Each year the coming of winter tends to hit me like a wall of bricks. Suddenly it’s dark so early. Suddenly it’s raining all the time. Suddenly I feel sluggish, unmotivated, depressed. My blogs go silent, my mind goes fuzzy, I just want to sleeeeep.
And you know what? That’s OK.
Winter is supposed to be slow.
Taoism is a lot about following the natural rhythm of things. And the natural rhythm of winter is to hibernate. Many species do it in various forms. Bears and many other animals either hibernate of go into other kinds of reduced metabolic activity. Plants have different growth cycles and usually slow down or stop during the winter.
Our culture has this always-on mentality.
You should blog consistently. You’ve got to do marketing constantly, keep your numbers up. Keep in touch with your customers. Keep up on the industry. Stay informed, be on top of your game.
Blah. That’s not what winter is about.
That’s fine for spring or summer. But in the fall or winter, the natural order of things doesn’t support that kind of go-go-go energy.
It’s normal to get sluggish. Let yourself have it.
Fall and winter are Yin months. They are about slowing down, reviewing the growth of the past year, grieving and letting go (Samhain, Day of the Dead, Yom Kippur), pondering and considering, letting all the new growth settle in and integrate into your system.
When we push ourselves to go against our bodies inclinations, we court depression.
I wonder how much of seasonal depression is actually our internal resistance to just letting ourselves be slower during the winter.
Slow is not necessarily depressed. But I notice that if my inner-critic is going to town about how slow I am being, then I will get depressed. If I feel like napping and going for a walk instead of working, and make myself work, or jackal myself about how I ought to be working, that is really not going to contribute to a happy state of mind.
Our culture doesn’t get slowness. It’s seriously over-Yangified. That means you’ve got to take matters into your own hands.
Affirm winter, embrace winter.
I’m giving myself full permission to move with the rhythm of winter. To go slow, “produce” less, spend more time with feelings of sadness, take my time, adjust to the true pace of the season. (i.e. not the crazy frenetic pace of the “Christmas season”, which is so NOT a season. The season is winter, and the pace is slooooow.
Winter is about reconnecting to something deep and eternal. That takes time.
Death and grieving remind us of the shortness and preciousness of life. Slowing down, we drop what is unimportant or inconsequential. We remember what really matters and reconnect to it. This takes time, presence, quiet. This is the gift of winter. Let yourself have it.
James | Dancing Geek says
I’m making a concerted effort (thanks to the gift of perspective from my friends) to get more Yin in my world. Seems this is certainly the season for it 🙂
The smallness of the world these days certainly makes it tricky to balance these things – it’s summer in Australia right now, so what if we’re trying to work with Aussie friends? (I’m not, but the point remains). Of course, there’s lots of things you could do, like use the balance of one summer, one winter in what your doing. A bit of Yin *and* Yang can’t hurt 🙂
I like your thoughts on the depression coming from pushing against the natural order. SAD is treated with more light – I wonder if it can also be treated by accepting that Winter is a time of withdrawal and retreat?
I’m having a thing about expectations at the moment (in my head anyway) and again this seems appropriate. If we expect ourselves to be all go in Winter, we’re going to struggle and fight. Lose that expectation and suddenly we can see the benefits that you describe.
Thanks for sparking more thoughts, Emma. 🙂
I think a lot of depression could be treated with acceptance. There’s this book “Listening to Depression” that was really helpful for me. Depression itself is like a winter of the soul – it slows you down and forces you to look at things. I think it’s made worse through the stigma and expectation of always being chipper. Not to say it isn’t really painful sometimes – I take medication for the worst of it. But there is a gift in it that is lost in the quest to eradicate it.
Yes, the global economy creates this “always-on” mentality. Blah. I think in a decade or so humanity will collectively realize that the whole point of creating wealth/capital is so we can have a better life – not so we can work all the time to make more, more, more. We create these expectations that just make life miserable.
I’d rather be guided by the question: “What’s alive in me today?” than, “What do I need to get done today?”.
Speaking of which, what’s alive in me right now is to go for a walk and get a burrito. =)
Thanks for reading and chiming in James. =)
Weird. But in the best possible way. I took a break from drafting my next newsletter to catch up on my favorite blogs – and lo you’ve have written so eloquently about the very same subject I’ve been reflecting on all morning.
Our culture *is* so very yangified. We really don’t know what to do with slow – in our businesses, in our lives, in our economy – even when our spirits are crying for a time out. But autumn and winter are beautiful, essential periods of rejuvenation. I agree – let yourself have and enjoy it.
I like this idea – embracing the winter. Of course winter is 8 months here which makes for a lot of Yin.
blaire allison, the love guru says
loved this post!
love this line ==> (so agree w/this thought) I wonder how much of seasonal depression is actually our internal resistance to just letting ourselves be slower during the winter