The practice of wintering down is one that I’ve come to love and embrace so much more in the past decade. Summer and Autumn are such powerful seasons of energy and movement that by the time Winter makes her way, the slowing down is welcome.
In nature, winter allows for plants to become dormant, storing up energy for the seasons ahead. They shed their parts that have used up all energies from the season, and become barren, stripping back into the foundations in order to become anew.
Although everything seems frozen and dead, life is quietly renewing and unfolding deep in the darkness. In humans, we have the deep pull to do the same. Winter begs of us a slower pace in life in order to create new beginnings. This is the time of year to strip back energy output in order to restore our energy source. A time to prune unnecessary things in our lives to allow for new growth ahead. In the stillness of winter, we can hear ourselves. We can turn inward in the quiet to access our deeper state of being. Winter requires a reorganization of your daily processes in order to actually be able to slow down and reap the benefits of this season. Here are some of my winter practices to hopefully inspire you to enjoy the slowness of the season.
Where is your energy going? What commitments have you made that feel as though they’re taking more from you than giving? Are you currently losing energy in ways you are no longer aligned with? Winter is a good time to take inventory on where you’re spending your precious time and energy and ask yourself if this still in harmony with your vision. If not, know that you have the right to trim back in order to reassign your energy where it fulfills your journey and purpose.
LISTEN Take some of the spare time you have created this winter to sit and be still. Find a cozy spot, warm and inviting. Burn a bit of sage or sweetgrass and be still. Allow yourself to do nothing. Put the phone away. Sit through what might feel uncomfortable anxiousness to “do” and see what arises. Listen to your feelings, your thoughts. Notice anything that comes up. When we allow for stillness, we can get insight into the state of our mind and our heart. Beyond that we can access our creative juices. Be still.
I’ve had a long term relationship with meditation for many years. However, I put myself into a cruise control and let go of my practice, wrongly believing I was full of meditative skills that trumped actual practice. A long time without daily practice had an impact on my mind that was quite visible to me. I increasingly became involved and lost in the mind’s stories. I was pulled every which way emotionally in the ebbs and flows of the mind’s chatter. Once I realized this, I started up my practice again, noting that it wasn’t going to be beneficial to ever stop my practice. Meditation is how we pull away from the non stop stimulation of the world and how our mind interprets the world. It’s how we learn to observe instead of engage. It’s how we can gain new perspective, increase self awareness, enjoy the present moment, decrease negativity, and keep connection to our spirit. It’s everything. In the winter months, begin your meditation practice or lengthen your current practice. Pair meditation with the deep quieting and the energetic rebuild of winter.
Whether it’s yoga or running or kickboxing, move. Winter months beg of us to slow down and dive into deep relaxing. However, it is not a time to let go of movement practices. Your body and spirit need the movement just as much now as anytime throughout the year. And for anyone who suffers from seasonal depression, movement can help combat that by the release of endorphins and serotonin. This is the body’s way of fighting depressive spells. It’s possible what you do to move through the rest of the year feels like it doesn’t fit in winter. This is a good opportunity to change up your movement practice. If the gym doesn’t feel good for you in the winter, perhaps a home yoga practice works. If you’re a runner and the winter is too cold for you, perhaps you might look at the gym for running. Don’t sleep on movement during the winter. Take care of your body by giving it the gift of movement.
Drink to your health The Earth has provided so many herbs for health that I had never even heard of until later on in life. Yet once discovered, I experienced this deep thirst for the herbs and ever since I have been enjoying the benefits of herbs. Find a local apothecary and ask for a few good winter herbs that really shine during the colder months. Enjoy the act of brewing your teas or infusions. Take time to really drink in the herbs, cold or hot. Make a ritual out of your herbs. Let that evening tea be a nod of self love. Let that morning elixir be a reminder of your commitment to good health. Fall into deep connection with the earth as you take in her creations for good health. A few herbs I love in the winter are Oatstraw, Burdock Root, Linden and Holy Basil.
For me, staying on track with sleep is easy. Many years ago I made it a priority to get my 8 hours of sleep a night. In order to do this, I had to demote the things that were taking away from it: late dinners, leisurely time wasting that would cost me time in the sheets. Whatever I prioritized over sleep I began to put secondary. On average I’m sleeping 8 hours a night now with just an occasional less-than night usually due to travel. In the winter, as you carve out more time for yourself, use this time to really get to know your sleep habits. If you learn that you’re typically less than 8 hours, start to notice what gets in the way of reaching the health minimum of 8. Build a nightly practice that allows for a good night of sleep. Look at ways to shave off time in the day that will give you the ability to get into bed at a time that sets you up for a full night. There are so many studies on the benefits of sleep and it’s impact on our health. Check out Matthew Walker’s book if you aren’t aware of what 8 hours does for you, or the impact the lack thereof will do to you.
Allow yourself to receive the gifts that winter brings by incorporating practices that support your great reboot. I wish you a deep rebirth this winter.