Lessons of the Common Cold

by in naturopathic medicine, real talk December 14, 2015

I was recently afflicted with my first cold since moving back to Colorado in August. While thankful that my immune system managed to withstand the germy threats of many new students on a college campus and all my fellow acro-yogis, the sniffles finally set in about 10 days ago (the day after my final lecture for the semester – whew!).

The common cold is known all too well at this time of year, often welcoming in the holidays as well as many grumbles from those whose school and work vacations are clouded by stuffy sinuses and sore throats. Why is it that we manage to stay well through the hustle and bustle of the season but when it’s finally time to come up for air, we’re more likely to spend our time in bed or on the couch with a blanket, a movie, and a box of tissues?

If we take a moment to consider what the changing season is all about, we may better understand this phenomenon. As Summer gives way to Fall, the earth begins to slow down. Not its rotational force, of course, but rather the flow of energy and life. We take to the hills to admire and photograph the beautiful peach and gold hues of the changing aspen leaves, all while sipping our PSL’s, never paying mind to what this all signifies. The crunch of fresh powder beneath our feet, the smell of wet leaves on the ground, the crisp morning air – all of these are representations of the earth undergoing its yearly decay. Things are slowing down, turning inward, and letting go. As Old Man Winter greets us with kisses to our frosted and rosy cheeks and we break out our snowboarding gear and ugly sweaters, the other beings of this earth are settling in to rest and restore.

The natural cycle of the planet is to slow at this time of year. To allow the body and spirit to relax and recuperate from the demands placed upon it during the more active Spring and Summer. But instead, we humans tend to push against this current and ask our bodies to rise to the challenge time and time again. While we may be able to do this for a time, at some point the body (with all it’s wisdom) will make us slow down. It may be by sheer immune-exhaustion that we become more susceptible to the millions of microbes that also inhabit this planet, or perhaps our bodies know when it’s time to take over and “power down.”

What if we were to listen to the plants and hibernating creatures around us? Can we flow with the energy of our surroundings? Could we allow ourselves to break? Could we reflect on what parts of our lives are no longer serving us and allow them to fall back to the earth? Fall and Winter mark the time when we should allow the old aspects of ourselves to die, and those parts retained to hibernate so that we may make room for the new to blossom in the coming Spring.

So if you’re also feeling the tickle at the back of your throat, or finding your trash can full of snotty tissues, perhaps it’s time to listen a little closer – your weary spirit may be beckoning to you. What do you need to discharge? What do you need to let lie for the season?

As for me? I still have an overwhelming amount of grading, editing, and holidaying prepping left to do. But as I sit here writing this, reflecting on what Winter means and what things may no longer be serving me, I find myself welcoming the coming wisdom of days 11-14 of this cold, and feeling excited about the prospect of what new discoveries my spirit will be making room for.