Deep in my heart, I love the winter season. I’m a winter romantic. I cannot fathom to ever skip winter by taking a cruise to the southern hemisphere or by vacationing on a tropical island, no matter how hard my travel agent may push me in that direction. I’m a child of the north.
Most of all, I love the winter stillness. Everything seems to come to a halt in winter, inviting us to become still as well. From early childhood on, I used to enjoy this most wondrous season of the year like nothing else. Looking out my bedroom window, I remember myself being utterly enchanted by watching the familiar landscape turn into something completely new under its first blanket of snow. Neither frost bite nor parental admonitions could keep me from playing all day in my winter wonderland. I was the happiest when being outside, immersing myself completely in this natural bliss. I couldn’t stop marveling at the rows of icicles hanging from the gutter of our roof, wondering how falling water could ever be suspended like this in midair. To my dismay, I seem to have lost my ability to engage in such meditations any longer. The wonders of winter are now just part of the hazards that come with the bad weather season.
Life, as we know it, doesn’t afford us much time to spend on simple wonders. And it shows. We are, for the most part, unused to quietness and silence. Instead of sitting still and being calm, we get easily bored and look for more excitement and entertainment. There’s a persistent restlessness and impatience in us. So we rather focus on what’s new and next. But there’s also a deep sense of discontent and dissatisfaction that inevitably remains, no matter how much we keep searching. “Most of the world’s problems derive from our inability to be still.” Words to this effect were uttered famously by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal more than 300 years ago. In essence, he announced the modern age.
As a lifestyle counselor, I’ve seen a large number of patients whose health problems were clearly stress related. Many of them were high achievers who obviously loved their work and were proud of their accomplishments. And yet, when I asked them what they would do differently if they could make any changes they wanted in their lives, hands down the most frequent response was that they would want more time for themselves. When asked further what they would do with that extra time, the answer was almost always the same: having quiet time.
Having time for ourselves is a necessity, not a luxury that we can’t afford. It’s important for our health and well-being (some say sanity) that we are able to withdraw regularly from the demands of daily life to rejuvenate and recharge our batteries. It’s not enough that we spend time on doing other things than what we would strictly call “work.” Every so often, we need stillness; we need winter seasons in our lives. We need to stop and make time to hibernate and become dormant – like nature.
So, here’s my New Year resolution – yes, some of us still hang on to that old ritual, despite of better knowledge: I will go outside and learn from nature. I will listen to the stillness of the falling snow. I will take time to remember and relearn to marvel at the extraordinary beauty of a winter wonderland. I will look at snow-capped mountaintops and admire their majesty. I will indulge in exhilarating walks in fresh powder. I will look for icicles dangling from roofs and enjoy the bizarre creations built of frozen water. But best of all, I will consciously inhale the cold air and then watch my own breath evaporate into the heavily clouded sky – and do nothing, nothing at all. I’m a winter romantic. It’s good for my body and my soul.