Winter Reflection in the Light of the Moon

Solar Term 19 | November 7 – November 21

Moon Light and Moon Shadow

The short days of November catch me off guard. Most nights, we walk the dogs after dark, lighting the way with headlamps and reflective collars. As we walk, I am aware that the small circle of light produced by the headlamp barely penetrates the dark. We are enveloped in the darkness; the world is reduced to a shadow until we see the moon’s light.

The first full moon in November is Tuesday the 8th. It will rise around 5:30 PM. If you have mountains blocking your view, it may take some time to see it, but look for it if you get a chance. The quality of nature that is significant this time of year is the unique light of the moon that turns everything black and white.

Walking in the moonlight is magical. The dark becomes pure darkness, and the silvery light highlights the outlines of everything, washing out the details like a black-and-white photograph.

This illumination changes our perspective as if we look through different eyes. Seeing nature in this sense, it is as if we can see what matters, with everything stripped bare and leaving only its essence.

It’s as if we can see our souls.

Black and White Thinking

As I walk in the black-and-white world of the moonlight, I reflect upon the state of the world and the rise of extremism. Black-and-white thinking is the tendency to see things in extremes. It’s a challenging way to see the world at all times because it leads not only to extremism but to purity tests and perfectionism.

But there is something helpful about reducing our thinking to black and white at times – it can create clear distinctions in our thinking. These distinctions help reveal our motivations. I use my time walking to reflect on my thoughts and actions and their motivations. Why am I writing this blog, for example, or what are the actual reasons behind being a practitioner of Eastern medicine?

Purity of the Metal Element

We have discussed how the Metal element in Chinese medicine represents the fall season. A virtue of the Metal element is ethics and morality, having and keeping a moral and ethical code. Out-of-balance, Metal can become cutting and harsh, demanding purity tests to determine worthiness and discarding people, animals, and possessions for the slightest imperfection.

The purity of Metal is also known for perfectly reflecting the moon’s light on a calm alpine lake. This is a metaphor for Spirit and our nervous system. Our mind is as quiet as this lake and able to see the underlying truth so that we can move towards a position so pure it shines clear like the moonlight.

The Ego

What gets in the way of being connected to our pure source is the ego. Some things the ego considers precious are wealth, fame, adoration, glamour, and youth, for example.

Holding these as values above all else creates a lens that filters the moon’s pure light into distortion. These distortions are the basis of stories and beliefs that hold us back, create blockages to healing, and no longer serve us. These are the stories and beliefs we need to let go of before they become lodged in our tissues to fester and become toxic.

How the Ego Creates Toxicity and Disease

We must let go of the old to take in the new, or we will develop toxic accumulations that undermine our physiology’s functional integrity.

Toxicity is made up of the accumulation of that which lacks essential worth. This includes anything beyond what is essential to humans: the universal values of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

Holding onto the ego’s values as your fundamental motivation creates disease because the ego doesn’t want to let go and move on. It wants to hold onto what it holds dear.

Death of the Ego

Winter is a time of death. This can be interpreted as the death of the ego — letting go or seeing through the false values of the ego to universal values.

The full moon of winter is the time to look beyond the lens of the ego because of the purity of the light. It allows us to see what has accumulated on our lens and is clouding our view.

As we gain clarity by looking past the ego lens, we begin experiencing compassion toward ourselves, our family, friends, the world, and finally, our enemies. This is the creation of health.

It’s healthy to be a compassionate, warm, kindhearted person. If you maintain a feeling of compassion, loving-kindness, then something automatically opens your inner door. Through that, you can communicate much more easily with other people. And that feeling of warmth creates a kind of openness. You’ll find that all human beings are just like you, and you’ll be able to relate to them more easily. – Dali Lama

The Beginning of Winter

This Solar Term marks the beginning of winter. The life force of plants is concentrated deep inside roots and seeds until the return of the warm sun in spring when they will burst open and grow again.

While this time of year can feel dark, it is an opportunity to see in a new light and generate the inner warmth of compassion.

Like plants, we can go deep into our roots or heart to concentrate compassion until it bursts open to spread warmth and loving-kindness.

Staying Warm by Stoking the Fire

These practices are ways to create health by warming the body, calming the mind, and creating clarity around your motivations.


Moxibustion (moxa) is a kind of external treatment. For those of you who have experienced it, it is a “baking” of the acupuncture points by the burning of mugwort leaves, a kind of sage, on the skin. The origin of moxibustion is related to the living habits and disease characteristics of the northern Alpine nation in ancient China, which translates well to what I see in my practice in an alpine environment. I use a lot of moxa in the winter to use fire to warm and nourish to treat many diseases. It is pretty remarkable!

  • Warming Yang
  • Tonifying Qi
  • Nurturing blood
  • Relieving depletion
  • Activating blood circulation
  • Dissolving stasis
  • Promoting qi
  • Dredging channels
  • Relieving pain
  • Dispelling dampness
  • Transforms pathogenic water
  • Expelling cold
  • Drawing out poison
  • Reducing phlegm
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Detoxifying
  • Opens the heart to facilitate compassion
  • Heals broken hearts
  • Heals past traumas
  • Warms Metal to soften harsh tendencies


Practicing this loving-kindness meditation embodies the universal value of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

Say the words below out loud:

May I be safe and protected and free from inner and outer harm. May I be happy and contented. May I be healthy and whole to whatever degree possible. May I experience the ease of well-being.

You can find a complete guided meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn here:

This Loving-Kindness Meditation is a Radical Act of Love – Mindful


A way to learn about your underlying motivations is to apply black and white thinking to the following topics:

  • Nature of self
  • Nature of Life
  • Nature of the Other
  • Nature of our priorities
  • Nature of our perspectives
  • Nature of our motives </aside>

My Motivations

  • I am writing this blog to continue the discussions that I have in clinic. It allows me to have a format to go deeper into the topics that are brought up again and again.
  • I am sharing this blog because I want to ease the suffering of others through education and guidance.
  • I am also writing this blog because it forces me to think deeply, make connections, and clarify my thinking. A process that I love!
  • I am a practitioner of Eastern medicine because at one point in my life it saved me by bringing me back to wholeness and allowed me to discover my true nature.
  • I am also a practitioner of Eastern medicine because it pushes me to be my best self.

We can act with humility to embrace our humanness of body, mind, and spirit—that which is held at the core of our being and reflects in the light of the moon. – Lonny Jarrett

sun | body | soul
aligning wellness to nature’s rhythms by exploring mindfulness philosophy

By Maile McKain, L.Ac. Dipl. OM

I’m an acupuncturist, herbalist, educator, and absolute believer that healing is always possible. I practice medicine for living systems to initiate healing, restore balance, and create harmony so you can reach your full potential.