Dr. Steve Rissman, ND
Last month I encouraged the process of waiting in silence during this time of year. Winter doldrums, technically, the period of inactivity in weather patterns, is the term we use for the post-holiday, not much going on time of year. These periods of calm nothingness, teach us to endure boredom or the in-between moments that we seem to quickly fill with Facebook, Instagram, emails or similar stimulation away from doldrums. As I’ve matured, I’ve come to know that wonder, creative ideas and inspirations arise out of the energy of nothingness. It reminds me of farm life.
The Agrarian Cycle
I come from a long line of farmers. My dad grew up on the farm, but didn’t go into farming. I seem to have found my way back to some level of farm life and the agrarian cycle is still how I mark time, mostly because it follows the cycle of nature.
In the winter, farming moves indoors while the fields rest, and I find this to be a guiding metaphor. Time to pull back and gain some perspective. Then, at the first of the year, it’s time again to look forward. Farmers make plans for the growing season, look to the end product and think through how to make that happen, using previous experience, historical wisdom, current science and inspired innovations.
Maintenance, Repair and Wonder
This is also the time of year for maintenance and repair- fences, tractors, maybe even relationships- with friends, the kids, and our family. This is particularly true for us men and even more so as we get older, as our lives become more insulated from meaningful connections to others. Life has a way of moving quickly, and that which isn’t cultivated and fertilized fades in the background of weeds, like an old farm implement. Wintertime reminds us to slow down, stay home and take a moment to listen to the kids, build a snowman with them or make pancakes together. As I write this I see that I’ve completely forgotten about the time to play. We think of summer as the time for playing, but the doldrums force a kind of boyhood kind of play, that encourages us, as men, outside our rigid ways and into an exploration beyond the rules or the familiar. What about a snowshoeing venture through the woods or a game of HORSE shooting baskets at the gym, or a trip to the art museum for a needed “whack on the side of the head” to get us to gain insight on our routine. It might be a worthwhile activity to take assessment of your own life to see what could use a little mending or a fresh perspective.
It’s a good time of year for assessment of the body for repair and maintenance as well. It’s the perfect time of year to get that check up, colonoscopy, prostate exam, heart scan- possibly just getting back to yoga, tai chi, walking, or muscle-building exercises (which also replenish testosterone!).
How about a look in the mirror to assess body composition or changes on the skin? Anyplace need some tone, strength, filing, plucking (check those nose hairs) or moisturizing? What is your plan for making those things happen?
We all like to focus in January on the diet/workout plan, but plan for what? The point of a healthy body is to house some mission or take us somewhere? What’s the mission and where are you going? And what else besides body? What relationships will you need in order to see something emerge? What contemplative action will you need to instate?
What skills will you need and what is the plan for attaining or honing those skills? What resources-technological, space, financial?
What’s The Plan
Do you remember those seeds that fell from last’s year’s harvest-personally or professionally? They are laying dormant in the still of winter, waiting in preparation to become this year’s produce. Are you using the compost of previous experience to nourish the seeds? Start with the vision of what you want to grow. What experience do you need that would further your development toward who you are as a man? What needs to be done in order to make that happen? Listen deeply. Then along about February 2nd, Groundhogs day, there will be a question to ask. Is it time?
Dr. Steve Rissman is a full-time associate professor in the Department of Health Professions at Metropolitan State University of Denver, teaching in the Integrative Health Care program. He teaches Clinical Pathophysiology, Men’s Health, Men Across Cultures, Men and Anger, and several other classes. Dr. Rissman has studied, taught and worked in the field of men’s health for over twenty years and has lead the way in lighting the path for young men embarking on the journey to better know themselves. In a new facet of his professional life, Dr. Rissman is the primary investigator in a research project looking at qualities of great men- men who know their purpose in life and hold a larger vision for what is possible.
In his practice on his farm, north of Denver, Dr Rissman works with men/boys confounded by behaviors related to anger/rage, anxiety, and depression in their lives.
Having grown up on a farm and spending a great deal of time in the outdoors, Dr. Rissman has a deeply rooted curiosity for the laws of nature, particularly the science of disease process. Consequently, he has an extraordinary ability to illicit the story of one’s unique dis-ease process and to perceive what needs to be cured in each individual man/boy, using psychotherapy, botanical medicines, therapeutic nutrition, homeopathic medicines, and other insightful methods intended to help lead men through the abyss of dis-ease toward a rich, purposeful life.