Does it happen every year, this disconnection to myself in the dark days of winter? Sages tell us it should be the opposite: a deepening into spiritual practice as the days grow shorter, the night calling us to enfold ourselves into a quieter, less distracted state.
For me, this year has been a winter of increasing disconnection from spirit, from soul, arguably at the very time I need it the most. Why? Because of the angst of the world, the turbulence in our democracy, the illness of friends, my own aging body….
A perfect storm of concerns that seems to have led me to neglect my inner landscape in favor of time-honored distractions, ie, consuming too much dark chocolate (“it’s good for me”), buying too many books (“Oh, this one has a more optimistic view of the future”), too many movies, even as I recoil from the parade of violence and despair so many portray.
What have I been searching for?
Whatever it is, I have been behaving as if it is out there.
And I know better. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the Holy Grail, the Kingdom of God, all are to be found within. I have been guilty of a spiritual amnesia. Weary, perhaps, of this lofty stuff, settling for small consumptions, stemming from a culturally-sanctioned concept of the human appetite.
But now, happily, I have come to realize I am hungry for something else, something I know in my bones, for the body, the mind, the soul are truly One.
How do I get so far astray? Oh, I can follow the breadcrumbs backwards, to complaining about the winter weather so that I neglected to my walking meditation (“it’s cold and rainy”); boredom with vegetables, craving sugar (“I need more energy to keep going”); checking my phone too often, and all the rest.
I am very good at nourishing others, at joining with my clients in an exploration of how they conceive of caring for themselves, but this winter I starved myself in spirit, in favor of what Ronna Kabatznick in The Zen of Eating calls “the numinous muffin”. And I didn’t even know it. .
So as I read about renewable energy and wonder about the future of the planet, can I turn to my own need for renewable, sustainable energy of the soul?
What does this look like this morning, as I watch a Beewick’s wren run along the fence beneath the brilliant yellow blossoms of the forsythia?
It looks like gratitude, for the spring, for the emerging of new life.
It looks like acceptance, that in spite of my aging body and all its new needs, I am still vital, and have a lot of energy to sit with people, share ideas, and listen. Stephen Hawkings said, when asked about his life with ALS, “In my mind, I am free.” Wonderful role-modeling for all of us as we watch our bodies change with the biology of time.
It looks like discernment: turning off the violent movies, and limiting consumption of political news. I don’t want to isolate myself from the world, but I have been too fascinated with this Winter of Trumpian Discontent. I need to heed the advice of a dear friend who recently told me, “don’t turn it on”. I do want to stay connected enough to be aware of what petitions to sign, what causes to support, and what to say when I call my Congresswoman, but I’m definitely starting to limit my intake of the madness.
Renewable energy of the soul also looks like changing my perspective on consumption: smelling the rapture of the Mr. Chocolate store without going in to raid the samples. Stir-frying those vegetables, and remembering the farmer who grew them, the soil of the Earth that nourished them. Not buying another flowered blouse in a vain attempt to feel the blooming of my soul by wearing blossoms on my body!
Energy of the soul also looks like joy. Finding it in every exchange in life: the funny waddle of a toddler in front of me at the bookstore; a text from my granddaughter; stopping to take in the brilliant pink of the cherry blossoms along the trail, and taking that moment to listen to the peace and blessed silence within my own self.
Where do you find sustainable, renewable, joy of the soul, in the bounty of the outer, and inner spring?