It’s not here yet, but for the highly sensitive among us we feel winter’s imminent descent with each minute of daylight that joins the tribe of night. The days are shorter; the leaves have almost completed their arabesques and twirls of their final dance. Soon the branches will lay stark against early twilight skies, the cerulean blue now articulating the crisp line of bough that was shrouded inside summer’s leaves.
What crisp lines of soul will be revealed during the internal time that winter invites?
Many of my clients share that they dread winter. It often holds memories of anxious times, or times when the sheets and blankets of bed felt too heavy to remove. They fear that they’re not far enough into their growth and they’ll fall prey to the underside of winter, the long black fingers that creep into the crack between sleep and wake and pull them into the crevices of aloneness and despair. I remind them that they’ve been attending to their inner world for many months or years, growing their spaces of safe refuge and strengthening their tether to their loving adult self. But still, the fear remains.
We fear winter when we fear ourselves, when we haven’t developed a relationship to our empty places, our grief, when we haven’t carved out space in daily life for the emergence of memory and loving reflection.
Winter is an invitation into the quiet spaces inside. While summer is an expansive time of water, heat, and parties, winter carries the polar opposite energy and is a time to contract inward and allow a hibernation to occur. This doesn’t mean we sleep like a bear. On the contrary, we find a sharp-edged wakeful serenity in the slowed-down pace and revel in the opportunity to dwell in the quiet and solitude.
The key is not to be afraid. The key is to remember that your foothold into Self is strong enough to sustain the storms and darkness of winter. And if your relationship to Self hasn’t been firmly established, this is the time to commit to the inward journey. Allow the spaciousness and solitude to facilitate your spiral into yourself. This it the time to commit to a daily practice – like mindfulness, journaling, or yoga – that will help you notice your thoughts without hooking into the story and encourage you to dip down into your true self.
Another way to approach winter without fear is to focus on what you cherish about this season. And I don’t necessarily mean the holidays (for many people the holidays only exacerbate the depression); I mean the small grace-moments that appear with greater clarity, like the tree-limbs against the backdrop of sky. As one client shared, “Music sounds better. The air is crisp and my senses are sharper.” Other winter graces include:
- Hot tea
- Bubble baths
- Movies under fuzzy blankets
- Slow walks in blue twilight
- Crisp winter sunlight
- Time to read
Again, the key is to embrace the time, to resist the urge to fill the empty spaces with busyness. To experience the richness of the soul time, you must be willing to contract into the underlayer of feelings that we can more easily push underground during the external seasons. As soon as we slow down, the grief emerges like slumbering creatures, as if waking up from its forced hibernation. If we find the willingness, we taste into the edges of grief. We taste, then, into the pathway of healing.
Winter embodies the feminine principle: internal, slow, feeling, round, moon, soul.
Our cultural resistance to winter correlates directly to our cultural resistance to the feminine. We cherish the masculine and extroverted ideal of moving quickly, staying busy, and measuring our worth according to our achievements while we denigrate the qualities of the feminine; I can’t tell you many times as week I hear from my clients, “I feel so guilty when I do nothing.” While there’s an essential place for the masculine energy, we’ve elevated the masculine to a God-like status and buried the feminine in the process to the point where we feel guilt when we drop into being and “nothingness.”
In winter, the feminine aches to emerge. Lay the guilt aside and allow yourself to drop into being. Follow this season’s call to turn inward and be curious about what you’ll find. This is how we connect to Self, and it’s through filling the well of Self that we provide ourselves with an unwavering safe place of anchor and wisdom from which to handle the seasons of life.