Sometimes everything seems to stop. To grow cold, to come off the boil, to go flat—we have lots of ways to describe it. The enthusiasm we had for life, for our work, for a project, a relationship dissipates, and something else calls.
We are not very good at listening to that something else in our 24/7, get it all now, binge-watching, bucket list culture. We begin to think that things have gone wrong somehow, that this deep feeling, this heaviness, this need for quiet or introspection is not what we should be experiencing. Growth, infinite growth, is what we are being told to expect in all kinds of distorted corners of our world; the corners that are not quite in touch with the rhythms of nature.
In nature, things are always welcoming winter, perhaps not even at the coldest season. When I lived in Perth, I felt that the baking heat of summer had a wintry quality, putting an end to phases of growth with its insistent dessication, its too bright quality forcing green out of the palette.
And in Melbourne, as I walked along the Dandenong Creek trail, I noticed one wattle out already and others budding as they prepare to shed their golden dust. But other plants are curled up in the earth. Terrestrial native orchids, for example, develop their new tubers during winter waiting for spring warmth to summon forth those fairy blooms.
And we too, have our wintry times that don’t always coincide with the seasons but with the rhythms of our own development. Times when we must hunker down and listen to an inner mystery that takes its own good time to ripen into what it will become. Before then it’s not even recognisable except as an uncomfortable feeling of pregnancy.
There are seasons too when we patiently put forth leaf after leaf after leaf after leaf until we grow a little weary and wonder if the flower or fruit will ever come. Moments or days when we must hold back from leafing, so that something completely new will begin to grow within. Times when all is flower and fruitfulness and we grow transparent with generosity. And as humans, at these stages we don’t just tune into what’s around us and let ourselves unfold into an inner pattern. We have to heed the stages consciously, to learn to welcome them.
When we have a regular contemplative practice of some kind, it’s like we insist on a regular winter. Maybe it’s even a daily one; a time when we cut back on the abundance of stimulation, refuse the patterned thoughts, breathe into and connect with the higher, wider, deeper sources of light, connection and support in the ways that suit us.
Through a practice of sitting, of prayer, of walking, with contemplation and connection at its heart, we create this space of quiet. When we open ourselves regularly to the importance of inner awakening, we let the outer world rest quietly and we grow more available to the seasonality of our lives; more attuned to the patience that is needed while we prepare ourselves for what is next.
We also learn to listen to those wider, higher, deeper sources even than our own; the channels beyond social media, podcasts, apps and legacy media. It’s a source that we are specifically designed to tune into without a device. All it needs is human attention.
We grow able, with practice, to attend with patience through the pain of uncertainty and doubt, to learn what is required of us to meet the challenges and wonder of what we encounter in the world.
We can allow ourselves a little daily winter with what comes to be delight.