Tag Archives: vitality

Navigating Winter Waters

Foggy lake

At the launch of my books at Ngeringa in the Adelaide Hills last week, I talked about ways that we can use the winter to support our Water Element. For those who couldn’t make that talk, and as a reminder for those who did, here are some ways to strengthen your Water this winter.

Embrace Yin.

Winter is the time of the Great Yin. Qualities of the yin polarity include darkness, depth, moistness, cold, receptivity and stillness. Our modern, productivity-oriented world tends not to value such qualities, rather driving us to year-round yang behaviour. While this posture is supported in the yang half of the year (spring and summer), if we do not adapt to the yin energy of winter, we need a lot of effort to keep going at full speed. Failure to heed nature’s rhythms is one of the reasons that there is so much sickness in the winter.

Sleep more

Unless you live at the equator, winter nights are always longer than those in summer. Where I live there are almost 5 hours more darkness at the winter solstice compared to the summer solstice. More time to sleep! Going to bed earlier will save on your energy bills and also allow you to generate more personal energy. An extra hour of sleep in the winter nights will deeply support your Water. Then, when the spring comes, you’ll have much more petrol in your tank to fuel new plans and projects.

Do less

If you’re spending more time in bed, you’ll need to take one or two things off your To Do list. Otherwise you’ll be cramming more into less space. Whether it’s turning down the invitation to a party or turning off the computer and TV earlier, do less and turn into bed.

Keep warm

The Kidneys are the yin organs of the Water Element. When external cold penetrates the body it injures the Kidneys, so it is really important to avoid cold invasion. Wearing a hat and a scarf are good. Also, make sure your lower back and abdomen are well rugged up. Keep your shirt tucked in and wear extra layers where necessary. The Japanese have a garment called a haramaki or belly warmer designed to warm the abdomen and lower back. You can also warm yourself by putting a hot water bottle or heating pack on your tummy just below the navel.

Go inward

The movement of the Water Element is inward, and indeed the long winter nights invite introspection. Sit by a fire looking into the flames, or if you don’t have a fire, look into candle flames. Fire gazing is a deeply relaxing activity and allows us to contact the less conscious parts of ourselves. Belly breathing meditation is also a great way to go inside. What’s more, by breathing into the belly centre (also known as the hara or lower dan tien) you can accumulate Qi which is then stored in the Kidneys. You warm yourself at the same time as filling your personal petrol tank.

Treat yourself

Two acupoints that are very supportive of Kidney and the Water are the source point (Kidney 3) and shu point (Bladder 23) of Kidney. Here are links to those points from previous winter blogposts.

Kidney 3

Bladder 23

Next time I will share a meditation that deeply supports the Kidneys, the Water Element and the Central Channel. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the winter season.

Hibernating bear

Caught on a Sticky Wicket

Yinlingquan – Yin Mound Spring – Spleen 9

8 HumidI’ve just spent a week in Brisbane where the late summer has flowed deep into the autumn, producing 30 degree temperatures and 80% humidity. These conditions create a hot, damp, sticky climate that can be overwhelming for visitors used to drier places. As with any climatic condition, dampness that arises from high humidity can penetrate the bodymind. When it does, it affects the balance of the Earth Element and injures the Spleen.

When damp enters the body it produces symptoms such as heaviness, particularly in the limbs and lower body; lethargy and fatigue; fluid retention; and sluggishness of body and mind. Thinking can become slow and the mind foggy. There may be loss of appetite and distension of the abdomen. Overall, you feel like a wet noodle. Movement is like walking through mud.

You don’t just have to go to the tropics to experience damp. Cold, wet climates such as those found in northern Europe can cause damp to penetrate, as can being in wet clothes for too long, sitting on damp ground, working in damp conditions or living close to water in a damp house. Moreover, a diet that is injurious to the Spleen can create internal damp. This includes consuming too much sugar, cold foods and drink.

If any of this describes your current condition, then help is at hand. Yinlingquan – Yin Mound Spring is one of the best points for clearing damp from the body. As the Water point on an Earth meridian, it helps to rebalance conditions where the Earth has become waterlogged and soggy. These include oedema, bloating, urinary dysfunction, sticky vaginal discharge, diarrhoea and loss of appetite. Locally it is a great point for treating swelling of the knee. In all cases this Spleen point dries the dampness by draining the Water from the Earth.

You may have noticed that this blog is a week overdue. I was fully intending to write it while I was in Queensland but the humidity sapped my energy both mentally and physically. Even though in South Australia we are well into the autumnal season of Metal, I thought I would extend the run of Earth articles by writing about what was in front of me. Now please excuse me while I go and press Spleen 9.


SP9Location of Spleen 9

The point is located in a depression below the inside of the knee in the angle formed by the medial condyle of the tibia and the posterior border of the tibia. Run your finger up the inside of the lower leg, following the groove at the back of the tibia, until it falls into a depression below the prominence of the medial condyle.



 The Way of the Five Seasons is now available

Book cover


My latest book is now available for purchase. The Way of the Five Seasons is an in-depth exploration of using the Five Elements in daily life to improve your health at all levels, physical, psycho-emotional and spiritual. This book is a distillation of all I have learned in 30 years of living life from this perspective.


Order now through Book Depository UK via my website

Fire of the Gate of Life

Mingmen – Gate of Life – Governing Vessel 4

2.9There is surely no point name more exalted than Mingmen – Gate of Life. It goes to the very core of our existence on this plane, our life itself. It is a very powerful point which accesses the gate where we emerge from the void with our essence, our constitution and our destiny. This point can help us reach our full potential and fulfil our destiny.

Although according to the Five Elements the Kidneys belong to Water, they are also the source of Fire in the body, which is called mingmen, the “Fire of the Gate of Life”. This Fire is needed for our survival as warm blooded animals and fuels all activity. When the Gate of Life is open, it provides free access to this Fire and there is vitality, sparkle and zest for life. If the gate begins to close, there is diminishment and depletion.

Mingmen is a remarkable point for revitalisation. It can reconnect us with our essence, raise us to a new level of consciousness, and support the achievement of our highest potential. It is a point that helps us connect us with our original nature.

Lying as it does on the spine between the Kidney shu points (BL 23), Mingmen powerfully tonifies Kidney Qi and supports the Water Element. If there is timidity, it offers courage; if there is forgetfulness and disorientation, it clears the consciousness; if there is depression or emotional withdrawal, it coaxes the person to reengage with the world.

Gate of Life addresses the crucial Fire/Water balance in the body, and therefore treats both hot and cold conditions. It clears heat conditions such as a feeling of burning up as well as chills alternating with fever. More commonly it is used to treat cold conditions such as feeling cold all over the body, especially in the low back and belly, incontinence and abundant, clear urination.

It addresses reproductive disorders such as frigidity, impotence, infertility, irregular menstruation and menstrual pain caused by cold in the uterus. Other conditions include tinnitus, poor memory, haemorrhoids and prolapse of the rectum. It is an excellent point for stiffness, rigidity and pain in the low back and lumbar pain that radiates to the abdomen

This is an important point of focus in Qi Gong exercises and is known to be one of the places on the spine where it is more difficult to move energy, one of the three “tricky gates”. (The others are at the coccyx and the occiput.)

In people who have experienced a chronic, debilitating illness, this point is usually empty and needs considerable attention to persuade it to open. However it has the power to reconnect with the jing or essence and restore a person to health and vitality, a capacity reflected in its alternate name, Palace of Essence.



Location of Governing Vessel 4


On the spine, between the 3rd and 4th lumbar vertebrae, approximately at the level of the navel. Use direct, moderate pressure.



This is an extract from the forthcoming book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’ by John Kirkwood, Singing Dragon Press. Publication date November 21st 2015. You can now pre-order this book at Fishpond, Book Depository and other online booksellers. (123 days to go!)