28 Dec 2010, 9:40pm
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Winter Within

Winter Within

We never know when winter weather will

require a change in plan, a re-direction.

Everyone has to slow down and spend more time where they are instead of moving on to the next thing. On a day when I haven’t left the house, it seems fitting to write about winter as a time to go inward and see what may need our attention. This season means more than colder temperatures and shorter days. We’re forced to tread mindfully so as not to slip on the ice. The act of slowing down allows us to notice the unexpected. Winter invites us to take care of our bodies, to swaddle them in protective clothing, and fill them with warming foods. We extend these comforts to those we love, aware that it can be harsh out there.

In a perfect world, everyone would have an adequate home in which to hibernate, to lie dormant until things turn more hospitable. Alas, we do not live in such a world.

In the book and film, Dr. Zhivago, after a devastating war, the family takes shelter in a ruin that looked much like this. Needless to say, safety and comfort were elusive goals. Yet, they were grateful for what they had and mindful of being better off than many others. They settled into the innermost rooms and attended to the basics of sustaining life.

As the wind howls outside, I stoke the hearth in my home, not wanting the fire to go out. This is an apt metaphor for the challenge of winter and the exquisite attention it calls forth from us. No matter how harsh our external environment is, our inner fire is ours to tend. When ennui hovers around us in this slower time of year, we need not allow it to lead us down an uninviting path where we may get lost.

If we’re well-companioned and feeling strong, we can examine what boredom and restlessness can teach us.  We can fortify ourselves and clear a path through the wilderness within. At some point, it will look and feel entirely different.