Finding balance: Embracing wintering

Another Christmas, another year drawing to a close. As the outer world of busyness, expectations, consumerism and family dynamics meets our inner world of feelings, thoughts and sensations - I wonder how each of us has experienced this festive time?


How many people actually do what they want to do at this time of year? Do what feels right for them? Follow their hearts? Listen to their body and what it needs? As opposed to being driven by obligation or duty.

Winter is a time for rest and replenishment. The more connected we are to the natural world around us; the more tuned into this we may be. The trees send their precious life force (their sap) down deep into their roots, to be stored safely until the springtime. Then, it will make its way upwards, creating the possibility of new life; a new cycle begins and the tree continues its legacy for another year. Its trunk grows, each year marked by a circle to commemorate how the year has passed.

Was it a year of good health and abundance? Or does it show signs of a struggle? Nature has been thrown a multitude of curve balls this year; from intense heat to freezing cold. I watch her closely every day as I walk; willing her on; conveying my gratitude for all that she provides us with and apologising for the ways in which humankind hampers her capacity to thrive. She brings me joy and grief. 

Winter can be a time for slowing down and taking stock. When we slow down, we are able to be more present, which then allows us to become more of an observer of our experiences, instead of being caught up in the drama. From this more detached position, we are able to be more discerning. Communication coming in from the outer meets our inner world via our five senses. Noticing what we are truly seeing, hearing, touching, smelling or tasting in this moment helps us to feel fully alive, fully embodied. It is the essence of mindfulness

Ask yourself, if you were a tree, what would your circle of commemoration look like for this year? Let's be honest, it's been a really tough few years for many. So much illness and loss, upheaval, destruction, polarisation, displacement and distrust of those in positions of power, who are meant to take care of us. No wonder rebellion has been great, all over the world and, here now, in the UK. So many are tired of not being valued; tired of their contribution not being acknowledged; their voices not being heard. The world is a fearful place right now.

So it would be understandable for many of us to experience a multitude of feelings at this time of year, in response to our outer environment. My hope is that there may be a little joy for each of us - but my realistic nature tells me that this is most likely not the truth. And I feel a deep sadness for those who suffer. 

Grief is never far away at this time of year. We mourn those who are no longer with us. That empty chair at the table. Or we grieve for what has been lost, or has never been or never could be. Loss is an important part of acknowledging the darkness that is all around us at Christmas. For many, the twinkling lights may bring some reprieve, lifting spirits and honouring those dear to us; whether they may be near or far. For others, it is a painful, unavoidable reminder of what is missing in their lives.

So how can us humans learn to follow nature's example and protect what is precious to each of us? I invite you to take note of what nourishes your roots; keeps you grounded; brings joy or expresses your values or passions. Music, art, cooking, gardening, singing, dancing, hobbies, your work, your community, your beliefs, your family, your friends... it will be a unique combination of resources- just as you are unique. 

Capture them somehow and keep them close. You could write them down, perhaps in a journal, or draw a sketch of a tree trunk with roots; writing each resource in a separate root. However you do it, the most important part is to remain connected to your sources of nourishment. Set yourself the intention to do at least one of them every day. They are what remind you of who you are and what matters to you - in a world of busy, noisy, influential expectations of who you should be. 

We live in a culture of shame - there is no denying it. The message being we are not enough just as we are. We need to be slimmer, fitter, prettier, in a relationship, have kids, earn so much money... more, more, more. What would it be like to live in a world where we could let go of all of that? What would it be like to feel we are enough?

The truth is, it would be wonderful, liberating, expansive and inclusive.

So perhaps we could all benefit from spending some downtime this winter; hibernating for a while, planting some seeds of hope and intention for the coming months. All new life begins in the darkness, gathering strength and momentum, until the moment it comes into the light and is witnessed and seen. 

Our well-being - whether it be emotional, physical, mental or spiritual - is in our hands. If we picture our life and the part we play differently from how it is; it is up to each and every one of us to create it. Nobody will do this for us.

We are made up of biological cells, as is all of nature. These cells renew themselves every seven years. This means we are a completely different person from seven years ago. For many, this brings comfort and hope.

The Irish poet David Whyte writes about courage as:

...the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future...

The word courage comes from the French word 'coeur', meaning heart. I truly believe that if we are brave enough to open our hearts to life and are guided by them, we will have everything we need. What will bring us contentment, joy and fulfilment is not to be found on the other side of the world or in the arms of another. It is to be found inside us; in our hearts, when we have fully embraced who we are. For those who have loved and lost, know that, in the end, love is all that matters. 

I wish for you, all that you would wish for yourself in 2023. Go gently. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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