Honoring Our Lowlands

dark kidney energy liminal water medicine winter Jan 22, 2024

If you could drink the medicine of winter in a spoon, what would it look like? Elderberry blood, pine needle frost, salt water squeezed from ancient ocean boulders, I would gladly swallow all of it. This place where I live - a land of ice age dynasties, thin veils, and deep, contracted winters - is such a teacher in slow, rest, be. 


In your heart of hearts, how do you feel about winter? Is it a season of dread or something to be endured? Admittedly, I used to feel winter to be one, long painful slog. And some days it can still feel that way. But I have come to see winter as a study in contrasts. It's amazing how the cold is simultaneously life-giving and also draining. More elders pass away in the winter and also entire countries have qi-enhancing winter traditions of sauna and cold plunge.


It is a time when we can honor our lowlands, our lowlight, our lowtones, while also warming ourselves by living, breathing fires. A different kind of beauty lives here, even in the cold darkness, when we expand ourselves out we might see how it all belongs. 


Apprenticing ourselves to the pace of winter and the fluid intelligence of the Water element feels particularly helpful in these frenetic, fractured times. Water exists beyond our human compartmentalizing, flowing and moving around obstacles without striving. Water observes itself in all beings and is always returning home to itself; it is yin, yang, feminine, masculine, a beginning and an ending. 


Water is the keeper of memories, carrying them through blood, through breastmilk, through body essences, floating the old road rivers back to primordial oceans, connecting us to the birth waters of that First Woman, our original ancestor. Water held us in the womb, when we were just small slick fish, developing in our mother’s darkness. Here, water nourished us, resourced us in the development of our bony scaffolding. Here, water cradled us in the in-between, the liminal dreaming of moving from spirit to form. Here, water taught us about safety, peace, the power of gestation and a good, deep rest.


The Water element is associated with the Kidney meridian, which is the sacred holding ground of our bodies. Kidney energy relates to how we use our vital essence, our fire, our genetic codes. It reflects how we age, how we adapt, and how we understand our limits. When in balanced alignment, our drive, desire, and ambition is linked with the soul needs of our being.


Easier said than done, in my experience. I don’t know if I believe in the existence of some perfect balancelife is too complex and nuanced for that. And there is an essential learning we gather in the struggle to discern the limits of our inner resources. There is something to this tussle to know ourselves better.

And yet we can... 

strengthen our Kidney energy when we rest and nourish our bodies. This is not nourishment that comes from movie-watching on the couch or from on-line shopping therapy. True nourishment feeds our spiritual core.


strengthen our Kidney energy when we feel into the roots of our lives. Its source runs in the deepest channels of the body, in underground labyrinths and bone caves and dark passageways, through the bone marrow, the teeth, and the primordial thickness of ourselves. 


strengthen our Kidney energy when we connect with the resilience of our ancestors. We come from long lines of survivors. When we share stories in the winter, honoring our ancestral wisdom and traditions, we invigorate ourselves with a sense of belonging and trust.


In receiving the medicine of winter, I hope you are getting ample time to feel into your deepest reservoirs, reconnecting with the fragile, rugged matrixes from which you are made of.

In kinship,


excerpt from January 2024 newsletter

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