I Want to Hibernate
This has been a long winter. And I love winter—snow shoeing through the woods, packing a sled in the bracing cold, and making fires at night.
Winter also comes with the urge to be in a cocoon, to turn inward like a bear in hibernation—or head south for the winter.
The primitive desire to slow down goes back to the distant past when we followed the rhythms and cycles of nature. In the winter it was practical to lay low because food was scarce and physical movement burned precious calories.
The orientation of our culture tends to ignore nature.
As Nature Slumbers
While the natural world slips into the dormant winter months, the civilized world goes into overdrive for the holidays, followed by a headlong dive into first quarter productivity goals. Meanwhile nature slumbers on, the earth turns and follows the sun without calendars, holidays, or goals.
It’s no wonder we feel rundown, exhausted, and make ourselves sick. We’re unconsciously driven to go against our own nature and the cycle of nature we are in.
Symbolically, the winter season represents death and darkness. The death of nature is a metaphor for the death of the self, a time to let go of the past, of reflection and introspection, a time to take stock and contemplate the future.
Renewal and Rebirth
The spring season which follows is the symbol of renewal and rebirth. The revival of nature is a metaphor for the renewal of the self, a time to embrace new beginnings and new growth, a time of hope, optimism, and the inspiration that comes from new life blooming all around.
Right now, we are on the cusp between winter and spring.
Ash Wednesday, which was on February 22nd, marks the start of Lent, a period of meditation and reflection that ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection and a symbol of ultimate renewal and rebirth.
The 40 day Lenten period has its origin in the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted by the devil before beginning his earthly ministry. This period of fasting, prayer and self-denial was adopted by the early Church as a way for Christians to prepare for the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus.
There are always larger cycles at work in our lives—the movement of the earth, sun, and moon, the change of seasons, the rituals in our culture and other cultures. Many traditions celebrate the concept of death and rebirth. The symbols are everywhere around us.
As the famed comedian, George Carlin, once said, “Symbols are for the symbol minded.” We are symbol minded. Everything we see, all that we think, say, and do, are symbolic of deeper meaning. Words are but symbols of symbols. Our actions are a symbolic reflection of how we think and believe. How we live is a symbol of what we value and what matters most to us.
We give everything all the meaning that it has for us and our lives are a symbolic outward expression of who we are.
As we transition from winter to spring and move through the Lenten season, we can be contemplative and intentional. As we experience our own rebirth and the rebirth of life around us, we can bring deeper meaning to the transformation being wrought in our own lives.
There is a great need today for us to awaken and be in alignment with the forces that guide us, to live in harmony with ourselves, each other, and the natural world.
For each of us the process is deeply personal, and the way we engage our process—how we integrate change—touches the lives of those around us.
We awaken into new life together.
Eliane Viner says
I love it Dr. Tom! so well expressed at this time, this in between season. thank you, Eliane
Cathy Hay says
How simple and obvious it seems to align with the cycles of nature… yet how conditioned we have become, how blind and deaf to the signs all around us inviting us to walk easily, in step with the very nature of our world. What a joy to reawaken to a truth that is everywhere for us to find!