Unlike sex, sleep is underrated. Modern society sees it as ‘lost time’, and disregards sleep as a necessity, which we ditch in our rush to ‘get things done’. Most of us work too hard and too long and are more anxious and depressed than ever. Winter is the time to reverse this trend.
What? It’s the last month of winter already? Whoa, no way..
Yep, spring is around the corner, making itself felt with chirping birds and optimistic blossoms.
Fashionistas are busily clearing out their winter wardrobe, looking towards the warmer months. But it is still winter. And there’s a good reason not to ignore it.
When we treat winter with the respect it deserves, it repays us double; replenishing our energy stores and setting us up for a great year ahead. Good choices in winter means renewed energy in spring and abundant vitality in summer.
In most ancient traditions winter is a time of rest, repair and restoration. It is a time for lessened activity, and even hibernation. According to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) each organ corresponds with a season. The organs most closely related to the energy of winter are the kidneys. The kidneys store jing, or life essence, which is the fundamental basis for our chi /qi /prana /life energy and the source of our health, vitality, fertility, and virility. For example, our protection from exterior pathogens depends largely on the strength of a type of qi: our defensive qi (‘wei qi’). When the kidneys are not restored in winter, we’ll be sure to feel the consequences, one way or another; physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. Jing, and therefore qi, may be replenished or restored through nutrition, breath, energy work, or rest — including sleep.
Rewind 200 years. When it got dark you were getting ready for bed. Sure, you might be able to afford the luxury of a candle and a book by the fire, but not for hours and hours, and not every night. Go back 500 years, and you’d be up and down with the sun. Winter would have been a period of deep rest, after the hard work of the cycle of farming, spring through to autumn. As the land lay fallow; restoring in winter, so you would have. Today, we work later, eat later, play later, rest later, and sleep later. Sleep is an afterthought. If we feel tired we have a coffee, a juice, or pop some vitamins. We eat foods shipped in from up north, and our idea of rest is a holiday in the tropics. Winter is mostly spent in denial.
It means that our kidneys do not have the time and space to replenish their energy stores or repair to their peak condition. It means that our adrenal glands — which are closely related to the kidneys — are overworked. In the words of the unassuming Professor of TCM I used to visit for my herbs, at such times it meant I should abstain from ‘sexy-sexy’… But it’s not only virility and sexual appetite that are affected, TCM sees kidney deficiency and adrenal fatigue as underpinning many prominent diseases prevalent in modern society. Many of our common ailments would simply not get a hold of us if we were well-rested, enjoyed good nutrition and didn’t expose ourselves to stress or the toxins of daily modern life.
Proper kidney function is essential to the body’s youthful vitality. The development, regeneration and regulation of our brain, the spinal cord, bones, teeth, blood, skin and hair are all deeply influenced by the kidneys, which produce marrow and directly and/or indirectly regulate all vital fluids. For the average person, kidney function decreases significantly from as early as 30 years of age, and by 40, most humans have already lost 40% of their kidney function.
The good news is that all of this can be improved, slowed or even reversed.
Sleep has an important relationship with our kidneys. The kidneys need it to restore, but paradoxically, when our kidneys need it most, we find it harder to maintain good habits, and are less likely to sleep well.
Time and time again I am surprised to find clients telling me that they have trouble falling asleep or that their sleep is not deep enough, that they lie restless at night, and/or that they wake up too early. More often than not, there is an anxiety-stress-restlessness pattern there, keeping them distracted and feeling burdened or stuck.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’ve been there too. I experienced sleep deprivation in my early entrepreneurial years and, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I can now see that the combination of stress, a busy mind and never-ending tiredness were closely related with my struggling poverty mentality back then. In my experience, a stressed out and tired person tends to engage in lower states of mind and being, coupled with limited awareness, small-minded thinking and an inability to see the big picture. I found, when I was perpetually tired, that I could not employ a larger set of mind. This meant I was stuck in a lower mind-set, energetically blocked, unable to see my situation as a whole.
I spent years like that — stuck, lost and disempowered, desperate to get over and beyond my struggles. I thought I had to work hard because of my situation. Then I discovered that the situation was the result of my mindset, and my inability to see that it originated in me. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and made poor choices when I was tired. When this finally clicked, I went from owning a business in debt and on the brink, a liability, which wasn’t paying me a wage, to a venture which was an asset: successfully managed by others, paid me well, won awards, and generated turnover that I dared not dream of just a few years earlier.
Funny. Suddenly sleep is looking a whole lot sexier — right? And that’s not just a slip of the tongue, for our sex lives are greatly improved by sleep. And — yes, I’ll go there — I can tell you from personal experience, that men last a hell of a lot longer in bed when they’re not energetically blocked, stressed out, and worrying about their struggles. But there’s more — it doesn’t just impact how often you like it or how long you last. Higher order states of thinking, feeling and being, result in your life force and sexual energy flowing freely from below to above, and from above to below, making you a heart-centred, more adventurous lover, who is less genitally, and visually, focused. The result is not just longer sex, but better sex. And when I say better, I mean BETTER.
To briefly recap: when we look after our kidneys, and get enough rest and sleep, we are more successful, feel better, are fitter, more flexible, stronger, and healthier. Plus we tend to eat better, breathe better, be more mindful, clear and present, feel less stressed, and have better sex when we are properly rested. Makes you want to do nice things for your kidneys, huh?
Love your kidneys
- Schisandra chinensis
- Epimedium sagittatum / Horny goat weed
- Alisma orientalis / water plantain
- Poria cocos mushroom
- He shou wu / Polygonum multiflora / Chinese knotweed
- Cuscuta hygrophilae / Chinese dodder
- Rehmannia glutinosa / Chinese foxglove
- Cornus officinalis /Cornelian cherry
- Eleutherococcus senticosus / Siberian ginseng
- Panax ginseng
- Lycium barbarum / Goji berry
- Glycyrrhiza uralensis / Licorice
- Taraxacum officinalis / Dandelion
- Althaea officinalis / Marshmallow
- Colloidal minerals
- Tribulus terrestris (men)
- Angelica polymorpha /Dong quai (women)
Love your sleep
- Polygala sibirica root
- Ziziphus spinose / Jujube
- Albizia julibrissin / Silk tree / Mimosa
- Passiflora incarnate / Passionflower
- Valeriana officinalis / Valerian
- Poria cocos mushroom
- Biota orientalis
- Withania somnifera /A shwaganda
- Schisandra chinensis
- Humulus lupulus / Hops
Note, not all supplements and herbs are suited to each person, and some do not necessarily work well in combination with others. For instance, I took valerian once when I was exhausted and had the worst night of my life. So seek advice, feel your way forward, and listen to your body.
Feeding your kidneys
Besides supplements and herbs, try eating smaller meals of fresh organic quality ingredients, chewing well, eating mindfully, and eating early. Excess sweet damages the kidneys; so replace sweet treats with naturally sweet food. Avoid cold foods or drinks — as nice as they can be, they are never good for you, but worst in winter. Over-eating or eating late puts your system under significant stress. If you eat raw foods, eat them between 9am and 3pm, and chew them extremely well. Make salads from deep coloured ingredients, eat them early, and, yes, chew well. Minimise strong spices, and although salt stimulates kidney function, excess salt is overstimulating. Avoid ‘table salt’ and use a natural salt, such as Celtic sea salt, Himalayan ancient sea salt or Murray River salt; as these are full of bio-available minerals and natural iodine; whereas normal table salt has all the minerals washed out of it, and may have additives.
If you eat meat, then try wild-caught deep sea fish and occasionally oysters. If you eat red meat, consider organic pork. Look up how to make a bone broth from bones. Organ meat is wonderful for the kidneys, especially dark offal such as kidney, liver and heart. All meat, offal or bones should be from free-range organic sources, and eaten in moderation. Kelp, dulse and all dark seaweeds are excellent for the kidneys, whether you’re vegetarian or not. Parsley leaves, silver beet, black Tuscan kale, pumpkin seeds, beetroot and blueberries are great. Chamomile, peppermint, green or ‘white’ tea are all good. Avoid coffee in winter through to mid-spring.
Caring for your kidneys
There are many ways you can care for your kidneys. For starters, slow down. You might be surprised that you get more done when you are uncaffeinated, clear-headed, can think straight, and when you do things with deliberation.
You may wish to research ways to engage your parasympathetic nervous system to counteract any flight-or-fight tendencies. Consider meditation, yoga, chanting, dance, self-hypnosis, tai qi / qi gong or anything else that will connect you with larger self, flow and whole-mindedness (another term for mindfulness).
The gift that keeps on giving
Looking after your kidneys is not that hard. Sure, if your background is a mainstream lifestyle, it can be challenging to wean yourself off long-held habits of white bread, sugar, refined fats and packaged foods, but once you’re over the hump, the way you feel is all the inspiration you could ever want.
It’s not about being a puritan or living like a monk and it’s not about perfection. Rather it’s about making good choices, and finding your own sweet spot that makes you feel great, vibrant and alive. Here’s wishing you an enjoyable, healthy and long life! Oh, and great sex. Lots of GREAT sex.
Boris von Rechenberg, DoCH, is a transformational energy healer, coach and educator; combining holistic psychology and transpersonal hypnotherapy with quantum source energetics. Based in Melbourne, he helps others rediscover true self, life purpose, ease, abundance, radical forgiveness, peace of mind, youth and wellness through whole being.
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