-type activities or ways of thinking. How can you be more true to yourself? How can you learn to be more assertive? How can you be more spontaneous? How can you express your anger (the emotion of fire) in a healthy way?

To embrace fire, you must not get lost in the details or the fear keeping you back. That said, there is actually less energy available in the world in the cold and damp times, so it is important to choose activities that do not deplete you. Balance is about knowing how much to throw at it and when. Only your body has the answer to that, which means that a keen sense of self awareness will be helpful on your journey. Another thing that anyone can cultivate. Just start listening and keep listening!

HERBS: Chinese angelica, ginger, garlic, onions, and hot chilis are all herbs that warm and move.


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