Winter will be upon us in just over a week. Sure, the temperatures of the past week have tried to persuade us that our next season was upon us ahead of schedule – highs have been the low 40’s in the San Francisco Bay Area…positively unheard of – but the beautiful sun is still burning strong, struggling to transcend the frost with her sizzling rays.
I’m the first to admit I’m not a cold weather girl. Californian born and bred, the cold does a real number on me. I’m already one of those people who “runs cold,” wearing socks to bed as a child and becoming a layering master as an adult. Some folks love the hunkering down aspect and are thrilled for an excuse to cozy up and stay inside for a matter of months. For wellness warriors and the active, the shorter days and colder temperatures can prove a sincere hindrance to outdoor activities and perhaps cause frustration. Some go nuts for the holidays while others find traveling in unknown weather conditions and celebration after celebration to be overwhelming. Many people, women especially, even suffer from seasonal affective disorder; depression during the winter months.
But wintertime has more to offer than the holidays and high PG&E bills. It doesn’t have to leave us feeling drained, overweight, grumpy or like a popsicle. Winter is a time of reflection. A time to go inward. We are leaving fall behind and turning over a new leaf, pun intended. Bears hibernate in the winter, birds fly south, even some human beings retreat to warmer climates to pass the cold months. Historically the winter months were a time to add a layer of body fat so as to keep warm; fortunately our society has advanced and we no longer need to rely on this mechanism to fortify our bodies for the cold months. We can maintain our healthy, active, holistically balanced lifestyles throughout the darker, colder portion of the year, but only so far as feels natural. To live in tune with the earth and the seasons means being comfortable with a shift.
During winter, most of us are better off having warmer, nourishing meals and less raw, crisp, cold food. Unlike summertime when green smoothies and salads are the daily staple, we’re well advised to integrate more hot soups, rich porridges and warming spices into our diet. During winter we can benefit from consuming more high quality protein and fats. We can even enjoy dishes usually served cold, like my maca chocolate sauce over porridge, warmed on the stove. We can take advantage of the shorter days and get more sleep. We can have a hibernation of our own, one that doesn’t require being unconscious or sedentary for three months, but one that still nourishes us on a cellular level.
Making space for deep reflection can be doing any time of year, and is a practice I keep regularly. Being an emotional, sensitive, Cancerian crab, and a homebody nonetheless, a reflective state is one very familiar to me. Deep reflection, though, the kind that is longstanding, cavernous, affecting…that’s the space in which we find ourselves. As snow falls and covers the ground, as the cold comes and the trees go barren, past seasons are buried under layers of winter. The promise of spring is ever on the horizon, but the icy, prickly, infertile nature of the earth for these few months is almost like one suspended in time. Nothing seems to evolve, rather everything seems to pause. While the earth still spins and the sun still rises, the ground grows cold, freezes, vegetation dies and the leaves and blossoms are lain to rest until March is upon us once again.
May we ever live in tune with nature and not fight this shift. May we deeply nurture our souls by taking Mother Nature’s cue and turning attention inward. Still moving but resting more, retiring earlier. Respecting the earthly rhythms and slowing our evenings, reconnecting a bit with our circadian rhythm. May we not curse the cold but see it as an opportunity to freeze (I realize I’m a Californian writing this, so please don’t fling snowballs at your computer screen in frustration knowing my version of winter is 50 degree weather). Freeze quite literally, but also freeze our energy.
In spring there’s a build-up of energy, gathering momentum and moving into summer, where energy is at it’s peak. Days are long, the sun is hot, physically active hobbies are common and the nights are like a warm bath. We eat less, move more and are in naturally high spirits, generally speaking. Fall is meant to be a gentle period of transition, acknowledging the coming of winter and moving gracefully into a period of quiet reflection. We sometimes don’t take this opportunity, though, because fall is so gorgeous and often we’re blessed with an “Indian Summer.” The luscious, sensuous time of harvest is so overwhelmingly divine that it’s easy to forget what the falling leaves are signaling.
So when winter comes, we often tend to still be rather high energy. Crashing into the cold weather and dark evenings, we can find ourselves drained by the holidays and lack of daylight because we didn’t properly prepare our bodies, minds and spirits for this energetic and seasonal shift. What sort of deep reflection will occur if we’re busy peeling ourselves off the ice cold floor after such a nosedive?
This is precisely why we must take advantage of this last week of autumn. Slow the mind, stabilize the body, maybe even stock up on some essentials for a warm, winter crockpot soup. Take note of some nourishing hibernation practices you like. For me, sitting here cozy and warm writing this is certainly one. As is reading a book with a big mug of herbal tea. Warm baths with essential oil and candles are another. Journaling by the dim, bedside light and laying my head to the pillow earlier rather than later also nourishes me. First step is finding what nourishes you.
Next comes the reflection. It doesn’t have to be pointed, there’s no “aha” moment waiting to arise – or is there? – it’s more a matter of contemplation. Observation. Rumination.
It’s harder to take attention inward for an extended period of time when the world around us is hustling, bustling and brilliantly sunlit till 9pm. During winter, it’s quiet and cold. Our side of the world gets dark at 5pm, like the earth is offering our bodies a longer period of time reset overnight. Rather than fighting this natural, seasonal progression and trying to cling to one’s summertime lifestyle, sink into winter. Sink into her with ease, with grace, letting her arrive in all her wintry wonder. Letting her lay a blanket of quiet over a previously noisy and busy mind.
May we flow harmoniously into the cold, dark nights, adding blankets to our beds and more boiled water to our cups. May we journal about what we discover during this inward journey, allowing our the reflections to surface as they will, in their own time. May we anchor in stillness and pass the cold months with patience, relishing in the naturally given opportunity for self-study. May the bedazzled canopy of the wintry night sky ever light our introspective journey.
Peace, love and light. Namaste.