(As previously posted in The Elephant Journal)
I am a self-professed winter lover.
It’s true. It may well be my favorite season. Gasp! I said it.
Sure, I love the first shoots and buds of spring and the wall of heat and slow-paced freedom of summer. Then there’s the crisp nights and warm days surrounded by the fiery explosion of colour in the fall. And to be honest, I love them all. But more and more, the older I get, I find myself craving whichever season I’m in—craving the uniqueness and gifts that each one brings.
It’s winter right now so I’m deeply craving its energy.
Each season evokes a different energy and they bring out different parts of my personality. They all call for different cooking styles, activities, and temperament. If I push for summer in winter, I’m miserable (and truth be told, every time I pine for anything other than what is, it’s a recipe for suffering).
But when I tap into what nature is doing—the quiet, the stillness, the deep dive inward which calls for rest and conserving resources in winter—when I take those lessons and apply them to my life instead of trying to push the same agenda year-round, I’m happier and more content.
It’s like a permission slip to rest a little more, slow things down, cook things longer, sleep a little longer by going to bed earlier, or sleeping in later on the weekends. Planning less and listening more. Winter tends to be a more introverted season, and I am most definitely an introvert, so this natural slowing down and time to tap into my inner world and catch my internal breath is so welcomed.
I love people and have a demanding career. There’s lots that I’m passionate about and interested in and I do love being out in the world, but I find, the more I take time and follow the rhythms of nature and the wisdom that each season brings (rest in winter, spark energy in spring, being out more in summer, and letting go and mellow into fall), the better I feel.
The more all the various parts of me get nourished, the better all of me feels, which means I’m able to sustain my life, long-term, and not burn out (which is the real risk of running with the joyful extroverted and active summer energy year-round).
Eastern medicine embraces this at its core. Nature teaches us how to live—if only we listen.
You can’t push a river and we can’t change the seasons. When we live more in-line with the natural cycles of nature—changing our diet by eating locally and seasonally as much as possible, adapting our schedule where we can, following the shift of emotions that naturally come (joy in summer, a gentle letting go and grief that accompanies fall, the deep introspection of winter, and the spark of determination and movement that often comes in spring), the more we give airtime to all the parts of us.
When we fight the grief and try to run from it, we miss the opportunity to let go of that which is no longer working. When we try to socialize, push, and busy ourselves through the more reflective winter energy, we miss the wisdom of our inner voice and inner world that needs quiet to be heard.
Nature is wise. It has so many gifts and teachings if we only listen. All emotions have their place. All seasons have their gifts. So my invitation to you, the next time you feel yourself grumbling about the weather or how cold it is outside, take a moment and stop. Ask yourself what you need—what you really need.
What is the gift that’s looking you right in the eye that winter has to offer? Cancel plans and stay home to sip tea and read all day. Spend time going for a walk in the barren woods and see what you notice.
What feelings need some attention? What seed of inspiration or nugget of wisdom is just waiting to be heard? Take the time to cook something slowly. What happens when you simplify your life and slow your pace during this winter season?
Observe what gifts come when you create the space and time to listen.
~As Published in the Elephant Journal