The process of Wintering.


I’ve been taking some time over the past few weeks and months for some deep internal processing, allowing a great deal of space for a process of “wintering.” 

Although I would not have called it that, had it not been for Katherine May’s beautiful book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. 

Essentially, the book describes the gentle and slow regeneration of Self after a cosmic life course correction.

In the author’s case, the looming stress of her academic career, among myriad other things, precipitated a personal crisis which threatened her physical and mental health. The result of which was a coming to terms with the choices she needed to make in order to not only come back into balance, but to initiate a new season with wholeness as the bottom line.

Wholeness. We hear this word all the time. I never really felt into it, or even truly understood what it meant until I recognized that I had been in such a disjointed state of un-wholeness that initiated my own process of “wintering.”

So what was the cause of getting so out of joint?

In hindsight, it was the constant demands of Striving, Grasping, and Forcing.

I’m not talking about burnout, per se, but rather a constant need to push and rush and make it all happen. Constant movement, constant activity, and constant expectation, fueled by the ego and hijacked by the mind.

I was exhausted, exasperated, dissatisfied, and down-trodden.  

Which meant that my well-meaning intentions for life, art, and work resembled a series of broken arrows trying to hit a very clear target, but continually kept missing the damn mark. And inevitably, I would be left blaming the archer for screwing up the shot!

And this present time, full of ups and downs, has been the gentle regeneration of my faith in Life, Love, and myself. 

So what did I want to happen that wasn’t happening? Well, probably something similar to all of us. I wanted to ensure that: 

I was making a difference.
I was successful.
I was prosperous in every sense of that word.
I was able to support my family.
I was truly, genuinely helping.
I was lit up by my work.
I was part of a community of like-minded people.
I was living a brilliant life surrounded by beauty and infused with vitality.
I was healthy, happy, and… whole.

So during this personal winter, now coinciding with my actual winter, I can feel the transmutation. I’m not really sure how to describe this reinvention. The experience is utterly novel in every way.

It’s the transition from Doership to Deep Listening. It’s releasing the grip on my identity, ego, and vain grasping. It’s allowing a sense of lightness and detachment, “wearing the world as a loose garment,” as it were. (At least, I think that’s what Francis of Assisi means here.)

And when I recognize that my Striving has genuinely morphed into Divine Trust, there is definitely some change afoot.

It’s the promise of the new season. Similar to the snowdrops popping up beneath the snow at a time when you think, “I never thought there could ever be flowers again!”

But of course there are. Winter always passes, like all things. Wintering is simply the quality of our experience, and the wisdom of our perception, as we cross through.

The energy stored in the earth is birthed into the visible world through green shooting things. Life before was no longer sustainable. So the course correction, the metaphorical phase of Winter, allows us to come back into balance, with a fresh set of eyes, set on the flowers of the next cycle.

But all the while learning to be present through the growth and decay, as natural as the turning of the Earth.

And now, I see that through this process of sitting in the darkness, one feels the vital thrill of those green shooting things that could not have possibly been borne from the state we were in before. 

We cannot see, in a state of Striving, the process by which what is in potentia transmutes into that which is in materia. We can only see, in a state of Divine Trust, that all things manifest in perfect timing, and in a fashion that far exceeds the expectations of our anxious, grasping, insatiable minds. 

The option to “winter” is not a choice I would ever have made voluntarily, but came out of necessity. I am grateful for the quietude, and I know it will shift soon enough. The fruits of this time will reveal themselves in a magnificent way.

Because now I am quiet enough to hear the answers to my very own prayers, planted long before the winter set in.

In the meantime, the snowdrops are not too far off, and all of creation slowly awakens and responds to the growing sun. Human beings are certainly no different.

What are the murmurs that remind you to come back to yourself? How does your inner wisdom beckon you back to the pathway of your own becoming? What is your version of wholeness?

It’s so good to turn your face to the Sun and be warmed by that radiant light.

But I’m so grateful for winter. He reminds me of all that is, and all that can be. And that the darkness is a radical blessing, if we are wise enough to notice.

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