Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lessons from the Winter

  I'm amazed at how much my understanding of paganism has grown over the last several months. One of the lessons I'm currently learning is about the role of winter in the cycle of the year. For most of my life, I've had a love/hate relationship with winter. I've always looked forward to the excitement of Christmas and the possibility of snow, but soon enough, I grew tired of trudging through the long, cold months of January and February. The winter seemed too long, too cold, too dreary. Though I loved the cool fall that came before it, I would have skipped much of winter if I had the choice.

  I am learning that there is an inherent value in the season of winter, apart from singing about jingle bells and playing in the snow. Something that makes it worthwhile even when I would like nothing more than to hole up in my apartment and hibernate until the spring comes. On the wheel of the year, winter is the time when the earth is sleeping. At Yule, a spark was born, but we still have a long way to go before we see it grow to its full height in the world around us. This time is seen as a time for reflection and going within. A time of fulfilling the Delphi maxim, Know thyself. I don't think this means spending hours each night in meditation. I think it means honing an awareness of oneself, not just through planned times of reflection, but simply through the ordinary activity of daily life. If we remain open to the universe around us, I think that as we live, we will learn and grow.

  In the past, I felt like I was doing something wrong when I didn't feel like spending time in nature in the winter, like it must be detrimental to my spirituality. But now, I see it as a part of the cycle. Much like many animals hide away to keep warm at this time, we go inside to get away from the harsh winter weather. Though I think it's important to visit with nature every now and then, it's okay to feel this way. It's just natural. Instead of being out and about enjoying the sun, as we do in the warmer months, we gather together with others who matter to us and we have time to engage in activities that we might be distracted from at other times. We decorate our homes to make them feel warm and inviting, refuges from the snow and cold outside our doors. We bake warm goodies for our families, and snuggle up with the ones we love. Through the long, hard parts of winter, we can learn about endurance.  And when the light finally returns, we will experience the joy of the spring in a way we never could had we not gone through the dark of winter first. As John Steinbeck once wrote, "What good is the warmth of spring without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?"

  My wish for you all is that you have a warm winter full of love, and that you let the winter teach you what it will!

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