Transitions in the seasons of the soul

I think there are multiple layers to the manifestation of inner seasons.

The internal season

On occasion in the past I have been very conscious of a specific internal season, particularly of winters of the soul as times of dormancy, retreat, grieving even. This is one layer and, from this perspective, I see myself now as in a transition from a winter that has been a time of  mystery, of deep and subtle transformation, of stillness and silence, of hidden growth requiring patience and faith. 

What has been interesting is that, in paying attention to the shift in nature these last weeks, I sense that it is not some human failing that we rarely transition smoothly; if this is the path nature takes then it seems to me that the two-steps forward one-step back dance is an inherent aspect of the character of change.

Thaw - land steepingI see the land, still frozen, steeping in the thaw water that it is not yet ready to absorb, grungy, muddy, yet with hints of the possibility of spring. And I realize that I am content to live this within my own transition, to steep in a flood of insights that I am not yet fully able to soak up. I see the lake existing as thick white ice, clear glass and sparkling open water simultaneously and something inside me whispers ‘yes!’ in affirmation and recognition.  In focusing on the subtleties and nuances of this time between winter and spring, I am newly comfortable in my own space of between.

Water in three states - between seasons

Carrying all the seasons within

At another level, I am aware that I carry all the seasons within me, and can draw on the riches of each as I need or choose at any given time.

The turning of the year

Finally, there is the part of me that responds to the turning of the year, increasingly delighting in the changing rhythms that inform my living in both the exterior and interior worlds.

As winter leaves the lake . . .

 

Now, in this time of increasing intimacy with both the natural and the inner world, each season, each new manifestation, each day of brilliant sunshine or unrelenting rain, each moment, is becoming equally precious. This is becoming almost as true for the seasons of the soul as those of the year’s turning. I try to sit with each, knowing that all things pass.

 

Dancing down the drive to snow music

Snow music
 
Ice crust

My feet 
find a beat
on the drum-tight shell
of ice-topped snow;

a crisp rattle,
then a tinkling, skittering
whisper of melody.

And I dance –
to the song that I hear
and to hear the music
of my dance!

February 13, 2018

 

Yes, for the last two days I have been dancing joyfully down our drive, delighting in the crispness of the air and beneath my feet and the unfamiliar soundscape!

What does nature mean to me? Why is it important?

I was ever a child of nature, integrally connected with the rhythm of the seasons and with a strong link between external and internal realities.

Nature’s place in my life is as a sweet familiar melody running through my living,
it speaks the language of my soul;

it connects my roots to the beating heart of Mother earth
and it centers me in ‘now’ and ‘am’;

it lifts me out of the mire of day to day concerns;
gifting me moments of deep knowing and insight;

even in my darkest days, it anchors me to wonder and joy,
lighting my way back home to my best self;

it roots me in awareness of the constancy of change, unafraid,
and threads the cycles of dying and rebirth within my being;

it enfolds me in a living silence, rich in mystery,
opens the door to realms of myth and magic;

it inspires me to watch, to note, to listen,
sating my senses;

it draws from me a life-affirming reverence,
a deep resounding ‘yes’!

 

Nature - a rhapsody in blue - jay and lake

 

I’m very excited to be embarking on an exploration into Nature’s Poetry. Even this afternoon’s first foray into the preparatory work for Session 1, beginning to look at my personal connection with nature, has been richly nourishing.

I have, over the last couple of years, felt the pull back to my writing roots, which started with poems before I could even put pen to paper (I was three years old). So this online course speaks both to my deep sense of return and re-connection to nature in living rurally and to rediscovering a mode of expression that faltered as I focused on career and family.

What a delicious luxury it is to be invited down a path along which poetry, both in the reading and the writing, can illuminate one’s inner landscape! 

I intend to do my best to follow Mary Oliver‘s instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

 

Gratitude and joy – an intimate relationship

(The first of three interconnected posts on gratitude)

I am increasingly inclined to think that joy and gratitude are close companions, engaged in a mutual dance of enrichment.

When we experience that moment of joy, whether at the birth of a child or in witnessing a beautiful sunset, is it possible to feel joy without a sense of gratitude?

Joy and gratitude for an Outouais Sunset

Perhaps gratitude can exist without joy, but I think ‘the practice of gratitude’ at the very least primes us to experience joy more readily.

So how do we define gratitude? The dictionary definition is simply ‘the quality of being thankful’. Robert Emmons, possibly the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, expands on this, describing it as an affirmation of goodness and a recognition that the sources of this goodness are outside ourselves (see his full definition at the University of California, Berkeley Greater Good website).

A hundred or so years B.C., Cicero argued that among virtues, gratitude is ‘the parent of all the others’, a virtue that begets other virtues. This is backed up by contemporary social scientists who contend that gratitude ‘stimulates moral behaviour’.

I experience gratitude as a state of being, one which provides the lens through which I choose to experience life. As with joy, I am conscious that gratitude is a practice that must be cultivated. I share the Buddhist perception that such a practice leads to the direct experience and awareness of the inter-connectedness of all of life and of the ongoing dynamic of giving and receiving. As well, it creates a context of abundance.

Gratitude also roots us more firmly in the moment. As the Chopra Centre puts it:

“gratitude brings our attention into the present, which is the only place where miracles can unfold. The deeper our appreciation, the more we see with the eyes of the soul and the more our life flows in harmony with the creative power of the universe.”
http://www.chopra.com/ccl/cultivate-the-healing-power-of-gratitude

Whilst gathering my thoughts for this post, the phrase ‘a state of grace’ flickered through my consciousness. Given that the words ‘gratitude’ and ‘grace’ share a common root, this is unsurprising. But what does this mean to our understanding of gratitude?  Vipassana (insight) meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt expresses this beautifully:

“This grace of conscious life, of having a mind that can know “this moment is like this,” is the root of all wonder, from which gratitude flows. The wonder, the mystery, is that you, like everyone else, are given this short, precious time of conscious embodiment in which you can directly know life for yourself.”
http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/selfless-gratitude

(See also Grateful to whom? and Gratitude is good for you!)

Passion and non-attachment

Passion and non-attachment are often seen as mutually exclusive.

I think this is a false assumption; indeed, without passion, we come back to ‘detachment’ rather than non-attachment.

Passion is often viewed as fire. But could it be that this is only the youthful manifestation of passion, that passion also also resides in the still waters of a deep pool?

Mindfulness, being fully present in the moment seem to be fundamental to both passion and joy. Yet these are also an essential part of non-attachment. I aspire to living this moment utterly and with integrity, yet to be unattached to the outcome. And only by being unattached to the outcome can I inhabit this moment, for otherwise there is always at least some part of me projecting into the future and the ‘what ifs’.