Frigid cold is with us sooner than usual here in Minnesota. This year, we barely made it past Halloween before the snow and ice appeared. Last winter was longer and colder than many can remember, and this year seems to be headed that way too. We are left uneasy, wondering if global climate change has finally caught up to us. What hasn’t changed is my desire to go inward and ask, “what in my life needs to go dormant or die right now?”
I call Winter the “Inward Season,” a time to go within, sometimes for answers, sometimes to rest deeply to prepare for future growth, sometimes to finally face down fears, or let go of anything that’s not serving the highest good. Winter has its own special beauty – the hushed silence of a sky heavy with snow, the sparkling light dancing off the ice on the trees and covering the waters, or snowshoeing in the woods, where the only footprints are your own along with a few animals.
For some, winter seems like death, but it’s really just dormancy, a necessary stage before new growth. Sometimes we’re forced into a “winter” phase, as many are now experiencing with deep financial crises. At other times we move naturally into a time of introspection, rest and reflection. If I imagine my life at this moment as a Winter phase, how do I choose to experience it? I may not be able to control the life situation I find myself in, but I can choose how I will respond.
I can tell you from my own life, that sometimes a “winter phase” is a kind of depression. It can feel like all your energy has gone, and you have no idea where it went, or how to get it back. You may find yourself crying for no reason, being more irritable, having trouble sleeping, eating, or enjoying things you used to love doing. Sometimes all you can do is allow the wave of sadness to move through you, once again making room for the Love that you are, to come back in, as best you can.
For me it’s so important to remember that Winter does not last all year, that “this too shall pass.” In the meantime, consider changing your perception about depression or any kind of “winter phase.” I’ll never forget the power of something from Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak. In describing his own dark journey into depression, his therapist said,
“You seem to see depression as the hand of an enemy trying to crush you. Do you think you could see it instead as the hand of friend, pushing you down to the ground on which it is safe to stand?”
Parker, in making sense of his own journey, came to understand that his depression had been trying to get his attention for years. It wanted to let him know that he was living his life in an ungrounded way, intellectualizing his relationship with God (which was important to him), worrying how others saw him, and more than anything, living his life based on what he thought he “should” be doing, not on what wanted to emerge through his life. He was not honoring his own birthright gifts and authentic self-hood.
He had to go through the winter of seeing himself honestly, of facing fears, and letting go of his old ego-based self, before he could come to the blossoming of Spring. For him, the way to heaven (happiness, harmony, well-being, a meaningful spiritual life) was down, not up. It was down, down, down, embracing both the dark and the light in himself, thus bringing the beauty of spirit into his every day life.
For me, it means realizing we are all a mix of weakness and strength, gift and challenge, and we are still worthy of love, whether or not we feel we have “earned it.” In fact, that is the true meaning of grace – unearned love.
May your inward season be filled with beauty, new insights, and most of all, whatever you’re experiencing now, may it be filled with grace.