Mindfulness, Madness and the March towards the Light

This is one of those things that I am admitting only because it keeps me sane and I feel a strong compulsion to share any sanity-saving techniques with the rest of the world because, man, I’ve been there. And it is usually right about now, midwinter, that I hit the wall. It’s cold. It’s grey and brown. It’s flu season. It’s not a particularly busy work season for me since the large amount of images I take are natural light, and who wants to go out into a frozen field to get a shot? (Okay, in many cases me, but the clients aren’t so keen on the idea. So.) I feel housebound. I feel sluggish. I feel…a little crazy. Maybe more than a little.

I admit that in years past, the winter ick has managed to take me over and make things really, really miserable, like unhappy on a clinical level. I believe in Seasonal Affect Disorder. Nothing worse that being emotionally frozen when it is frozen out. Frozen reference goes here for sake of stepson:

likethis

Like this but with less Disney and more suck.

But somewhere along the way I heard something that changed my perspective on the darkening and chilling of the soul that goes on during this time of year. While this time may be difficult, it is still a necessary part of the cycle. Like the mythical yearly battle of the Holly King and the Oak King, two vital, opposite aspects within us ebb and flow, and it is our skillful ability to move within the cycle that allows us to grow and strengthen our world. And a mindful, gentle approach to ourselves and our surroundings can make the cold months a time of magic and transformation instead of a big bag of suck.

SO, even though it is EXTREMELY difficult for me to welcome and embrace this time of the year, I now have a bunch of things that I do to use the cold, slow dark as a place to regroup, recharge and get ready for the coming of warmth and thaw.

PUT IT ON ICE: I let the cold weather slow things that I’m not ready for down a little bit. Here’s an example. I need to buy a new car. But I hated the idea of getting one and driving it in the snow and ice just as it is brand new. So I sat back and looked at the situation from a ‘cold weather slow’ place. Could I get through the winter with my old car without paying too much? Would having a few extra months to bank for the inevitable car payment help? Would I be less stressed on a snowy day with my old beater, even if it did break down? Yup. So into the ‘thaw later’ pile it goes.

icywindow

My impending car payments are in there somewhere.

I also put problems on ice. Unless the issue is something I have to deal with immediately, I let it chill out – literally. I write it all down and then place the paper it is on in a small container filled with water and leave it outside. Somehow the physical practice of freezing an issue helps me create a little detachment that helps with getting perspective – and keeps me from reacting too quickly, or too much.

HIBERNATE and INCUBATE: Cuddle up with it and get quiet. I’ve found that the winter can be a great time for me to focus inward and listen. There are many ways to do this. I use mediation, the mental and emotional equivalent of cozying up to my personal wolf pack of thoughts and ideas and just laying there silently in sleepy camaraderie. I get a lot of clarity hanging out in the den, and much of it comes gently, allowing me to be near it without judgement. The more I do it, the more the good stuff grows and the bad stuff fades. By the time the season turns, I’m well rested emotionally and excited to poke my nose out and see what the Spring will bring.

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The Yin/Yang approach to hibernation demonstrated by cat.

MAKE STUFF BLOOM: Cultivate life in your home. When the light starts to return, I like to do things that remind me of my ability to nurture growth. In particular, I like to make things bloom and sprout. So I make terrariums. Force bulbs and branches. Plant seeds. Re-pot my houseplants. (In the kitchen. On the floor. Dirt on newspapers EVERYWHERE.) Not only does it lift me physically, it sets my heart into a joyful, expectant state that feels very much like the return of the Sun.

wabisabi

BRING IT ON

I wish you peace and warmth, calm and gentle change during this time of year.

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