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Energy has its fluctuations and rhythms in the natural world. To cultivate life and maintain the greatest health, Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us to live in harmony with the cycles of the seasons. A teaching in the Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicine), reads “..sages cultivate their life by following the climatic changes in the four seasons and that is why they can avoid attack by pathogenic factors and live a long life.”

In nature, winter is a time of hibernation and dormancy as much of plant life goes underground. All of that vitality isn’t lost — it is storing up for new growth in Spring. Similarly, if we slow down and take time for extra rest and contemplation, we can nourish our Qi in preparation of new growth. This is why the New Year is such a good time for reflection and planning intentions or resolutions. Thinking is the first step in doing. We can plant seeds in stillness for our growth all year.

There are many ways you can approach this time of reflection. You can set goals, create affirmations or follow other practices you know work for you. If you want to follow a guide, the following are some options.

One simple technique is to think of a word that embodies your intention for the year. It could be service, whimsy, success, focus, vitality, freedom, dance, etc. Just pick a word that resonates with you. Write down some ideas of actions you can take to make this word a presence in your life. Write the word down and put it somewhere you can see it, or use this word in your meditation throughout the year.

If you want to do some deeper thinking about the past year and what you want to keep, get rid of, and bring about, writer Susannah Conway (http://www.susannahconway.com) has an excellent free workbook to do just that!

Click here to get Susannah Conway’s workbook. Image:  Susannah Conway

 

Print it out, sit down with a cup of tea, and in about an hour you may feel grounded, fortified and ready to bring all your intentions to life.

To have an especially nourishing experience, get a pot of soup cooking before you start your workbook. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is important to eat warming foods. Try this gently detoxing winter soup, Healing Quinoa Cabbage Soup to continue to ease out of holiday excesses, back to optimal health.

Click here to get the recipe from Whole Life Nutrition.

We like to spend the first part of the year writing posts about every day things you can do to improve your health and life in the coming year, so stay tuned as we move from the imaginative to the practical.

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Green beans are an extremely healthy vegetable packed full of nutrients that are perfect for feeding the spleen. Green beans are available year round, with peak season from May-October. They are are low in calories (just 43.75 calories in a whole cup), and an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Green beans are also a very good source of the following: dietary fiber, potassium, folate, iron and vitamin A (notably through their concentration of carotenoids including beta-carotene). They are also a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin.

Here is a delicious spleen strengthening recipe:

Butternut squash and green bean curry
8 oz butternut squash peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup water
salt
8 oz green beans
1 cup canned coconut milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1-2 medium green serrano or jalapeno peppers (depending on how spicy you want it)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cashews or almonds

Place cubed squash in medium saucepan with water and a pinch of salt and bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium, cover, and steam until squash is tender — about 6 minutes. Remove squash with slotted spoon and then add green beans to the pan. Repeat the process — add more water if needed.

Return squash and green beans to pan and any remaining cooking liquid, Add the coconut milk and a little more salt if necessary. Bring to a boil and immediately turn down the heat to low. Simmer the curry, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes - don’t allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle. Do not stir because squash may start to disintegrate; shake pan if you need to mix ingredients.
Transfer curry to a serving dish.

Make the tadka: Heat the oil in a small skillet or butter warmer over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering the pan with a lid or splatter screen. After the mustard seeds stop sputtering, add the chiles and cashews or almonds and shake the pan over medium heat until the cashews/almonds are lightly toasted and browned.

Pour this over he curry and serve.

Recipe taken from: 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by: Ruta Kahate

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