Cultivating in Winter: Kidney Time

by Mason Taylor July 02, 2020 7 mins read


It's Winter. It's getting cold. It's the time for Kidneys to take centre stage. Read on to find out how to cultivate your Essence during Winter...


It's always a hard time for Aussies to accept that we’re entering into our Winter season, and I’m sure many of you elsewhere are the same, although many of you at least have good snow to look forward to. It's not an accident that Autumn is the season where we get to mourn for all that we’re letting go of and losing for the year, because we lose Summer every year, and when successfully mourned, it provides a good energetic platform for us to slide into Winter with acceptance and appreciation.


Winter brings to surface our inner Sage; the archetype of the Kidneys who have their [shorter] day in the sun when the cold takes over the land. Many of you would know that this is a time that we focus on cultivating Jing, but the Kidney season delivers a secret bonus energy on a platter that we may cultivate as the Yin dominates, and it's one that makes our lives incredibly more rich.


In Daosim / Taoism we talk about the Three Treasures - Jing, Qi and Shen (read more about these beautiful Treasures here), as these are the core of what creates our human experience, and what we attempt to “tone” and cultivate through taking the herbs and doing the practices we rave on about. There is a fourth Treasure though. Just the same way that the spirit of the Heart is known as our Shen, the spirit of the Kidneys is known as our Zhi, our Will [power], and it is so important to constituting the quality of our life that it is considered by many Daoists / Taoists as the fourth Treasure (a huge deal), and something worth focusing your cultivation methods upon. 

Now don’t get confused, the Jing is STORED in the Kidneys, and our Zhi/Will is the SPIRIT of that same organ system. We will experience an abundance of the expression of our Zhi/Will when the Jing is being cultivated and the Kidneys are: 

  • embodying Qi that is structured and free to flow and transform constantly
  • housed in an environment void of excess tension, especially spine, psoas and lower back
  • living among a lifestyle that is sustainable, and not sacrificial to our own energy (very difficult to achieve in the West)
  • prevent our feet from touching cold surfaces
  • being nourished by warm, homemade food cooked with love and tradition
  • given Jing herbs regularly
  • experiencing the deep restoration of wonderful sleep each night
  • being grounded and integrated in your ego enough to realise you’re a small piece in a grand cosmic dance that you’re also a vital part of
  • free from excess fear that is built upon and added to quicker than we can process. This is what mainstream media does, and it just builds every day until we are swallowed by fear, or the inner reaction we have to fear being present
  • gently moving away from extreme ideology, and finding our own meaning and centre


When these and all the other magical things we do to ensure our lifestyle is life-giving and restoring (sustainable) rather than physically and mentally taxing (unsustainable) are being done, the reality is that we will feel our Will building and emanating from our system naturally. This is completely different to using the mind to “overcome” something and sustain going cold-turkey (as many think of when hearing the term will power). Let us attempt to grasp this mysterious Treasure further as we flesh out its true nature...


The Treasure of Will is entwined with our innate desire to take on responsibility in all facets. This would be shouldering responsibility for our own temperament, for our life in all its forms, our relationships and circumstances. The slippery slope here is thinking that in order to cultivate Will, we must start going out and taking on responsibility for as many things as possible straight away. Although this can be slightly useful to get us moving in an evolutionary direction, it is quite often caught up in an unsustainable lifestyle model that puts external before internal, personal image before long-term growth, “causes” before true capacity to inflict change, and leads to a lifestyle that systemically leaks our Jing.

When we move according to the traditions, going back to the indigenous teachings that emerged from India and China and became Daoism, we learn the nature of slow and steady, of the wise way of the Kidneys. We learn how to first feel the desire rising to truly take on responsibility in a particular area, move towards it without identity enmeshment or exasperation, and feel the embodiment of responsibility that almost becomes a part of your living tissue; rather than just allowing the mind to rush the process in search of being a “good boy” or “good girl” and gain accolades (especially on social media). Quite often these express endeavours are noble in intent, but we haven’t actually cultivated enough internal space or energy to truly be responsible in a way that ensures we:

  1. Do a good job in taking it on
  2. Act upon that responsibility for decades to come, rather than in short, dopamine-inducing Instagram posts/rants to friends that decree how much we’re going to change, yet inevitably fall short


The second key aspect of Will that accompanies the desire for responsibility, and pulls it “into the vortex” more so, is purpose. Since this is such a diluted term, I want to make a distinction here.

The purposefulness element of Will is when we create enough space in our head and life that we can feel the magnetism of certain work, goals, missions etc. It is something that emerges within the cultivation of Will, and allows us to march purposefully and with gusto into our work and relationships, because we know its something we truly want to do and gives us further intrinsic purposefulness as we act upon true purposefulness itself (you can’t “will” your way into feeling “on purpose.")

Most people are so tapped out from slogging it through school (goes completely against a child/teenagers circadian rhythm), uni, work, non-tribal family life etc. that we can’t really feel that strong force of purpose within that drives us forward in life and, introducing the third key element of Will, one’s destiny. If your “purpose” is leading to one that is becoming depleted and self-sacrificing, then I’d argue that a more sustainable model is required, as according to the Daoist roadmaps for living that we’ve been gifted, such a life of “purpose” will not lead to the fulfilment of your destiny, and let’s be honest, there’s always something tragic about a true destiny unrealised… or perhaps we will inevitably fulfil our true destiny no matter what…? and in our failings encourage us to fall forward in our cosmic destiny…? Phew, let’s pause that thought and explore destiny a smidge more.


When our Zhi is balanced, meaning our Kidneys are respected, loved and constantly being restored (Western lifestyle, I’m looking at you to start making some systemic upgrades so you don’t smash people’s Kidneys so bad!), we’re taking on responsibility in a sustainable matter, and we’re feeling purpose arise and draw us in particular directions, then we inevitably flow like Water (the element of the Kidneys and Zhi) towards our destiny in a effortless manner. We’re propelled by an invisible force towards the gold at the end of the rainbow, and even though it is acknowledged by all sages that life is still challenging, and one must maintain their practice to stay in flow, we find that we make our own luck with our harmonious Zhi, and life can be that bit brighter.


I tip my hat to Winter. This season is deep, dark and the time for lasting transformation, but experienced in a slow and steady pace. I’m going to spend July layering on top of 30 days of JING a gentle personal movement practice that focuses on increasing my capacity to hear the whisper of my Zhi. I often go hard with my physical practice when I’m starting a new cycle or gain lots of energy to move my body after a couple of months, but I’m focused on allowing the Yin to dominate my practice and ensure I don’t allow agenda and physical aspirations to dominate my practice; its never sustainable when I do. I’ll be getting nice and rugged up and getting into nature - I’m realising how poor I am at asking for what I want/need so I’ve asked Tahnee to really support me having walkabout time these next 30 days (and beyond haha). I’ll also be slowing down when I’m with my daughter Aiya, I’m really wanting to see, hear and feel everything that our interactions bring when I’m present and meeting her, and I reckon there’s more wisdom there than any meditation I could do hehe, although I will enjoy my sitting practice also, because a man has got to stay sane haha.


Big love to you all, anyone who wants to join in on the 30 days of JING you can get info here


Many blessings to you this Winter as we invite in the dark embrace of Yin and allow our Will, that treasured Zhi to cultivate and pull us towards taking of responsibility, purpose, and our destiny with ease and grace. 


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