In several spiritual traditions, winter is seen as a time to go inward. In the northern hemisphere, plants are sheltering under the soil, waiting for the kiss of warm sun to awaken in the spring. Many animals hibernate. It’s a great time to sit by the fire and gently reflect.Yet at the same time, lots of activities draw us out and about. Holidays are over, but work must be done, kids need rides to school, to after-school activities, to friends. The real pull of winter is toward quiet and contemplation, yet the need to satisfy the expectations of others and our own expectations propels us into a flurry of activities. But hey, that’s fine. Balancing work and family life is like being on a high wire; exhilarating and terrifying. Sometimes it feels like you’re up there without a net!
It can be really important to take time for yourself, to recharge. If you want to rest in a more contemplative space, I would recommend you check out the Winterfeast for the Soul (www.winterfeastforthesoul.com). This beautiful contemplative practice provides a grounding ritual and meditation techniques to connect with the deep peace of the season. It’s something you can fit into a busy schedule. I did this while I was working full time at the university and writing every day, so I know it can be done.
I made a conscious choice this winter to remain still and quiet, honoring the memory of my father, Keith Mattison. He died on September 3rd last year, after 92 years of excellent health, a wonderful marriage to my step mother, a close circle of great friends, and lots of service to his community.
Keith (on right) receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross Before he retired, he was an aeronautical safety engineer, and he flew with the National Guard for many years. He was also a great dad, and a lot of fun to be with, even when he scared everyone by driving like a test pilot. Where most people decelerate and put on the brakes when approaching a stop light or stop sign, my dad always accelerated, as if he were landing a plane and giving it that last little boost before the touch-down. All his passengers white-knuckled it when he drove, but in over seventy of driving, he never had an accident.
Soldiers from a nearby base conducted a full military funeral for him, as he had been a fighter pilot in World War II, and continued in the service, first in the Army Air Corps, then in the Air Force part of the National Guard. The young soldiers folded the flag with precision and intense feeling. Then one stood before us with bowed head. After they conducted this part of the service, we followed them outside, where they fired three shots in the air, and a soldier played Taps on his bugle. There wasn’t a dry eye after this, and I prayed for the safety of these young soldiers and their families.
My dad really was a hero to me. Of course, we disagreed on some things, but the most important things, love and a search for truth, bonded us. I am so glad that I listened to something inside that told me to visit him and my stepmother earlier this year. At the service, when I delivered the eulogy, I gave this truth: you never know how much time you will have with your loved ones. No matter how busy your life is, please take time from it to visit or call them, and offer the love that lives in your heart for them.
May your New Year be filled with love, prosperity, fun, and peace.