Winter scenery. Footway in woods. Blue toned black and white photo.

Retreating into Winter

Winter is a time for introspection a time when we naturally become a little quieter when we don’t (or shouldn’t) put so much stress on ourselves, a time for resting and nourishing ourselves a bit more.  We have all sorts of distractions to keep us from ourselves – great television programmes, classes to go to, friends to meet.  But it is only in the very recent past – the past one hundred and twenty years or so, that we are able to be so busy in winter time.  Before the advent of electricity we would have been going to bed much earlier in Wintertime as we would have only had candle or gaslight , we would have had open fires around which the family would have gathered, and we would not have had the transport to travel much in the cold winter weather.  Roads in rural Ireland would rarely have been lit and a visit to the church or the neighbour would have been as far as we would have travelled in Wintertime.

In these dark and dreary days our bodies are naturally drawn to that slower pace.  We find it harder to get up in the mornings, we exhaust ourselves, get ourselves run down by living at a pace which our bodies have not yet caught up with.  Advent (from the beginning of November until Christmas) was a time when we prepared for Mid Winter, when we deliberately ‘gave up’ some luxeries so our bodies were prepared for the feasting of the Mid-Winter Festival.  It was a time when people might go on Retreat, go somewhere quiet for a few days to tune in to themselves a bit more, to get in touch with their deeper side or shadow side.   And it is a very good idea to go somewhere quite and get centered, grounded, and earthed before the mad rush that can be the preparation for Christmas.

For someone who wants just a couple of days quiet time going to a hotel or guest house  not too far from home to relax, read and tune in to themselves can be just what the doctor ordered.  For those who would like something a little more guided there are many opportunities to retreat from the world for a few days.  These guided retreats can be found on-line or notices may be posted on social media or in your local spiritual centre, healthfoodstore, or even your local grocery store.   There are Yoga Retreats, Meditation Retreats, Shamanic Retreats, walking retreats – all kinds of ways that you can withdraw from your ordinary life and recharge your batteries before the madness begins.

Even if we can’t get away for a few days peace and quiet we can give ourselves a daily dose of reconnection with ourselves by going for a walk in nature, by sitting in silence for a few minutes especially first thing in the morning, or by taking a moment to pause and appreciate the food we are about to eat. Other ways of keeping ourselves a bit more centered and peaceful at this time of year can include not cluttering our heads with unnecessary and negative news reports or tv programmes, just stepping out of the office and taking a few deep breaths or even just stopping for a moment in the middle of the supermarket and coming to ourselves.

Tuning in, nourishing ourselves, listening deeply to ourselves and resting a bit more is what winter is all about.  Whether you get away for a few days to retreat and realign yourself or whether you decide to take a few minutes every morning to be loving and gentle and kind to yourself this winter you will fell the benefit.   Let us not moan and groan about the long dark winter days; let us rather honour and enjoy this time of year and realise the opportunity it is offering us to rest more, listen to ourselves more keenly and retreat into our inner selves.  Let us look and enjoy the beauty of the winter skies, the starkness of the bare trees, the joy of a walk in the crisp fresh air followed by a nice warm bowl of soup beside the fire. Let this winter be the one which changed our view of this season to being that of our favourite time of year. Going with the flow of nature allowing her to support our natural inclination to more quiet introspective days will reap a rich reward in terms of peace, health and well-being this winter.

Written by Gabrielle McAuley

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