Wise beyond her years, my friend Nicole wrote these words to me today:

Loving people is impossible. We shine our weakly powered headlamps into the jungles of each other and the light never seems to penetrate to the heart as we desire. It just can not get there. I suppose that’s the wisdom of praying to be lit from within.

Lit from within. This image has been with me all morning. In the midst of a frigid January (Accuweather predicts that the “Real Feel” in Brookline tonight—which I hope to miss altogether by being safely in bed next to the warm body of my favorite squeeze—will be -26) I am also struck by what it means to be in a winter phase of one’s life. Hibernative. Internal. Slowed down. The appearance of nothing happening.

But the “appearance of nothing happening” is not the complete picture. I reread this passage from Ralph Blum’s The Book of Runes—his description for casting Isa—the rune of standstill, “that which impedes”, ice. Maybe some of his words will speak to you as well:

The winter of the spiritual life is upon you. You may find yourself entangled in a situation to whose implications you are, in effect, blind. You may be powerless to do anything except submit, surrender, even sacrifice some long-cherished desire. Be patient, for this is the period of gestation that precedes a rebirth.

Positive accomplishment is unlikely now. There is a freeze on useful activity, all your plans are on hold. You may be experiencing an unaccustomed drain on your energy and wonder why: A chill wind is reaching you over the ice floes of old outmoded habits.

Trying to hold on can result in shallowness of feeling, a sense of being out of touch with life. Seek to discover what it is you are holding onto that keeps this condition in effect, and let go. Shed, release, cleanse away the old. That will bring on the thaw.

Usually Isa requires a sacrifice of the personal, the “I”. And yet there is no reason for anxiety. Submit and be still, for what you are experiencing is not necessarily the result of your actions or habits, but of the conditions of the time against which you can do nothing. What has been full must empty; what has increased must decrease. This is the way of Heaven and Earth. To surrender is to display courage and wisdom.

At such a time, do not hope to rely on help or friendly support. In your isolation exercise caution and do not stubbornly persist in attempting to work your will. Remain mindful that the seed of the new is present in the shell of the old, the seed of unrealized potential, the seed of the good. Trust your own process, and watch for signs of spring.


2 Replies to “Wintering”

  1. Hi DB!

    I came to Slow Muse tonight for some inspiration…and found it in your post on wintering. Reading this tonight reminded me that it’s ok to pause, and what might feel like a fallow period might be just a time to regroup rather than grasping for answers.

    Thanks for a gold mine of a blog….

  2. P, It isn’t a trivial phrase, “that it’s OK to pause”. I am heartened that you understand this too.

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