Winter 2014-15: A “Back-to-the-Body” Perspective

A Winter Stroll

A Winter Stroll

As I write this article, I look out my living-room window, and I gaze upon a sea of whiteness bathed in golden light. The broad sway of the trees tells me the wind is drifting snow from side to side. This is a good day to write about the winter as one of the seasons of the day. But first, a brief description of the day’s seasons.

In the “Back-to-the-Body” Perspective, we divide the day in four parts, as follows:

3:00 am – 9:00 am — spring: the heart
9:00 am – 3:00 pm — summer: the stomach
3:00 pm – 9:00 pm — fall: the brain
9:00 pm – 3:00 am — winter: unity and return

So, we care for the heart in the day’s spring; we care for the stomach in the day’s summer; and we care for the brain in the day’s fall. And when we reach the day’s winter (9:00 pm – 3:00 am), we rest.

It would be wrong, then, to use the night as a springboard for the day’s activities. It is a misuse of the night to fill it with worries about current events, plans, and various types of plotting. A person who does that will not rest well.

Instead, a better way is to use the DAY as preparation for the night. In other words, those who live well during the day, will sleep blissfully at night. They will live long, maintain vigor, and stay young at whatever age. But in order to rest well at night, we need to live well during the day. And we do so in three areas:

–> In the spring, feel well.
–> In the summer, do well.
–> In the fall, think well.

Let us define “well” as a balance between extremes. With ancient wisdom, we define “virtue” as the middle position between two poles: In medio stat virtus. Thus, the search for “doing well,” “feeling well,” and “thinking well” consists in finding the extreme points and then assuming the middle position between those  extremes. As always, the devil is in the details—so, here are additional details.

Feeling Well in the Spring

Feelings are of various types.

Feelings are of various types.

Feeling is the job of the heart. But the heart has two sides: one side that receives the exhausted and used-up blood returning from the body, and another side that gives the refreshed, oxygenated blood back to the body. Thus, the heart has two fundamental emotions: resentment and hopefulness. Resentment comes from the tired side; hopefulness comes from the refreshed side.

In order to feel well, we balance the two kinds of emotions: resentment and hopefulness. Resentment connects us with the way things are; hopefulness connects us with the way things can become. Like the balance between night and day, the feelings of resentment and hopefulness balance each other in beautiful harmony. That is the art of “feeling well.”

Doing Well in the Summer

Balance Between Work and Play

Balance Between Work and Play

The summer goes from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. This is the period of work, action, doing. What is “doing well?” Here, again, we will find the middle point between two extremes: purpose and pleasure.

Let us say that the activities in which we engage ourselves in the course of the day can be of two types: purpose-centered activities and pleasurable activities. The “well” position will be a balance between the two types of activities. Traditional wisdom says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” And we might add, all play and no work is equally undesirable. So, a well-balanced, healthy individual will find a comfortable point for the pendulum that swings between work and play. This is the balance point of “doing well.”

Thinking Well in the Fall

In the day’s fall season (3:00 pm – 9:00 pm), we celebrate the brain. This is the season for harvesting the fruits of the day’s work. Here we engage in conversation, trade, interaction, communication. This is a good time for creating political alliances, for executing contracts, for assessing what has been achieved. It is also a time for setting goals. The fall is the season for generosity, big-heartedness, sharing, and forgiveness.

“Thinking well” is the way of the brain. How does one think well? It all depends on the brain’s two sides. The left side is suspicious, mistrustful, doubtful, cautious. The right side is trusting, sure, candid, guileless. “Thinking well” means balancing the two sides. Mistrust and guilelessness balance each another, just as the night and the day balance each other. “Thinking well” consists in this balance.

The Silence of Winter

What about the day’s winter? This is the time from 9:00 pm to 3:00 am. The winter is the mysterious part of the day. Winter is the period of oneness, of returning to the source.

All is silent durng sleep

All is silent during sleep.

This is the time when we rest. We are blessed with a period of darkness, which enables our stomach/brain/heart to decrease activity and rest.

In the day’s winter, we crave for silence: outer silence and inner silence. We want our stomach to be done with most of its work; we want our heart to have gentle emotions; and especially we hope our brain will become silent. The ancients would say that sleep is the image of death. As Ovid said in Amores, “Quid est somnus, gelidae nisi mortis imago?” [What’s sleep but the image of frozen death?]

In a cold winter day, it is good to remind ourselves that those who quiet themselves during the winter period will enjoy blissful sleep and will restore themselves. For them, waking up is like a rebirth. When the morning comes and they experience the “day’s spring,” they will be full of vigor and enthusiasm to meet the new day.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
February 2, 2015

Photo Credits:

Photo: Winter Scenery; Author: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho; Source: http://bit.ly/1AkxGN4; Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Feelings; Author: Joe St.Pierre; Source: http://bit.ly/1uRD6rX; Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Work and Play; Author: Gareth Williams; Source: http://bit.ly/1zy8G3v; Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Sleeping Woman; Author: Gustavo Peres; Source: http://bit.ly/16ba1RH; Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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