Igniting the inner glow
The embodiment of winter invites us to draw on our inner capacity for warmth and nourishment and can ignite our inner glow. By Lauren Bloxham
There are times in life when we embody the winter, the darkness, the cold. There are times when we feel that we need to hibernate and isolate. There are times of deep inward reflection and rest. Sometimes this embodiment is seasonal, sometimes it’s hormonal, maybe it’s triggered by environmental changes, fluctuations in the home, relationships, or work.
Experiencing the ‘inner winter’ is a natural human response from time to time, and very few people will go through life without knowing what it feels like; after all, living can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating. We can draw enormous comfort from the natural world when it comes to navigating the darkness within us. As nature gently prepares for the winter months, we watch trees drop their leaves, we see squirrels preserving food sources, flowers withdrawing to their bulbs…there is a pause in growth and a deep stillness to nature during the winter.
Navigating the pause and stillness, when our values are aligned with productivity and ideals, can be challenging. Life can feel very harsh during the literal and metaphorical winter. The harshness comes from the space which emerges between expectation and reality. The discomfort of feeling tired but wanting to achieve something leads to the inner narrative that ‘something is wrong with us’ or that we ‘aren’t enough’ somehow.
Culturally, we look for fixes, such as the gym, a diagnosis, or medication, but when we look to nature, we don’t diagnose the trees who have lost their leaves. We don’t imagine something is wrong with the daffodils which aren’t blooming anymore or the plants that no longer bear fruit. We can allow for the fluctuations of nature during winter in a way that can be more difficult to allow for ourselves.
We each have a unique pace and rhythm, we all need time and space to process our life experiences and depending on how life is flowing to us and through us in any given moment, this may also help us to understand how much time and space we really need to pause and be still. During times of turbulence or uncertainty, during stormy weather, we might recognise a natural inclination to draw inwards, for self-preservation.
The lessons we need to prepare us for such times are there in every breath we take. Our inner experience of winter is there on every exhalation. The letting go of all that no longer serves us as we clear space in the lungs for what is new, the next inhalation.
It’s there every night that we sleep…the winding down of the day, the letting go of what has been in preparation for sleep, the natural pause before our morning’s emergence.
It’s there in the cycles of our relationships, our work, and the cycle of our lives. Each of us, at any given moment, may be experiencing an inner winter from the momentary release of breath to the larger more life-changing circumstances and experiences that move us.
Getting familiar with our own cycles, our rhythms and pace, and getting comfortable with them is a powerful way of helping us to navigate the inevitable winters that we experience. Navigating the darkness and the cold can be scary…but remembering that we are also navigating a period of letting go, rest and consolidation can be empowering. And during this rest we can awaken our own inner warmth and light which can serve us as a comfort and a guide.
Think of the feeling that Christmas lights, open fires and candles cultivates, all familiar winter rituals. The awakening of inner warmth through the food and drink we choose: warming spices, the sweetness of roasted root vegetables, spiced warm drinks, mulled wine. Think of soft blankets, cosy socks, and warm baths. Whether we enjoy these things or not, they are examples of how we cultivate warmth and light through the cold, and our mindsets are no different.
Mentally, we can pause expectation, ease judgement, and allow ourselves to slow down. Inviting more rest, enjoying the practice of yoga nidra, finding space for stillness and meditation.
As we become aware of the waning of energy, the slowing of productivity and the inevitable lack of motivation that the darkness brings, whether it comes from dark thoughts, endings, or late evenings, we can allow ourselves some time and space to recognise the winter. We can say ‘yes’ to it because we know it’s a natural part of the ebbing and flowing of life and we can be curious about our needs throughout.
Presence of awareness is like a warm light which holds all thought, all feeling and all experience. Presence of awareness is free from judgement, yet sees judgement; it’s free from expectation yet sees expectation. The very moment we hold the presence of our awareness around our experience — however dark and cold the experience is — is the moment we embody our inner light and its qualities of warmth and comfort.
Ignite your inner glow
Feel into your body right now, the sensations and feedback it brings, how you’re sitting or standing, the sensations of digestion, the accumulations of how you’ve been moving or not moving your body, stiffness, tightness, ease, warmth…feel the breath and how it moves soft tissues, stretching and releasing muscles and joints as ribs move around the lungs. Feel the environment, its temperature, its sounds and smells, and notice thoughts and any feelings about those thoughts. Understanding that awareness is broader than all thoughts and can hold all experience.
Knowing that when embodied, the light of awareness feels like a container where darkness can rise and fall just like night and day. Embodying the light of this broad awareness can provide great comfort; we can rest easy, knowing that all seasons, experiences, and all thoughts will run their natural course. Embodying the inner glow of awareness can take the edge off the harshness of winter; it can also interrupt the entanglement of judgement and expectation that can make it feel so harsh, and bring with it compassion, comfort, and peace.