Last week felt like the beginning of a new season! The country heralded in a new president amidst music, poetry, love and calls for unity and truth.
But some change is slower to arrive. Many of us are still in our winter season, physically and metaphorically.
On the day of the inauguration, I wanted to spend hours curled up on the couch soaking in the positive energy of the day, allowing trust to infiltrate my being, hope to charge me up and relief to quiet me. Instead, I was on the phone for hours with my siblings and my mom as my dad was taken to the hospital, having endured another fall.
Euphoria was on the screen and fear and despair were filling my heart.
Isn’t that just the way life is?
As we are celebrating one thing, we are often mourning another.
When one challenge in our life gets resolved, another appears. But this year has been unique. For many of us it has been an avalanche of difficulties, one coming right after another, with fewer ups than downs. Katherine May, in her book, Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, describes this period of darkness, which we all experience at different points in our lives. "Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you're cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast in the role of an outsider. Perhaps its the result of illness, or a life event such as bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or a failure.. Some winters creep upon us more slowly, accompanying the protracted death of a relationship, the gradual ratcheting up of caring responsibilities as our parents age, the drip-drip-drip of lost confidence Some are appallingly sudden (like a pandemic!), like discovering the company you work for has gone bankrupt, or your partner is in love with someone new. However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful." Through her own experience the author concludes that wintering calls us to slow down and take a closer look at ourselves and our lives which we can only do while we are in the dark. We are constantly being reminded that it is our struggles that lead us to who we are, that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger but the focus is usually on when we come out of the difficulty or challenge and can look back on what we learned. Katherine May brings attention to the intrinsic value of the cold and the darkness itself. She writes: "In our relentlessly busy contemporary world, we are forever trying to defer the onset of winter. We don't ever dare to feel its full bite, and we don't dare to show the way it ravages us. An occasional sharp wintering would do us good. We must stop believing that these times in our lives are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. We must stop trying to ignore or dispose of them. They are real and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite the winter in. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how." Katherine May's words resonate so beautifully with all I have learned through my darkest times to the present. My meditation practice and work as a clarity coach perfectly mirror the insights and lessons in the book. Ultimately we want to learn to be in the present, no matter what is happening to and around us, even when it is hard, especially when its hard. The darkness really is a worthy teacher. Pema Chodron leads us to the same wisdom. "Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen; room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy." This week has seen a lot of rain in LA and it has been unusually cold. Night seems to arrive in the afternoon. I have a consistent chill and can't be in the house without lighting a fire. It feels like winter for sure. Katherine May reminds us that "Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that's where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible." Take the time you need to be alone, contemplate, cry, write, stare into space. Don't try to get past it. Sink into it and trust that there is something to be revealed. Listen from within. "It's a time of reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order.. Doing these unfashionable things- slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting- is a radical act now, but it is essential. This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin.If you do, you'll expose all those painful nerve endings and feel so raw you'll need to take care of yourself for a while. If you don't then that skin will harden around you." Katherine May. Maybe I will allow myself time to take a nap in the middle of the day. A radical act for sure. But perhaps not doing so would yield more harmful results. Staying calm, grounded and present is what is required. As Yung Pueblo reminds us: "progress is being aware when there is a storm happening inside you and remaining calm as it passes by." There will always be storms, coldness, darkness. And we can weather them all with presence. Join us on Sundays when we come together to meditate, reflect, share and do a little writing. It's an opportunity not unlike Wintering. We slow down, contemplate, connect and focus on being present. And yes, the seasons will of course change and the warmth of the sun will feel incredible once again. When Amanda Gorman read her poem at the inauguration it was like hearing the chirping of the birds that signal that spring is coming.. Truth, beauty and the road back to joy are emerging. What is emerging for you? With love and light,