3 Wisdom Practices for the Winter Season
Winter brings shorter days, less sunlight, and colder weather. It can seem like you are cut off from Source with the increased darkness, which can bring about sadness and the blues. Many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder at this time of year. Since I’m one of those people who doesn’t invite winter with a warm welcome, I’m going to join you in this conversation on finding the wisdom of winter.
One of my favorite and beloved teachers, Dr. David Simon, often taught tidbits of Vedic wisdom in meditation seminars. He spoke about time and existence being one of a great big exhalation and inhalation. It’s the dynamic of giving and receiving or one of expending energy and conserving energy. In applying this philosophy to the seasons, we can reason this way. Winter is the inhalation of the planet. It withdraws, conserves, rests, and reforms itself. The output of energy is minimal. But lying under the surface, much is going on. The inner workings of the plant life are forming buds and nourishing the soil for the next season. Many animals hibernate to prepare for the burst of new life with the procreation and birth of baby animals in the spring. When the earth begins to exhale in the spring, what an explosion of beauty!
Let’s try to apply this to our lives. What inner work do you need to do to burst forth with amazing beauty in the spring? Try a few of these reflective meditations to discover the hidden gems that lie beneath the surface in your life, awaiting to emerge.
1. The Soul Questions
I was first exposed to the soul questions in Deepak Chopra’s book, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire. I will never forget where I was (France), and what year it was (2005), because those questions totally changed my perspective and my life. The answers to those questions led me to the path I’m on now, more than 11 years after I first did this exercise.
Here are the soul questions:
- Who am I?
- What do I want?
- What is my purpose?
Follow these steps to make this exercise a meditation.
- Start with a blank piece of lined paper and a writing utensil. Use freehand rather than an electronic device so your pure energy can flow through your hand to the paper. Make sure you’re in a quiet space with no distractions, since this is a meditation. Allow about 20 to 30 minutes for the exercise.
- On the top of the paper, write the question, “Who am I?”. After closing your eyes for a minute or two, take a couple of deep breaths, and begin answering the question on the paper. Ask the same question to yourself 25 times. It doesn’t matter if your answers are the same or different, just write what comes up.
- Then go to your next question, “What do I want?” Repeat the question 25 times and write down the answers.
- Finally, ask, “What is my purpose?” following the same format with the other two questions. Another way to say this is, “What are my God-given talents?” Or, “How can I help and serve?” I’ve found that this one is the hardest question to answer. However, allow yourself to be open to the wisdom of the universe. It will come through to you in this meditation.
At the end of the meditation, thank the universe for the answers you received. You can repeat this meditation whenever you feel the need. As you change, expand, and grow, you will see that your answers will too change.
2. Simplify Your Space
Complicated living can lead to extra stress, especially in the winter. Your schedule might be overstuffed with things to do. Or your home might be crammed with clutter. Then, when you’re stuck indoors, being faced with “too much” of anything can overwhelm you.
Without actually doing anything, you can make decisions on how you’d like to simplify your life by doing a mindfulness meditation:
- Start by going into a room in your home.
- Sit on the floor, take in a few deep breaths. You can even light a candle or incense.
- Call in the energy of the room and feel it. Look around the room and observe what makes you feel good and smile.
- Then, look at the objects that make you not feel so good. You might see piles of papers, broken or rejected items, or even furniture you’ve always disliked.
- Make a decision to simplify your life by getting rid of the things that make you unhappy or that bring in stagnant energy.
In Ayurveda, the basic element of space or akasha, is not simply emptiness or vastness, it’s pure potential. When you clear your spaces through simplifying your life, you allow creativity to flow into your life. You can also do this with your schedule, your body, or your “to-do” list.
3. Gratitude and Giving Practice
When I get into my whiny, complaining mode of, “I hate winter. It’s so cold, and I hate being cold. Snow and ice are so terrible,” I try to remember that I need to be grateful. I do this as a walking meditation. I walk throughout my house or I do this when I’m driving. I am so grateful to have electricity and heat in the winter. I’m grateful to have my beautiful house. I’m grateful for my health and the health of my children. I’m grateful for the winter solstice and that the days get longer afterward (when the planet starts to exhale again). When I’m in my car, I look around to nature and start to get grateful.
What things can you be grateful for in the winter? Take it all in.
When you realize you have so much, you can begin the process of giving and blessing others. That is your version of exhaling. You can give away everything you no longer need to charities. You can give of your time. You can give a smile when you don’t feel like smiling. You can give someone your full attention.
Finally, look at each winter day as preparation for something wonderful. You’re conserving your energy and building yourself from the inside out so you can shine as the winter melts into spring. And remember, it’s only in pure darkness where you can see the most stars.
Ready to go even further? Join us at the Chopra Center’s Women’s Retreat. Click here to learn more.