Ancient wisdom tells us that Winter is a time for rest and renewal. But in our culture we turn on the lights, turn up the heat, get some caffeine and keep on truckin’. Some music with a downbeat fills the emptiness quite well.
What is the consequence to have no Winter in our lives? And what is rest and renewal anyway? Ah, I’m too busy to consider these questions, and I have some Facebook, or maybe YouTube to attend to anyway.
But at some point, your body and soul, yes your soul, cry out for something besides action, busyness, results, distraction, and stimulation. The well goes dry, and your spirit knocks on the door. Do you answer the door?
What is Winter? It is not just the absence of summer.
What is Winter? It is not just the absence of summer. Ancient wisdom tells us that Winter is the down side of any cycle of energy, when there is more darkness than light, and when natural rhythms slow down. It is also when seeds rest in the season and prepare for the future Spring. It is the season of germination. The season of depths and new emergence from the deep, the season of the inarticulate parts of us that are more real than what we can say about them.
It is also the season where we sense that which is beyond our senses. When we seem to be in closer touch with the unseen parts of ourselves and of our world, sensing what is moving in the dramatic shifts from a past day to a long night, leading to a new day.
What day do we move into, the day that will repeat yesterday? Or will we open to a tomorrow that may be a totally different
What day do we move into, the day that will repeat yesterday? Or will we open to a tomorrow that may be a totally different, rich, and meaningful day with possibilities beyond even our imagining?
Winter is traditionally a time to slow down, meditate, connect to what is beyond ourselves, to let the deeper parts of ourselves emerge, and to prepare for a new emergence, a new transition, a new sprouting of our possibilities.
But when we have no Winter we just trudge along in the grind of our drift, keeping up with our to-do lists, clenching to keep the wheels turning when the energy is lower. Perhaps we don’t need to keep the wheels turning. Perhaps we need rest and renewal.
In the cycle of energy from inner wisdom traditions we go from peaks of the fiery energy of action, coordination, and creating to a season of harvest. This is followed by a time of letting go, as Fall lets go of the leaves, to enter into the Winter depths. But Winter is honored for its gifts. It is not just seen as an impediment to the old game, to the actions and results we are focused on. It is a gift for reopening the depths and seeing what really wants to come forth in our lives. It is a valuable transition point that cannot be achieved any other way. We need rest and renewal, not just a continuation of the effort and drive.
Rest is associated with a Pause. Renewal is associated with a Stop.
Rest is associated with a Pause. The Pause interrupts action in order to refresh the energy to continue, and to pick up where you left off. Renewal, however, is not just a Rest. Renewal is associated with a Stop. Stopping is not just Pausing. Stopping is open to choose a new path, not just resuming the old one. With Stopping, we don’t just pause and rest to resume the game. In Stopping we reflect and choose whether the old game is worth returning to, whether there is a new and different game to play – perhaps a game that is healthier, more meaningful, valuable, and loving.
Pausing is getting off the bike, Stopping is getting off the bike and choosing
Pausing is getting off the bike to refresh your energy and resume your journey. Stopping is getting off the bike and choosing whether you will get back on the bike at all, and if you do, whether you will still go where you were going.
Renewal provides the opening for something new to emerge, for a transformation that may shift the entire trajectory of the future. It is the space for what is new, what is possible, for resuming action in a different way, perhaps in a new direction. It is letting your soul have a voice and a choice. Without listening to our soul, we make our lives a sacrifice to efficiency and fall into resignation with our lack of choice. When we Stop, we can listen to our soul – the deep calling in us to our aliveness.
The current common sense of our production-oriented culture makes us slaves to external results, and does not recognize or honor the demands of inner rest or renewal. It is impatient to get back to work. It is impatient to work harder and produce more. Rest is allowed only when exhaustion sets in. You are not rewarded for your hard work and sacrifice, you are discarded if you cannot recover quickly. You are only allowed to return to the traces, to pound the next stone into dust.
In our work as professionals our culture teaches us to initiate, plan, execute, and drive for the outcomes. For most of us it does not include the moments of completion and letting go. It does not include Rest. It does not include Stopping to see what new is possible. It usually doesn’t even let you rest enough to be refreshed, only to be able to attend enough that your absence will not be noticed. It does not include Renewal.
But inspired, passionate work in service to the value we produce for others can only flow with the full energy of refreshing rest. The cycle of learning from our projects and efforts, of seeing what new is possible only comes from practices for renewing – to go full stop before we begin again.
We can learn this power if we listen to the lessons of the seasons, if we learn the power of Fall and Winter. We can have the possibilities of a Spring of transformation of our possibilities if we have truly rested, stopped, and renewed. We can have a year with more seasons than spring, summer, and harvest.
This is not limited only to the seasons of the year. Rest and Renewal are part of a cycle we can learn to incorporate into our projects, into our days and weeks, into our listening, and into each of our breaths. We can have the power of practices for rest and renewal refresh us and open our possibilities.
How do we learn rest and renewal?
How do we learn rest and renewal? Our culture mistakes learning as understanding ideas, to accumulate “knowledge.” But to learn wisdom is to learn beyond concepts, to learn in our bodies, in our sense of life, and the very spirit of our living.
Let Winter become something to notice and feel, not an idea to have assessments about. Don’t just push it away by jacking up the temperature and the stimulation, and paying attention only to the schedule and action list. Reflect on learning a rhythm for resting and on a practice of reflection for renewal. Let your life energy touch you rather than just the external demands.
Winter is a time for rest and renewal. But the time for rest and renewal can also be part of the rhythm of our aliveness, just like our heart beating and our lungs breathing. It can be part of the rhythm of our projects, our work, our organizational cultures, and our everyday living. I invite you to explore how to bring the rhythms of rest and renewal into your work, your living, and your life journey.
What wants to come through you that is your own unique voice, energy, and calling? Stop. Choose what path you will return to, and what destination you will head for. Your life is at stake.
My gratitude to my teachers of ancient inner wisdom traditions: Thea Elijah, Alexander and Veronica Love, Richard Dorrance, and the ancient ones.
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