THE BLOG
12/07/2013 09:37 am ET Updated Feb 06, 2014

The Message of Winter: Every Season Is a Rite of Passage

"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." -- Henry David Thoreau

Do you love the winter season or dislike it? Some might say that answer depends on their age and current geographic location. At this moment, much of the Midwestern and Eastern states are under siege of a major winter storm; those that live there are indeed hearty souls. As a native son of Michigan, I know how long and cold winter can be for an adult. On the other hand, I have to admit -- as a kid, I loved those snow storms. The good news is, regardless of whether you love or dislike winter, it will come and go just as every season does. Ironically, the one constant in life we can count on is change and the seasons of the year illustrate this point beautifully. We don't have to pretend to enjoy the winter if spring is our preference, but what if we could consciously embrace the season, understanding it is a prerequisite -- a rite of passage -- for the spring to follow. In other words, rather than denying, resenting, or railing against the season, what if we could simply allow it to be without making it good or bad, trusting that what is to come in the seasons ahead will bless us in countless ways.

And now for the metaphor: The lesson for all of us is that we too have seasons in our lives and each has its purpose; each is a rite of passage opening us to the season which follows. While some may think of the seasons of their life as the aging process that is not what I am referring to: Irrespective of our age, and regardless of the time of year, we all go through various emotional seasons on a regular basis. There are times of light and warmth... there are times of cold and darkness... there are times of growth and expansion... there are times of letting go to prune back the barren branches of the past in order for future growth in the upcoming season.

What if we could see the true meaning and value of the "winters" of our life knowing that they are necessary for the new life and possibilities for renewal that we know will appear in the upcoming spring of our life? For some of us, the barren landscape of our "winter" may include grieving the loss of a loved one or cherished friend or pet. For others it may mean accepting a change of lifestyle or job. For others the winter of our life may simply be a time to pull back and be in spiritual hibernation, spending quality time within the interior of our own being, communing with the Self which nurtures and sustains us and connects us with all of life.

It has long been said that if one attunes themselves to nature, great wisdom will be evidenced in the simplicity and elegance with which the four seasons unfold, each unto the next, with its own unique beauty and purpose. With this in mind -- and with this time of year bringing the season of winter -- perhaps now offers us the perfect opportunity to, as Thoreau says, resign ourselves to the influence it offers us with no agenda... to just be open and see what this season of our life has to offer us if we remain teachable.

Thoreau was a wise man -- he lived in harmony with and witnessed nature: If we have the eyes to witness the process we'll see that each season selflessly sets the stage for the next; you will never hear autumn complain to winter that it is unwelcome, nor see spring resist the coming of summer. Each season uniquely blesses every living thing in nature with what it needs to continue its growth and evolution as it has from the dawn of time. Nature is very skilled and accepting of the "what is" and using it to unfold the "what can be."

The practice is to embrace whatever season you are in and accept its influence rather than deny it. Draw the value and meaning of each season of your life by honoring it, trusting and knowing that it is a rite of passage, that there is purpose in it. Perhaps most important, fully embrace the season in which you currently are, knowing that, be it pleasant or painful, winter, spring, summer or fall, this too shall pass.

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