Winter weather can bring lethargy, cold, tight muscles, and a sense of detachment from the world and even ourselves. We must actively create our own warmth and body awareness in the winter. Doing so keeps our inner spark lit, connects us to our intuition, and nurtures a sense of self-care. I’ve found three simple meditations for winter to be helpful in generating warmth and body awareness during this time.
1. Breath Temperature Meditation
Becoming aware of the warmth your own body generates can be both comforting and grounding in the winter. A very direct and simple way to do this is to focus on the temperature of the air that enters and leaves your body. While seated, lying down, or in any position that allows you to focus on the sensations of your breath, take a few deep breaths and bring your awareness into the area of your nose, mouth, and throat.
As your lungs breathe in air from your environment, feel the cool air pass into your nostrils or over your tongue and into your throat. As you exhale, feel the air that your body warmed pass back out. Use a quiet mental note of “cool” and “warm” to mark the breath sensations. After a few minutes, return to your normal activities or use this as an introduction to other mindfulness practices, such as the two below.
2. Torso Body Scan with Kidney Focus
Bringing mindful attention to the sensations of the torso helps you to appreciate and even amplify your own body heat. To carry out a seated torso body scan, feel your breath move into the lower belly and open receptively to the sensations there. Gradually move the awareness of the breath and sensations up through the torso. To intensify the sensations and warmth of this experience, place one or both hands over the area where you are focusing awareness. Feel the warmth where your hands meet your torso and send warm, loving energy inward with your hands.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is associated with yin: receptive, dark, and earthy energy as well as with the kidneys. Your kidneys are located below the diaphragm in the back of the abdomen and above the lower back, on both sides of your body. To send awareness to your kidneys, place your hands at the bottom of your front ribs and send warm, loving energy inward. Mindfully thank your kidneys for filtering your blood and aiding your urinary and hormone regulation systems, among other functions. Incorporating a gentle seated twist, such as easy pose with twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana), into a seated torso scan will stimulate the kidneys and other internal organs.
3. Hot Tea Meditation
Mindfully drinking hot tea is both a warming and centering practice. In Japan, there’s a tea ceremony meditation, sometimes called Chanoyu or the Way of Tea. After tea arrived from China around the 12th century, Zen Buddhists developed this ceremony to carefully prepare and savor hot tea. You can carry out your own simple version of a tea meditation by bringing mindfulness to each movement and stage of the tea making and drinking process. You can make tea for yourself or enjoy it with a friend. Try one or both of the brief meditations above prior to, during, or after a tea ceremony.
Choose a time and space, arrange the materials carefully, and brew the tea. Once your tea has brewed, pause to hold the warm cup and experience the heat seeping into your hands. Smell the tea, sip it slowly, and feel the warm liquid enter your body. Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat says, “You have to be mindful of the tea, you have to be concentrated on it, so the tea can reveal its fragrance and wonder to you.”
By staying attuned to and warming our bodies this winter, we nourish ourselves and prepare for new growth in the spring. How do you cultivate warmth and body awareness during the winter?