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December 2023 Flying Needle News

Within stillness, movement

From darkness, light

Root gives rise to life

Hello Friends of Flying Needle!

Happy Greater Snow!

- third hibernal node -

Hope this finds you well during these interesting times!

Seasonal Musings & Reflections

December has already been wildly and widely varying in its expression this year. We've had warm days, cold days, and both warm and cold on the same day. Witch hazel is still blooming. Racoons are sometimes visible sunbathing during the day. Red-tail hawks abound. We've had some robust solar activity including a G3 class geo-magnetic storm and a relatively uncommon Cannibal CME. December 1st, this produced Aurora visible as far south as Arizona and California. We had a cloudy night here in Chapel Hill. Did you see anything where you are?

While December 7th is the beginning of Greater Snow, we are swiftly approaching the Winter or Hibernal Solstice (the fourth hibernal node) in the Northern Hemisphere. Due to the 23.4° axial tilt of the Earth, the North pole leans towards (Summer) or away (Winter) from the sun. The solstices are the moment of greatest lean, and consequently the shortest and longest days of the year. This year the Winter Solstice is at 10:27a on Thursday, December 21st.

In Yin/Yang theory, one of the primary principles is that when a process reaches its maximum it begins to transform into its relative opposite. The solstices are maximum Yin (Winter) and Yang (Summer). They are the beginning of phase change from Yin to Yang and Yang to Yin. (Though we must remember that while relative opposites Yin is never without Yang and Yang is never without Yin.) The darkest longest night of the year is also the harbinger of longer days. Yang stirs within the depths of Yin. According to the Daodejing and the Neijing, we come from and return to the Dark Void. Perhaps this sounds like a mystical statement to you. It could and can be. At the same time, it is as accurate a description of our origins as currently exists. Everything that we are was born from processes that occurred in the depths of space – a dark void. Stars were born out of that darkness. The atoms that make matter were born from the hearts of those stars.

You've probably heard this before. Perhaps even more times than you can count. Me too. And yet when I sit with it, breathe it in, and feel into it, I am filled with awe and gratitude.

For those who would like additional specifics, here's a bit of Henry McCann's riff on the Winter Solstice:

“The Chinese term for Winter Solstice (dong zhi 冬至) literally means the “extreme of yin,” and symbolically this node is represented by Hexagram 24, which is comprised of one Yang line at the bottom of 5 Yin lines. Hexagram 24’s name is Return – Fu (復). What is returning? The Yang and the light are returning. One of the basic laws of Yin-Yang theory is that of mutual transformation. When something reaches an extreme, then it naturally reverts to the opposite. Now is when Yin has reached its extreme thereby giving birth to Yang. The smaller segments, the Material Manifestations, for this node are Earthworms Congeal (Qiu Yin Jie 蚯蚓結), Moose Deer Shed Their Horns (Mi Jiao Jie 麋角解), and Aquifers Stir (Shui Quan Dong 水泉動).

During Winter Solstice we should consider the Chinese folk saying, “Dong zhi yang sheng you da dao, xia bing dong zhi shi miao zhao” (冬至養生有大道,夏病冬治是妙招) – “Nourishing life at Winter Solstice is a great Dao, treating summer’s disease in winter is very clever!” (Yes… It rhymes better in Chinese…) What can we do then to stay healthy during this time period? The first basic recommendation is taken from the Su Wen chapter 1: “Zao shui, wan qi” (早睡晚起) – go to bed early and sleep late. Winter is the time of year that is most yin, and ideally we should sort of be hibernating, both physically and mentally. Finding more time for rest and reflection puts us into harmony with the Yin of Winter. That said, too much sleep is also not great. Sleep (which is Yin) when excessive damages the Yang, which is why the Su Wen says excessive sleep (literally, lying down) injures the Qi (久臥傷氣). The recommendation I typically give patients is that 7-8 hours of sleep is plenty for the average healthy person.

The second recommendation is “Chi xu yun dong” (持續運動) – persist in moving. Even though Winter is the time of yin quietude, as mentioned above the Winter Solstice marks the birth of yang. Because movement is Yang it is important for us to “persist in moving” during this time of year. Appropriate exercises include gentle movement such as Taiji, Qigong or Yoga.”

It is also recommended to avoid excessive exposure to cold, excessive sexual activity, and excessive cold foods. What is excessive for each individual differs. If any of aforementioned leaves you feeling chilled to the bone, unable to get warm, or taxed and depleted these are clear signs that those activities are excessive for you during this season.

As we move towards the Solstice, into the depths of yin-time, my prayer for the humans of this world is that we can allow another layer of hate, recrimination, territoriality, and self-involvement to decompose back into the Dark Void of Mystery. May the longest night of the year remind us that we all come from the same sourceless source. May we allow our old ideas and selves to die. May we be reborn as yang expands, light returns, and days begin to lengthen.

May your Winter days be filled with beauty, mystery, and friendship!

May you and your kin feel both rooted and free!

May we walk in gratitude with our Ancestors!

May all being and becoming receive nourishment!

Yinward into the

Big Dark. Pausing in stillness

As the Light returns.

It is my sincere hope that you have found something of use in these words.

If you know folks who you feel would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it their way! Thank you!

Wishing you and all your relations wellbeing and good medicine!

With gratitude,


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