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Winter Is Here
And it’s time for winter soul care. As I write this post I am cuddled up in front of a glowing fire, the water of the Hood Canal is lapping at the pylons on which this little retreat house is built. I cannot see past the deck railing because a frozen fog lays thick as pea soup all around. There was a slick layer of ice covering everything when I woke up this morning. The tide goes in and out almost silently over the icy rocks under that blanket of frozen water droplets. Even the noisy gulls have gone quiet.
It’s a far cry from the slushy streets, honking horns, and inevitable fender benders, just a handful of miles away at home in Seattle. And it’s got me thinking about winter, and specifically about winter soul care. The shore birds and the slow waves have something to teach us this winter. Even in the midst of the city we are not divorced from the rhythm of the seasons. We might be a little insulated, but only a little. The weight of short days, darkness, and cold cannot be denied. And if we are wise we will listen to our soul’s Mother, we will sit at the feet of the natural world and learn something.
The Soul Dance
Whether you know it or not your soul is intimately tuned to the seasons. I sometimes think of our soul as a nearly infinite number of little sparks given off by the busy cells of our bodies as they go about the intricate dance of being us. Those sparks have their own dance, their own DNA if you will, in which is stamped the movement of the seasons as surely as the tides obey the moon’s gentle tug. Soul care that pays attention to the seasons works better than the kind that just barrels ahead willy nilly, or stubbornly clings to what we “should” do.
The writer of Ecclesiastes (Wisdom literature from the Jewish tradition) summed it up nicely: for everything there is a season. Our lives have seasons as surely as the year. And our souls dance to the rhythm of the seasons. Summer is for growth, heavy and ripe and abundant. Spring is fore newness and possibility bursting out all over the place. Winter is for quiet, for rest, and for turning inward.
The old pagan religions got this. Their celebrations moved with the natural world they lived so close to. I hear frequently from seekers that they feel spiritually stuck, dry, or discouraged. Often at least part of the issue is a spiritual life whose practices never change. What worked for us in one season of our lives will not in another, and this is just as true for the little seasons throughout the year as it is for the big seasons of our lives. More than a few ancient religions marked the seasons of our lives with different embodiments of their deities or souls. The maiden, the mother/matriarch, crone was just one way of acknowledging that our lives are different throughout. So why isn’t our soul care?
And we are different through the arc of each year. If you find you’ve fallen away from your spiritual practices, or they no longer seem to connect you to Divine Mystery it might be time to change things up.
For 2018 my monthly newsletter will feature introductions to spiritual practices appropriate for the season. If you would like to be taught new and different practices that will keep your soul in harmony with the changing of the year sign up below for a whole year of soul care designed for the seasons. (hint, you can !)
Winter Practices To Try
Until then here are some spiritual practices to try. For more instructions and in depth explanations on how to use these best sign up for my newsletter!
- Do you decorate for a winter holiday? If so, leave those sparkly decorations, especially any lights up longer than usual. Turn them on, give your soul a reminder of the light that is slowly, ever so slowly returning. Chose a mantra (short prayer/reminder) to use each time you notice them shining in the darkness. (And your neighbors too, even if they roll their eyes, they need some magic.)
- Learn. Use the quiet of winter to study. Try reading a book on a subject you are interested in, sign up for an online course, or enroll in a class at the local community college or learning center.
- Look inward: find a therapist and spend time working on your inner landscape.
- Spend time practicing stillness. Resist the urge to get up and do something and spend even just a few minutes being still. What do you hear, what do you notice in your own body?
- Get together with your family and friends and tell stories! (just about the most ancient winter activity there is!)
- Cancel one thing each week and use that time for self-care.
- Explore rest as a spiritual practice. Sleep in, take a nap, listen to your body and care for it.
- Bury an old practice that no longer serves you. Instead of feeling guilty that you don’t meditate every evening now that you have a toddler, bury that practice! Everything has a season, and all seasons end.
- Journal! Spend some of your stillness time going deep, see what might be incubating inside you. What seeds are sleeping, waiting for spring? How might you plan for those things to grow and thrive.
- Build a fire and use it as a visual meditation. Get into your body, feel the warmth, listen to the sounds, watch the pattern of the flames. Relax.
- Cuddle. You aren’t just a soul, you are both soul and body together. Cuddle up with someone you love (2 or 4 legged) and spend some good quality time together enjoying each other’s touch, warmth, and company.
I would like to invite you this year into an exploration of spiritual seasons.