Inside: Understand different types of winter seasons, common characteristics of winter seasons, and learn to thrive in the winter seasons of life.
A practice of Seasonal Living teaches us that the natural world, biology, and human experience are patterned around cycles and seasons and change is constant. As one revolution comes to an end we begin again. There is a time for turning inward and engaging outward, for building and creating and for receiving and resting, for planting, watering, and harvest. For death and (re)birth.
Tuning into the seasons we’re in helps us live gentler, calmer, joyful lives. We become more attuned to and less fearful or resentful of the ebb and flow of life. We put down deeper, healthy roots of self-awareness and self-compassion that allow us to tilt and flex and not break when the storms come. We push back against cultural conditioning and societal norms and learn to work with instead of against our wiring and in doing so, we walk in greater freedom, health and joy.
DIFFERENT CYCLES AND SEASONS AND FOUR winter SEASONS OF LIFE
As women (and humans) across continents, geography, climate, culture, and history, we have a lot in common.
In addition, archetypal psychology, mythology, working with women from different corners of the world, my own life experiences (including grief, trauma, healing, self-awareness and self-compassion work, for example), and gleaning from the wisdom of other writers and teachers across the past 20 years, have influenced my practice of seasonal living.
But this is not a rigid model. I like to think of it as a flexible map but at the core it is simply an invitation to attune inward, listen to the wisdom of your body and life, and learn to trust and honour what you hear. My Seasonal Mindfulness Journals are a gentle way to lean into both the outer and inner season you’re in.
Learn more about the 52 Mondays series of Seasonal Mindfulness Journals – click here.
I WORK WITH 6 CYCLES OR SEASONS – HERE ARE FOUR:
Month/Menstrual Cycle: Balsamic moon (rest, restore) and new moon (new clarity + direction; you feel it deeply in your body). A few days before and the bleed in your menstrual cycle: Day 27- Day 5 of your cycle. *Different people track differently; this is what works for me. You may mark the start of ‘winter’ at new moon or your bleed. I use the Balsamic moon as my invitation/reminder to slow downward, tend, and listen.
Natural World/Year: The winter solstice is the longest and darkest night of the year and marks the transition toward lengthening days and shortening nights. Dying back in the plant cycle. In my corner of the world, winters are long and harsh and this mirrors my experience with the darkest emotional winters that I’ve navigated.
Life Cycle: You’re in late perimenopause or late 40s/ early 50s, or your twilight wisdom years: mid 80s and beyond (second winter). Winter is a season of death (the ultimate transformation). An ending and a new beginning. Dominant questions of winter include “What matters to me now? How is my inner knowing directing me?”
Emotional/Psychological/Spiritual Season: Non-linear, inner seasons. Winter seasons are characterized by (often a forced) waiting, trusting, and practicing paradox, and often death (literal or metaphorical). This is where you will meet and befriend True Self when you’re ready. Winter seasons can last any amount of time but the hardest of them are long, dark, and not for the faint of the heart. Yet there is no bypassing. You must do the work of winter to get to freedom and joy. Winter teaches you to practice hope-in-action. Wise Woman or Crone archetype.
We cannot choose to have a life free of hurt. But we can choose to be free, to escape the past, no matter what befalls us, and to embrace the possible.Edith Eger, The Choice
CHARACTERISTICS OF winter SEASONS OF LIFE
Depending on which part of the “winter season” you’re in, your experience can be vastly different. Deep grief or a dark night of the soul will look and feel different from late winter when your heart and mind turn hopefully toward spring.
Winter is a time of learning to embrace paradox. We learn resilience in winter, but joy grows here too. We learn strength, trust, perseverance, surrender. We learn that we need each other more than ever before; we each have light to bring to the world. And in winter seasons of life we make peace with the truth that joy and pain coexist in a beautiful, meaningful life.
In spring and summer we find our place in the world, in community, and find our voice and become familiar with our strengths or the gifts we bring to the world. In autumn we face our shadow and strip away anything that no longer serves us and find the courage to begin listening inward and trusting our inner voice more than following the crowd. And after we’ve done the work of these seasons, then we are ready and able to finally, in winter, meet and befriend our essence or most authentic self.
Winter can be a time of radical deconstruction as you have no energy left for pretense or B.S. Our world is largely trauma and grief illiterate but rage and grief must have a voice in winter; they will no longer be suppressed or denied. If you continue to shove truth down it will manifest in unhealthy ways – addiction, illness, relational dis-ease. The Wise Woman or Crone is not worried about fitting in or making others comfortable; she is after truth and freedom, not only for herself but for all of us.
Winter can also be a wonderful time for feasting, lighting candles, gathering, preparing comforting foods, remembering meaningful rituals and traditions that anchor us and tell a story about where we’ve come from and who we choose to be moving forward. It’s an ideal time for checking in with your core values and your vision so that in spring you can map a new path forward.
You may notice that your relationship to time shifts in winter seasons. Life often doesn’t unfold in the ways you imagine or want. Grief takes longer than you want, kids grow up in the blink of an eye and build families of their own and you must recalibrate all over again, the space between the promise of a new dream and it’s fruition may take years, and you’ve less time left now and no time to waste. We learn trust with practice.
Every ending also marks a new beginning, desired or not. A seed must die to bring forth new life.
Get all your swirling thoughts and to-dos out of your head and heart and onto paper where you can see them. Now triage. Not everything is for today, not everything is yours to carry, and not everything shiny idea needs to be followed.
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