Winter is coming (John Snow)
In New England, it’s really here. The first snowstorm of the season has arrived – a little too early for most of us. Everyone seems to have forgotten how to drive in the inclement weather. The panic sets in. Milk and bread are scarce in the grocery store aisles and yet, by some miracle, shelves are restocked to overflowing capacity by the very next day.
For some the change in weather, from fall to winter, is a time for withdrawal, of going deeper inside, of closing up. It is a more contemplative time of the year. The world seems a little darker and perhaps the darkness permeates into our insides. The earth also seems a little smaller, a little gloomier, as we cocoon ourselves into our homes – waiting for the winter to end and a new spring to come back again.
Nature too has prepared for the changing of the seasons. The trees have let go of their last leaves, shedding what is no longer needed for the long sleep of winter. It is much too cold with too little light so the leaves fall, dropping, bit by bit, letting go of the old, and providing a deep covering for the earth that refreshes the soil, and nourishes the roots.
We too have an opportunity to release those things that no longer avail us. As we prepare to spend more time inside, let us ask ourselves which of our own leaves are we are willing to shed. What is in our life that is no longer serving us? What can we let go of?
Ask yourself what have you brought into your cocoon that doesn’t serve your current needs? Is there something in your life that you are ready to release and let go of? Are you doing something now that is not in the best interests of the future you? Is there something that is keeping you from achieving your life goals that you can shed? What habits are holding you back? What is taking up too much time or space in your life as you wish to live it?
Just as the leaves fall from the tree and serve the tree by blanketing the earth and invigorating the soil, by letting go of what is holding us back, we too can nurture ourselves much more deeply. By eliminating some of our old habits and ways of thinking that no longer serve us, we help make room for new ways of doing things, creating new growth and gaining new perspectives.
Reflecting on our old habits, and willingly dropping those, which do not serve, helps nurture us. As these older habits recede into the inner soil of our consciousness they provide the enrichment for new, better-suited practices to take hold.
Yet, the first buds of spring
Take a walk outside. I know it is cold out there but go anyway. Look deeply – particularly at the branches of the trees. You may see that the trees have already prepared tiny little buds, waiting for the warmer weather to open and form new leaves for another cycle of life. The tree is patient, knowing that in time; new leaves inside the buds will help it grow.
Patience is a virtue particularly auspicious in our winter times. Winter is a good time to renew again and perhaps plant the seeds of inspiration or generate new habits that will allow us to further grow along our path. Like the tree, cultivating these new habits takes time, so having the patience to create your own new buds in the form of new habits is a commitment to yourself.
Winter is also a good time for creating a new practice; or creating new rituals that will keep us engaged more fully in this quiet time of the year. Ask yourself, what can I do now? What am I not currently dong that would bring me joy? Why can’t I start doing this new activity, as the days are getting shorter? Can I prepare as the tree does – growing some small buds in the form of new habits that can blossom and help me grow in my future self?
Perhaps you have been intending on starting a yoga or meditation practice. The shortening of the days is the perfect time to begin. No need to wait for the New Year when everyone else starts making his or her resolutions. If you start going to a studio now, it will be less crowded. It will feel more fulfilling and help you cultivate your new start. If you start practicing at home and you keep practicing though the fall and into the winter, you will have developed your practice into a solid habit by the beginning of the year and start the spring of your new journey just a little bit earlier, happier, and more at ease.