I’m grappling with a personal issue right now...
The following is something I wrote several years ago.
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-=[ Winter ]=-
“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
-- Albert Camus
If you pressed me, I would tell you outright that I absolutely despise winter. I detest the cold, the short days, the layers of clothing, and the claustrophobia of confined spaces. But if I look deeper, I also know that there’s a lot I appreciate about winter: I love the changing of the seasons and how they mark the passage of time; the coziness of a cold Christmas morning (a barbecue in Christmas?!! No way!!!); the excuse of not going anywhere because – “Dayum! -- it’s cold outside!” I like the fact that winter allows you to get dressed to the nines when you go out to socialize.
I find that people who live in temperate zones -- where there is a winter, think faster and speak more clearly than their southern peers. Heck, you have to think fast -- it’s a matter of life and death! LOL!!! I remember when I first moved south, I kept thinking people were talking with their mouths full. Okay, okay, I realize this is a bit of northeastern snobbery, but you get my drift.
Yeah, there is much to appreciate in winter.
Winter also allows one to become more introspective, to reserve energy and look within. Sometimes the seasons mirror the emotions we grapple with: we suddenly see or sense opposite emotions within ourselves. The cold of winter presses in on us and we may feel tested by it’s sharp bite.
Yet, when we think we cannot bear a moment longer, we find a force within, an inner reassurance that comes like a summer breeze and says we do what we must. Perhaps it comes in a moment of despair, and we realize we have made it this far -- that we are quite sturdy. In our deepest sadness about the loss of a love, we may find a more meaningful relationship with something more powerful -- a “Higher Power.”
The winters of our lives may tempt us to curse the cold and darkness. Similarly, the opposites of our lives may tempt us to struggle with them. One side may be very clear and obvious while the other side is dark and hidden. When we are open, these extremes become equal teachers for us. As we think about the seasons and our feelings today, what opposites do we find? Whatever the answers, perhaps today we can remember that we have an invincible summer at the deepest part of the winter in our lives.
The Risk of Self-Blame
I just want to take a brief moment to bring into focus an issue I have found to be prominent in our culture. Many people have turned to meditation (and diet and exercise, too) for its physiological benefits and have benefited enormously. However, we are all going to exit this planet through something we call death. It’s a fact of life that people forget all the time.
Currently, there seems to be a notion that if we eat right, exercise, meditate, and use visualization well enough, we will live forever. It is obvious enough that our health habits do make a huge difference in the length and quality of our lives, but it is important to remember that even the greatest saints left their bodies -- often from heart disease and cancer. Yet I don’t remember a single one regretting that it would have never happened if they’d meditated better, imaged or exercised more vigorously, or turned down that last ice cream cone.
Still, the tendency to blame ourselves is always rearing its ugly head...
This is just plain narcissism -- a resurrection of guilt and blame. To think of illness as a form of punishment and healing as a reflection of our goodness traps us further in the cycle of suffering: the attachment to pleasure and the aversion to pain.
If we go still further and believe that the state of our bodies reflects our self-worth, we are truly doomed to suffering. The only definition of sin that makes any sense to me is this: any thought or action that strengthens the ignorance of our own intrinsic goodness. We are healed when we can grow from our suffering, when we can recast our suffering as an act of grace that leads us back to who we truly are.