Winter Rest

I looked out the kitchen window this morning to a very different garden than the one I’ve enjoyed over the summer. The bushy plants were gone. Everything was cut back, sharp and stark. The lush rose bushes, red, white and yellow were now only thorny stumps. Vines were cut back to their base, leaves had all dropped and new topsoil compost had been laid leaving a black blanket of empty space that replaced a once happy floral and herbal tapestry. “Winter has arrived,” I thought.

copyright Devan Freeman @free_devan / Unsplash

I asked my wife Lalita, “what happened to the garden!”

“I helped the gardener put it to bed yesterday.”

“Funny way to say it,” I said and drifted off with my coffee in hand to think about the purpose and meaning of winter. It reminded me of the Biblical quote that says that everything has a season, a time and purpose. It’s obvious that everything in nature needs a break, a time to rest and rejuvenate. Winter is a time when everything slows down, when seeds have their ‘winter rest’ in preparation for germination in the spring.

“Do you think that people also need a winter rest?” I asked Lalita.

“I do, but we don’t really get it anymore. We are too busy. The on switch is always on. We are all striving to get the next thing done, or the thing after that.”

“It seems that we rarely stop along the way to take in the view and be present to where we are at.”

“We’ve lost connection to the seasons and their importance to us,” she suggested.

“How so? We have the holiday season, we go on ski trips, or summer beach holidays. We haven’t lost touch totally.”

“Perhaps not in that way, but I think we’ve lost connection to what the seasons mean in a deeper symbolic sense, which I think is important for our psychic, emotional and physical health.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“Winter is a time for going within, literally and metaphorically. I think of it as a time of reflection and meditation. It’s a time for quiet listening to what our intuition and heart tells us. When we do that, we have a chance of finding new and better ways of doing things. We grow and develop. Instead of driving forward relentlessly, taking time out to reflect and assess seems a very healthy thing to me.”

“I hear this a lot from clients, how they would like to stop and take stock but ‘just don’t have the time.’”

“Taking time to prune keeps a garden healthy. Cutting back creates new growth. Stronger growth.”

“But, if you’ll pardon a gardening pun, that runs against the grain of most people. We get attached to what we know and shy away from change, what to speak of intentionally creating it.”

“I agree, it takes a bit of courage and some discipline to stop and pare back to what really matters, to what really serves us well. But if we do, things get lighter and clearer. It feels good too and helps us focus on what counts.”

“Discipline, courage, and cutting back to simplify are aspects of the Dharma principle of Effort.”

“I’ve always thought there was a hidden wisdom in gardening,” she said smiling.

“The gist of it for me is that we should recognise that, like all things in nature, we need time to go within and reflect. To stay healthy, we have to stop from time to time — and look and listen to the deeper part of us. Otherwise, we just keep going along doing what we always do, ending up like a tangled overgrown garden.”

“Indeed. Winter is an obvious time for such reflection. But my experience tells me that we need to tend our inner garden a little every day. That keeps us healthy, agile, fresh and responsive. Leaving it too long makes for bigger work when at some point we come to realise that our soul, our inner world needs cultivating too.”

“And we always get to that point, sooner or later, don’t we!”

“Stop. Breathe. Reflect. The quality of your life will improve.”

“Is it that simple?”

“Look to nature. She shows the way.”

 

—Michael

 

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nice reminder about the natural rhythms of life! I was sad 😢 to see and feel the fall back, time change. I always like longer days so I can be externally engaged and busy, yet I soon found pleasure,comfort and respite in the darker cooness of the earlier setting sun and now actually look forward to it each day 🏵️🙏.

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  2. Avatar

    Interesting. I’ve been in India for many winters now, and I really miss the quiet introspection of a northern winter.

    Reply

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