Winter Wisdom

There are times in our living when the ground upon which we have set our lives, the ground we thought was solid and secure, suddenly shifts out from under our feet. Like sand at the edge of the ocean slipping away beneath our toes, no matter how hard we try, we cannot hold the sand in place in the face of the next wave. At these moments we can either stand in place until we are completely unstable and overwhelmed or we can take a step back to higher ground to get a deeper and broader perspective. All moments have choice. Which would you choose?

The past year has collectively challenged us with a period of greater adversity and fewer economic blessings. Our financial world has lost a reliable stability; consumption of the earth’s resources continues toward an uncertain outcome. These same kinds of challenges appear in our clinic when a patient hears of a difficult diagnosis or is overwhelmed with a life-altering event.

In times of uncertainty, we can look to Nature and the cycle of seasons for guidance. Winter, a time of consolidation and diminishing light, offers a moment to stop, take a step back from the internal shifting sands; become still and listen to the sounds in our own depths. It is in the stillness that we begin to listen and in the listening, we hear our own wisdom.

Winter teaches that when everything looks dead and hopeless, barren of all possibility, there lies underneath the frozen snow, seeds and bulbs and pods and insects and larvae waiting. They wait until their time. They don’t force anything. They don’t frantically flit about trying to avoid the waiting and the silence and the cold. They rest and they wait. In winter, life is about waiting rather than hopelessness.

Waiting can take courage. Courage is not about puffing up our chest and bashing through mindlessly. Courage in its highest form anchors us in faith; knowing that all things, all moments, all emotions, all circumstances, all lives are temporary.

I have a pregnant patient who found herself all alone when her labor began. She was in her car and stuck in traffic with no place to go. No phone, no one to hold her hand. She pulled off to a parking lot and began to panic. The next round of contractions took hold and she screamed. Some seed of wisdom popped up on her next inspiration and told her that panicking wouldn’t help. She fell silent, went deep and was blanketed with stillness. She moved herself to the passenger seat, propped her feet on the dashboard and waited for the next wave. There was a moment of silence and of breath. Then, like a tsunami, a power so deep in her gathered and rose and pushed her baby out with such force that she barely caught him. In one big wave, out came her healthy son, surprised and crying. My patient held him close and in the silence of her car, in the most intimate moment with her new son, she knew that all would be well.

Courage is a byproduct of wisdom; that deep, silent connection to the Great Mystery that calls us to listen, to become receptive and to wait. Wisdom is the steadfast knowing that in this present moment all is well. Fear projects into the darkness of the future with no light. Wisdom calls us to now and now and now.

So when the news projects the end of life as we know it, or our bodies call us into a new stage of being and our resources seem depleted, wisdom calls us to take a step back. We can become like a forest after a heavy snow. We can listen and we can wait for wisdom to grace us with hope and the deep knowing that all will be well. We can know with great certainty that we do have the resources to make it to spring and that, yes, spring will come.

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