Winter is dark and invisible. People often fear and dread winter. Often the experience of winter is feeling lost, lonely, depressed and anxious and not knowing what to do. We are tired, exhausted and feeling hopeless and helpless. Sometimes, we get stuck and ruminate on something that has happened, what we did or failed to do. When we are focused on the past, we stop moving forward and get stuck. It like the biblical story of Lot’s wife. When she turns to look behind her, she turns to stone or a pillar of salt. Psychologically, when we get stuck or ruminate on something that has happened in the past, we stop moving forward. Everybody has regrets, traumas or something in the past that haunts them. It is important to investigation and learning about the issue, because if we don’t, it will haunt and interrupt our life until we face it and learn something from it. It is difficult to face these demons, fears, anxieties. It takes courage and faith. Frequently a person gets chased all over hell, until they are exhausted or become “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” At that point, it is often a case of “I have no idea of what will happen (when facing this fear) but something must change.”
Introspection is the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. In psychology the process of introspection relies exclusively on observation of one’s mental state, while in a spiritual context it may refer to the examination of one’s soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and is contrasted with external observation.
FEAR: When we turn to face the fear, acknowledge it and make a resolve to understand it; an interesting thing happens. The fear is not as big as we imagined and surprisingly we are still here; we have survived. A trick for coping with the investigation and learning from facing our fear is the following. When examining the fear, don’t make a judgement of “good or bad.” Instead merely make the statement “isn’t this interesting and I wonder why?” When we merely observe, while not making a value judgement we begin noticing patterns. Our awareness of the fear expands and we begin to see where it comes from, how it develops and its effects. As we develop insights, we begin to see opportunities to manage our interactions with the fear. Eventually we come to understand fear is useful as a cue or signal to pay attention; in a sense the fear becomes an ally and no longer overwhelms us. Learning to face our fears, demons and anxieties, we eventually realize that fears, demons and anxieties have been challenging teachers. We have surpassed the challenge and learned from them. The result is we accept, understand and move beyond. The fear, demons or anxieties have become our allies. And thus, we are in a position to forgive our self, others or the traumatic event. Forgiveness allows us to unchain our self from the past and we are able to turn around and look toward the future and are able to focus on what needs to be done today to get us where we want to be in the future.
FORGIVENESS: What about “I’ve asked to be forgiven but they (the victim) won’t even talk or acknowledge me.” Perhaps the offended is not at a place or is unwilling to forgive; and merely trying to forget. In a sense the offender does not have the right to be asked to be forgiven. To ask for forgiveness may be seen as a selfish request. If the victim offers forgiveness that is an entirely different matter. The offender must recognize their egregious behavior, accept their penance and then resolve to and make changes. Once this is done, then they are in position to forgive themselves; they have learned from their mistake and are now ready to put things in the past. Hopefully this process has also give them resolve or motivation to help others avoid the mistakes they have made.
EARLY WINTER: During the early part of winter, it is important to look or examine the past to figure out or learn the lesson. And the essential question is “what did I learn?” And once you figure out the lesson, then it is time to turn around and get going again. Sometimes we get stuck and we have to forgive our self, the person or the traumatic event. The forgiveness unchains us from the past, so that we can turn around and look to the future and state this is where I want to go. It doesn’t matter where you are from nor what you have done or what has happened. What matters is that you have learned something, and more importantly is to figure out where you want to go. However, the most important is to figure out what you can do TODAY to get where you want to go tomorrow.
DEAD OF WINTER: The dead of winter provides the opportunity to dive deep within our self in search of the Self and existential meaning. It is about letting go or surrendering parts of our self that are no longer useful. This letting go tends to be experienced as a free-fall or perhaps an unburdening and lifting. It can be disconcerting but we eventually learn that we fall into the self to re-discover our Self. The existential dark night of the soul is the search for the meaning of our existence. “Why do I exist?” “Who am I”? Or, “what is my passion, what is my love?” In turn from the question comes “this is why am I, I am, I love…” This turn becomes the life affirming and confirming ground/soil in which to start something new.
LATE WINTER: The late winter is still dark and cold. Again we are inspired to find something new. For a while we wander around in the dark, feeling for something warm or looking for a spark. Eventually we stumble across a seed that has germinated in the renewed soil. The germinated seed first sends down roots to search for substance and support. The roots take foundation in our dreams, day dreams and are nourished by our imagination. Eventually the germinated seed then sends up a shoot. When this shoot breaks the surface of the soil, it cues us to note, “this is what I am growing in my garden.” We then start making plans, gathering resources and getting the garden ready. Soon it will be spring time and warm enough to transplant our little seedling in the garden.
ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS: During the winter, the essential questions are: What is the lesson or what did I learn? Who am I, and what are my passions/love and what do I want to do about it? These are the basic introspective questions. To get quality answers, ask quality questions. The result is a found integrity of ones self. That is, a firm knowing of who you are, a sense of purpose and meaning and a resolution of living life with authenticity. Make a quick review of people in your life and various pivotal persons in history and you will find that they had a period of winter in their life in which they struggled and searched for their self. You will also find that in many different cultures there is a path, ritual or a direction that involves the search for self that result in becoming one’s self.
Summarily, winter is often misunderstood. However with some re-orientation and insight into the invisible, introspective and intuitive/regenerative processes of winter, one can began to anticipate and navigate the symbolic death, renewal and rebirth of winter. Winter is the pivotal time in gardening.
Winter Solstice is the time between death and rebirth, recognized throughout history and in different cultures. It is celebrated with deep significance.
Peace, Love and Light!