It’s winter. The holidays are over, but the snow has not yet begun to melt. Summer is both long gone and far off, still. It’s all too easy to focus on doom and gloom this time of year, scratching ice off your wind shield with numb fingers. But those of us who meditate know that easy is not always the worthwhile way.
Yes, you say, but it gets dark so soon! Well, my friend, sometimes you’ve got to make the light inside yourself. No better time than the cold season to kindle the internal fire. Nature hibernates until spring, and you should, too. Draw inwards and make space for new beginnings. Winter is a great reminder of the impermanence of everything around and within us. Impermanence is one of the pillars that any meditation practice and a healthy life must rest on. Winter only means that Spring is on its way. If you are down with a cold, read the Ogden Nash poem Winter Complaint, laugh a hearty nasal laugh and know that this too shall pass.
Winter is the ideal time to stay in and reflect. So find a place in your home to sit undisturbed for a while. Maybe make it an unusual place – this is about new beginnings, after all. If you can, sit by a window. Sit down tall, strong and quiet like a tree in winter. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, in through the nose out through the mouth like the January wind. Are your feet cold? Notice it, and know that it is but a sensation, not good or bad unless you make it so. Try to catch the vibrations of the season: slow ones, wide apart, calm and concentric. Focus on the hue of winter, white. More than just the color of snow, it is the concept of absence, purity. Whenever you find yourself getting distracted from it, gently push the clutter from your mind so the white can shine. Sit with it, sit with winter, as long as it is comfortable. Open your eyes and observe how quiet you’ve grown. Be with yourself, look out the window and remember the old truth: as above, so below, as within, so without.
Go outside and feel the cold. Feel it without judgement or displeasure. Just try and note the cold touching your face, or let the sharp air fill your lungs and clear your brain of clutter, refreshing you like mint gum. Outside, your airways open and a thread of scent weaves into your mind from far away: burning wood, or maybe someone’s cooking. And the scent of snow, because it has one, too, if you think about it. Take a deep breath and notice.
Listen to how silent winter is. Summer, with its crickets, song and dance is nice to be sure, but distracting, too. Because everything is frozen in stillness in the wintertime, it is easier to really pay attention to the fewer things you meet out there. Like meditation teaches us, one must only pay really close attention to winter to know that it is not so bad – and from there, its only a little leap to discover that it is indeed perfect in itself like all things in nature, and like you. You’ve got that in common. See, the ice is already melting between you two.
This winter, slow your pace like nature does and watch the magic happen. Breathe in the youthful resilience of the cold, and let it take with itself the tired steam escaping from your body on the way out. Let the fog outside draw the fog from your brain. If you look at your neighbours yard, you can see one of two things: a barren patch of icy nothing where flowers used to bloom, or the place where they are preparing to bloom again when spring comes. It will, it always does. Until then, watch the snow fall and instead of thinking about what a bother it is, think about how those pesky little cotton balls are really intricate wonders. Perfect, unique each time, made possible by the cold but hardly paid attention to, pretty for no one but themselves. Also, everyone looks good in white, you’ve got to admit. If none of this helps, at least there are no mosquitoes.
- Turn on some soft music or light some incense. Allow your mind to start relaxing as you release any stresses that are on your mind.
- Find yourself in a comfortable chair. Somewhere cozy and warm, where you won’t be disturbed.
- Put your palms faceup on your lap, and allow your eyes to gently close. Breathe into your belly. Breathe in relaxation and warmth, and breathe out any stress, fear, and tension. Repeat this process over and over until you are feeling incredibly relaxed.
- Connect with the energy around you. The energy of winter. The winter season represents starting over, letting go of everything that no longer serves to prepare for new growth. Allow any challenges that you have been struggling with to come to the surface, and gently release them. Do this as long as is needed until you feel complete.
- Come back into your awareness, moving your fingers and toes slowly, and gently open your eyes. Look around you with a new awareness. With new joy. Know that this is a season and time full of purpose, and that the work you did will help prepare for an even brighter spring!