In Preparation for Winter: A Time to Turn Inward and Hide

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I don’t want to do any of the things I normally do. I just want to run away and hide.”

I’ve been hearing these types of statements a lot recently. Friends, colleagues, healers, and clients alike have reported feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by everything from endless reports of natural disasters to the simple tasks of their everyday lives. But what if there is nothing wrong with us at all. What if instead, our desire for retreat is just our internal wisdom telling us it’s time to prepare for a much needed season of rest?

DSCF2895.JPGThe season of Harvest is all but complete. Fall has already arrived in many parts of the country with Winter right on its heels. Fall is the season of preparation for Winter, where doing nothing is the right and perfect activity. In Five Element wisdom, Winter embodies a season that includes hibernation, death, gestation, and stillness. These forces are at play in both the natural world, and in our inner landscapes. Whether we recognize the need for rest consciously or not, we feel it calling to us in our very tired bones.

Pressed by demands of continual productivity, we fear the very idea of slowing down, of taking a break. Though we want nothing more than to quiet our minds and our activities, retreating into our self-constructed caves of isolation, rest, however, is not a culturally acceptable season in which to linger. But rest is exactly what our bodies and spirits crave, and a season of Winter is the perfect prescription.

“Imbued with the qualities of contemplation, reflection, meditation, and conservation, in the Winter seasons of our lives, we will come to more fully appreciate the core essence of life itself. With its long dark nights, Winter is the perfect time to work on our inner landscapes. When we make good use of this rest we remain more resilient to life’s changes, able to move with the unexpected without fretting unduly over an uncertain future.” –from Soul of the Seasons (c) 2017, Melody A Scout

When we press ourselves into over-work and over-stimulation we create imbalance. An imbalance in the season of Winter can show up as anxiety, hyper-activity, fearful striving, adrenal exhaustion, aggression, and mind-racing, just to name a few. Overwhelmed by our busy schedules. we may believe we don’t have time to rest, but rest is exactly what we need.

Mother Earth wisely knows the importance of quality rest. The natural world retreats and signs of life go into hiding. Forced growth and activity during this season can even result in death, so all unnecessary activities die away during the Big Sleep that is Winter.

During Fall we can prepare for the coming Big Sleep by making the proper preparations to sustain us both internally and externally. Much in the same way we save for a vacation, carving out time and resources for time off, we can make sure we have the means and resources for extended periods of rest. To avoid a crash and build resilience we can take small daily breaks that restore body, mind, and spirit through getting quality sleep, and setting aside periods of time for napping, meditation, and contemplation.

In preparation for Winter take some time to consider the following questions:

What can I do now to prepare for an extended season of rest?

How can I incorporate seasons of rest into my every day schedule?

How do I avoid or resist rest?

What in my life needs a good death?

Winter streamThe power encoded within the act of retreating from our everyday lives is perfectly reflected in this poem by David Whyte.

HIDING

is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.

Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named. We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others. What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.

Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control. Hiding is a bid for independence, from others, from mistaken ideas we have about our selves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.

© David Whyte: March 2014: Excerpted from ‘HIDING’ From the upcoming book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

Melody A Scout is a Plant Spirit Medicine practitioner, Sacred Landscape Designer, and the author of the upcoming book, Soul of the Seasons which reveals the wisdom of Five Element medicine through the template of the seasons of the natural world.

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Post-Irma Reflections

20170910_173928In the past week or so the whole world watched as hurricane Irma formed, then steamed headlong toward Florida, tracking up the full length of the peninsula. Glued to our TVs and mobile devices perpetually tuned into weather channels or the National Hurricane Center, we locked our attention on the massive hurricane’s ever-changing projected path as she spread her skirts wide across the Carribean. With warmer than normal temps in the Atlantic ocean and Gulf of Mexico, Irma quickly built to a dangerous Category 5+ hurricane.

Like many here in Florida  my excitement, worry, fear, hope, irritation, panic, and gratitude cycled around as I made my storm preparations. And, although I saw a few panicked people rushing to buy plywood, bottled water, and gas, many  others extended kindness, patience, and generosity to those soon to be displaced by the impending storm.

Mind-boggling systems of support, rescue, and recovery–both public and private–were mobilized and set into place. On social media people set up groups to track lost pets, check on loved ones in Irma’s path, locate available shelters, where to find gas and water, the latest evacuation routes, the best charities to donate to, and the latest weather reports. We posted pre- and post-hurricane tips.  We told stories and posted pictures of past disasters we’d weathered. We shared memes that made us laugh hysterically and others that broke our hearts. Image may contain: cat and text

 

We posted “Be safe!” and “Please check in when you can.” over and over again on the walls of friends, colleagues, family and loved ones. One Facebook friend remarked that “Be safe!” sounded a lot like “I Love You!” so we started posting that too.

 

Having made preparations as best we could we crossed fingers and toes and formed prayer circles as Irma approached. We threw parties, long a tradition here in the Gulf states, toasting Irma with Hurricanes and smoothies and martinis, and visualized blowing her back out to sea. Someone vowed to take a drink every time they came across the word “hunker” and quickly became inebriated.

Disheartened, we watched the destruction on the islands that preceded Irma’s impending landfall on the mainland of Florida and counted it a good enough reason to break into our hurricane snacks.  People made shelters in their hallways and bathrooms, supposedly the safest places to be during a storm. We saw pictures of cocoons constructed out of mattresses and pillows and forts made up for furry friends. Some donned helmets and others tucked chickens into their shower stalls.

Though thoroughly engrossed and entertained by the 24-hour coverage, I took breaks from Irma-watching to do a job for a friend, visit with another friend, and to spend time on the beach. Though we were not in the hurricane’s projected path here in the panhandle, Irma’s power was so vast she stirred up the waters, affecting tides and currents 500 or more miles away. The pull of her winds created tides so low people could walk far out into the sands. At my local beach, the Gulf was offering up larger than normal waves. Red and purple flags signaled warnings of dangerous marine life, rip currents, and a brisk northeasterly wind.20170909_164802b

I’m like a kid at a birthday party with an impending storm and I have to make sure I don’t overdose on excitement. Going to the beach both calms and opens me. I found myself standing for long moments, gazing far into the horizon, feeling the power of the sea in my solar plexus. To conserve energy the seagulls huddled up near the dunes. Tucked out of the winds, they looked sleepy.20170910_174928a A few surfers took advantage of the waves while other beachgoers scoured the shore for newly offered shells. Back home I posted pictures of the beach, told everyone I could think of “I love you!” and “Be safe!” After updating the latest hurricane stats and sent out prayers, I gave up and went to bed.

During the day on Monday I watched as Irma changed direction and intensity once again, heading further inland as it blew up the middle of the state. As she went, she quickly lost steam, doing far less damage than we had first feared. Waves of relief flooded over me as people began assessing damage and checking in. No one I knew personally suffered injury or had significant damage to their homes. Governmental and Emergency support teams already in place moved into action, clearing roads and restoring utilities as quickly as possible.

The damage from Irma is not slight and the total assessment of loss has yet to be calculated but we are grateful things were not worse. There’s the usual bickering and complaining about not enough being done but on the whole, community stepped up. We were there for each other, looking out for our neighbors, and offering whatever help we could.

Just as with hurricane Harvey in Texas a few days earlier, I am reminded once again that the majority of Americans are kind, generous souls who support each other when in need. Though we are grateful for federal assistance when it’s given, we can organize and mobilize and step up, even when our government can’t or won’t. My heart opens wide seeing all these examples of community at work.

Our hurricane season is not over yet so we cannot fully let down our guard. In the days and months ahead there will be much to do and much to learn. I continue to pray for those who have lost everything and will have to rebuild, repair, or relocate. Some veterans of powerful hurricane Andrew that struck Miami 25 years ago are feeling re-traumatized. Physical, emotional, and financial support will be needed for a long time to come.

Thank you to all of my friends and family who checked in on me and offered prayers of safety and support and shelter, should I need it. I am grateful beyond words. Let’s not forget to continue in our prayers and support for those devastated by hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and forest fires everywhere. try not to judge the difficult decisions people have to make when tragedy befalls them.

Just watching these disasters unfold can be exhausting, not to mention recovering from one. The initial surge of adrenaline from the excitement will soon wear off and can leave us feeling exhausted, irritable, and melancholy. Take breaks when needed.  Laugh when you can. Eat well. Sleep. Get a hug. Give a hug. Know you are loved.