Psst…It’s Winter!

Winter is the time to turn inward, to slow down, to go fallow.

We know this. And we likely know that our culture of busy-ness makes tuning-in to the winter season’s call challenging, but this isn’t another post to admonish you out of busy-ness.

Just a nudge here-if you haven’t stored up some winter moments, the rising energies of spring may leave you lethargic, fatigued, slow to sprout, and even later to fruit and harvest come summer.

This time around, for me, the problem isn’t too much to do.

The problem is the UN-seasonal weather. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed that it IS winter.

you make the fire and I’ll show you something wonderful: a big ball of snow! Basho
you make the fire
and I’ll show you something wonderful:
a big ball of snow!
Basho

Until well into January, when Baltimore’s winter temperatures finally plummeted, we’d been treated to balmy days, migrating birds and spring-blooming quince.

Without the cold and grey, even shortened days were not enough to draw me often enough to curl up under an afghan with a good book and allow myself to go somewhat dormant.

Sometimes the cues, the markers, the signals change, and we unknowingly fall out of sync.

The cold and grey, have always reminded me what to do. This Friday in the north east, we’ll see twenty-four minutes more of daylight than just three weeks ago.

I know this: Only by allowing myself to arrive fully in winter (however it shows up) do I gift my body, mind and spirit the grace and gift of an interlude.

So, I’ve pared down my day-time commitments, jettisoned more than a few attractive outings – theatre, community sings, dance classes. And I’ve built more protection around my hours after nightfall for staring idly into the dark. All to let myself go more fallow.

Depending on where you live, you may have many more or fewer weeks of winter than here in the Mid-Atlantic.

Either way, to help you set aside and protect the moments you need to take your rest, so you can spring forward with the coming season, I invite you to pause with intention and

reach for

nourishment (try a pot of my favorite immune-supporting miso soup, friendship, conversation

soothing and cheering herbal tea (recipe below)

candle and firelight

or open up to

bare branches and long views through the trees

night-time hours resonant with stillness

grieving your losses

pared-down-to-the-bone clarity

TURN WITHIN, EXALE, SHIFT YOUR ENERGY DOWN A NOTCH OR TWO –

even while sitting at a red light, waiting in line, waiting for the water to boil

listen…

to the still small voice within

fall into the spaciousness of the HEART, that seasonal field

where we can meet, in Rumi’s words,

“out beyond right and wrong.”


 

An ALOP RecipeYoung and Restless Tea

Young and Restless Tea

One rounded teaspoon each of dried Chamomile, Linden Flower, and Elderflower, and one 1/4 teaspoon of dried Peppermint.

Pour 8 oz boiling water over the herbs.

Cover and steep for 10-15 minutes.

Strain, sip, inhale, enjoy to calm restlessness, help you (and a finicky digestion) rest, help you “manage.”

A plus for late winter sinuses and lungs: this tea is also a mild respiratory decongestant.

 

A Restorative Approach to Health

Do any of these challenges sound familiar?

Exhaustion

Energy that bottoms out during out the day

Swings in mood and appetite

Difficulty falling asleep or Insomnia

Brain Fog

A feeling that you just can’t do what you used to

These are among the most common health challenges women voice when coming to me for herbal support.

If you’re dealing with some of these things right now, I want you to know- as crummy as you feel- your body holds the very healing power of nature itself. I also want you to know,

…there is no quick fix. Healing doesn’t work this way.

Your challenges, or symptoms, are showing you that your body is actually working to repair some state of imbalance, and it is asking for support to do what it knows how to do, what it is built to do: RESTORE health.

This was the view of Hippocrates, the 5th century Greek physician generally considered to be the father of medicine. He understood illness as a way that the body repairs disturbances of balance.

Naturopath James Sensenig views this innate force as “the tendency in nature towards organization, order and purpose,”  which aligns well with contemporary studies of how complex systems such as the body self-organize.

My Approach to Herbal Support

I share the perspective of Hippocrates and Sensenig in my healing work. I look for plant friends and allies who can nudge your body back in the direction of health rather than suppress symptoms or substitute for the body’s own functions.

I work with Restorative herbs that nourish, calm, and tone your body’s  stress response,  nervous and hormonal systems, and  cognitive function.

Early on in my three years of formal studies for a Masters of Science in Herbal Medicine, I was drawn especially to this approach, that now serves as the foundation for my clinical practice.

Ginkgo, pressed leaves
Brain and circulatory tonic: Ginkgo, pressed leaves

Over and over again, I have seen how providing this initial, nourishing systemic support can reset a client’s baseline health.

This is true even for clients living with challenging chronic issues such as fibromyalgia, lifelong asthma, and Parkinson’s.

Such conditions can be managed for greater comfort and quality of life (and alongside conventional medical treatment) as herbs calm stress and anxiety, lift a heavy heart and mood, sharpen attention, focus and recall.

A restorative approach is neither a quick nor a cookie-cutter approach, and it works.

A restorative approach takes time – weeks and months – first, to slow or reverse depletion, and then to nourish a vibrancy lost over months and years.

Many clients do begin to respond in a matter of days or weeks, and then continue to further benefit from a cumulative effect over time.

Each client brings a unique family and personal history, biochemistry, beliefs and knowledge – we unpack this fully in an initial 2-hour session, and the protocol goes like this:

1. You tell me the single change that would make the most difference on a daily basis. 
2. You name your formula for the overall effect you want: Cool down, Kick-Ass, Sweet Dreams are a few that have come up.
3. We choose a form – tea, tincture, powder – that you can most easily incorporate into your daily life.
4.  I draw on knowledge of scientific research and traditional use to select and combine herbs specifically for you, the ones that are the best match for you.

Practice = Optimum Results

When you adopt taking your herbs and observing their effects as a practice, you will see optimum results.

Herbs: Skullcap, Rose Petals, Lavender, Calendula
From top left: Skullcap, Rose petals, Lavender, Calendula

When you return for your follow-up with clear information about how you have responded to the herbs, this information is like gold, guiding the further refinement of selection, preparation or dosing of the herbs as we go forward.

We may work together to discover how you can become more attuned to your body’s responses. To notice and name with more detail and nuance the effects of the herbs, and of your emotional responses and behavioral choices on your body.

A restorative approach is a genuine three-way collaboration between the client, the herbalist, and the herbs themselves, a collaboration guided by the innate intelligence for health that runs through all.

 

The…life that runs through my veins…is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the Earth into the numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of flowers.  ~Rabindranath Tagore


For more about herbalism

For more about an herbal consult with Sara


Photos of Sara’s Herbs: Sean Scheidt, Baltimore Magazine