The Gift of Winter
Many of us experience dread or depression as we enter late fall and early winter. The days shorten and the darkness descends thick upon our lives. The sun hides for longer periods of time behind grey clouds of rain or snow. Our energy dwindles, we want to hide inside away from our work, our world.
Our Western culture, powered by caffeine and overworking, fears this experience. We are expected to work fiercely around the clock, work around and around the years like hamsters spinning their wheels, chasing after something just out of reach.
How can we exponentially fuel this forward momentum? The answer is we cannot. We are bound to get sick, to tire, to break down, to check out, to disconnect from ourselves and what our heart’s desire. We need the time to rest, to be, to experience the simple joys of life, to pause and collect ourselves. We need a strong-winded intervention to swoop in and carry us away from our hectic lives. This is where Winter steps in for the rescue.
The medicine of winter is a potent remedy for our sickened society in denial about its sickness. It’s so potent, that when the season comes around, fear and dread take over. We don’t want to face how sick we are. We’d rather pretend that we can work and work and do and make and buy endlessly. That is, until Winter comes and throws a bucket of cold water in our face and asks us to wake up. To wake up to what our bodies and hearts are asking of us, basically to SLOW DOWN.
But so many of us cringe at facing this basic human need for replenishment. We don’t allow ourselves, as a society, to rejuvenate in this way. So when we feel this tug from winter, we can often either adamantly resist and maintain “full speed ahead,” or we go down into despair and guilt because we end up feeling “useless.”
How about a different way? How can we learn to move with the tides of the year, rather than fighting them? We can give ourselves permission. And we can learn to ask each season what it can teach us, what it has to offer.
Winter says to us, “Ok now honey, it’s time to slow down. It’s time to simplify. Come home to yourself now. Let’s rest. You’ve done so much this year to be proud of. Let’s take stock in where you are today and the year that is completing. Let’s celebrate all that you learned, and all those that have stuck by your side throughout the twists and turns this year. You need some time to integrate this all! And then let’s dream up our new year to come. I am the Queen of Dreams. I can help support you in this time of replenishment and clarity. But we can’t do this until you stop moving so fast.”
Winter beckons us to be still. It beckons us to look around at what’s present in our lives. Our bodies, our family, our home, our nourishing creative projects, our meditation practice, ourselves. Winter begs us to stop running and to peer down at our reflection in the clear, iced-over pond.
Winter invites us to remember.
To remember why we do what we do. To remember who we are at our core, without the bedazzlement of our work, our jobs, our roles and titles. To remember we can always come home to the stillness in our hearts. To remember our community and our family. To remember the earth and our interconnection.
We need Winter. And if we begin to come around to the gifts of Winter’s magic, there is so much healing, joy and peace waiting for us.
Amy Terepka is a Portland, OR based practitioner of the healing arts. As an herbalist, medicine maker and bodyworker, she loves helping others connect more deeply with themselves, the earth, and the plants. She has her own practice, Groundwater Healing, and teaches with the School of Forest Medicine.