As the cold season comes on strong, the urge is to be indoors, warm and comfortable. Of course this urge is a survival instinct, because where we are located without the SUV’s, mechanical heating and other benefits of modern technology, it would be quite easy to die outside when the really cold weather comes on.
However, in Chen Taijiquan gongfu practice we want to at least challenge some of those natural comfortable patterns of behavior and use practice as a way of bringing the body ‘in tune’ with natural seasonal changes. Outdoor practice is really best for cultivation and martial arts. On the cultivation side, while naturally we may feel the aversion to the cold and desolate season, over years long practice in the outdoors we can learn to use each seasonal energy to our advantage.
In winter, if we dress appropriately and practice with spirit outdoors, we will build a sweat and cultivate heat inside while cycling the cold winter air from the outside. Upon starting we may need gloves and hats and scarves etc, but for a fairly experienced practitioner we can build a sustainable heat such that the hats, gloves and scarves may come off. The more of ourselves we can expose to the winter energy while maintaining a sustainable heat inside, the more attuned to the season we can become. This is not meant to be so deeply metaphysical, but in a common sense way, when one can practice successfully like this, one feels like a warrior, full of vigor. Afterwards the results persist, making tolerating winter weather and bitter cold much more comfortable.
Although winter is commonly seen as a season of natural death, and an uninhabitable situation, this is more of a relative psychology. Just as the Taiji concept holds that within every extreme is kernel of its opposite, winter (in most places) while extreme, is in fact not dead, but extremely YIN, cultivating the kernel of it’s YANG opposite towards rebirth. Winter here is full of life action, although a quieter, or often just less seen action. Through proper practice we can cycle winter’s strongly YIN energy from the outdoors into the strongly YANG energy we create with heating practice internally, to holistically balance our being, physically and energetically with the season at hand; essentially adjusting our thermostat and perception of tolerance and comfort.