The nights are getting longer here in Australia, and the sun seems to hold a little less warmth each day. Mother Nature is going with the flow of the season. Winter is a time for reflection, for looking inside ourselves—a time of restoration and healing.
We are not grizzly or polar bears, and therefore we do not need to hibernate for the winter—although it is nice to snuggle up in bed when it is cold outside, or to stay in at night with a good book or a great movie! We do need to ‘rug up’ and change into winter clothing, putting on luxurious jumpers and pulling on those lovely boots that are usually too warm for sunny Queensland. Common sense prevails and we keep out of draughty places, close our windows and doors, and eat hearty, nutritious soups and stews.
Winter is a time of some rest, yes, but it is not a time for complacency. It is a great time to reflect and plan for the future. If you were a farmer you would not sow your seeds in winter or you would lose both your seed and your harvest. However, you would use this time of respite from the work of planting, tending and harvesting to order seed, maintain and repair equipment, and plan for the coming spring.
Actually, I am not just talking about the weather … the ‘seasons’ I am talking about can visit us during any earthly season. Winter always comes, often when you least expect it—sometimes in spring or summer, or sometimes just as you think that life is good and that you are about to reap a bumper harvest.
Sometimes winter arrives just as you have invested time, money, and a whole lot more energy into a project, a business, or a relationship. A harsh winter can descend upon us at any time—a winter of heartbreak, despair, loneliness, and disappointment. Guess what? Winter is always going to come to each of us, at some time or another. The question is, how do we prepare for that?
I believe that who we are, all that we have learned, and how we respond determines how we ‘go with the flow’ of the seasons of life. It is about what you have become through the seeds you have sown, how much time and energy you have invested in yourself and others, and how much time you have spent getting to know and work with mother nature and human nature.
Life is infinitely easier when we go with the flow, as opposed to fighting it. If you have that familiar sense of swimming upstream, jumping over endless hurdles, or repeatedly banging your head against a wall, you know exactly what going against the flow is like.
When winter arrives, we will either be prepared or unprepared, and, just as it is in nature, we learn to prepare for future winters by being unprepared for our first winter—if we survive it. To be unprepared is to have missed the opportunities of earlier seasons, to have low stocks in the granary, and to not have a good harvest to sustain us during winter. We stand to learn the greatest lessons when we’re unprepared for winter … if we take the time to learn more, to sharpen our tools, to plough fields, to change our attitudes, opinions, habits, circumstances, and circle of friends and associates. All of which is easy to do, but even easier to not do! The more unprepared winters we pass through without making changes, the more difficult change becomes. And as we become more accustomed to going against the flow of nature and not preparing for the next winter, we become stressed and depressed, relationships break down, we lose jobs, and so on.
The trick to learning from a winter we haven’t prepared for is to focus on what we do want, not on what we don’t want. Winter can become a time of constructive action, but only when the pain of staying the same—which amounts to getting the same—becomes harder to bearthan the risks involved in moving on and making gains in life. It is so easy to blame others for our misfortunes, and if we’re honest, we realise that most of us have done this at some time or other. Those stuck in ‘victim mode’ are trapped in a way of thinking that prolongs their winter, because they refuse to take personal responsibility for their own happiness. The great challenge confronting those of us in the depths of a bitter winter is to not let the winter delay spring’s arrival.
Sometimes you just have to ‘fake it ’til you make it’ by putting one foot in front of the other, regardless of how glum you feel inside. Don’t obsess over the mistakes of the past—instead, appreciate those mistakes for all of the lessons they have taught, and plan for a glorious spring! Use each winter to learn and grow, invest in yourself and others, share your experiences and knowledge with others, and watch your confidence and ability grow.
Each of us has special fruits stored within us, and these fruits can easily be harvested for our prosperity when we go with the flow of the seasons. To go with the flow is to trust that there is a purpose to every season, even winter, and to be prepared for the bounty that each season can bring us.
Spring is the time to develop a vision, to visualise a goal, and to formulate a step-by-step plan of how to achieve it. Spring is a time of signs and omens as our plans tentatively come to fruition.
Summer is when we see the events we set in train during spring take on vital energy, grow, multiply and mature—with good or bad consequences depending on how we spent our spring.
Autumn brings an understanding of the benefits of working smarter, not harder, and a period of tranquil calm before the transition to winter. This tranquil calm invites relaxation, but it is a time for finalising projects, stocking our cupboards, and repairing our houses.
Winter, if we have prepared for it, is a time to take stock of our gains and enjoy the fruits of our labour. Hopefully we have had a good harvest, one that sees us comfortably through the winter— and allows us to step up to a new level of understanding of life and its seasons.