“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 repeated 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?
Here in the U.S. the season of Harvest is complete and Fall has arrived with Winter right on its heels. Fall is where we prepare for the fallow season of Winter. In Five Element wisdom, Winter embodies the processes of hibernation, death, gestation, and stillness; it is the season where doing nothing is the right and perfect activity. These forces are at play in both the natural world, and in our inner landscapes.
But pressed by internal and external demands for continual productivity, we often fear (the core emotion of Winter) the very idea of slowing down, of taking a break. Though we want nothing more than to quiet our minds and our activities, to retreat into our self-constructed caves of isolation, rest, however, is not a culturally acceptable season in which to linger. Deep rest, however, is exactly what our bodies and spirits crave and Winter’s rest is the perfect prescription for the weary ache that seems to be embedded in our very bones. .
“Imbued with the qualities of contemplation, reflection, meditation, and conservation, enveloped by Winter’s deep rest, we can 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
Every living being on the planet requires a season of rest to build resilience, and for restoration and rejuvenation. 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. 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 as most signs of life go into hiding. Forced growth and activity during this season would result in death for many beings, so all unnecessary activities die away during the Big Sleep that is Winter.
Fall’s purpose then, is to prepare for the coming Big Sleep by setting aside the necessities that can sustain us both internally and externally. Much in the same way we save for a vacation by carving out time and resources for time off, we can make plans to ensure we have the means and resources necessary for regular periods of rest. Taking small daily breaks that restore body, mind, and spirit, getting quality sleep, and setting aside periods of time for napping, meditation, and contemplation can help us to build resilience and avoid burnout.
As Winter looms on the horizon, 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?
The power encoded within the act of retreating from our everyday lives is perfectly reflected in this poem by David Whyte.
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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