Winter is my least favorite time of the year. Even as a kid, I could take or leave the snow, and I have never, by any stretch of the imagination, enjoyed cold weather. As for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding? Blech, I am hopeless at both! No wonder I adored the time we spent in Hawaii. But this winter has seemed particularly harsh to me. Besides an early snowfall and frigid temps, the wind has been brutal. And if you know me at all, you have heard me complain about it too.
Enter a trip to Florida.
For eight days in January, I had the pleasure of basking in warmer climes with some amazing pickleball-playing friends.
The entire trip down took twenty-two hours. Jeff asked if we ever ran out of things to talk about on the drive. Um, when have a group of women ever run out of things to talk about? Silly Jeffrey!
My recent break from the cold felt like more than just a chance to hang out with great friends, bask in the sunshine, or play oodles of pickleball. Almost three years ago I walked away from two very long-standing relationships: one with a person, the other with a religion. I may have left many of my problems behind, but changes of this magnitude often bring along a host of others. Thankfully, the mind is a master problem-solver. In fact, some believe that coming up with solutions to problems is the rational mind’s only job. But some problems require more creative, out-of-the-box thinking than the rational mind can conjure. And then there is the mind’s ability to create a problem where there is none (i.e., irrational fear). The human mind will happily run rampant in search of solutions to problems both real and imagined. If we do not learn to master it, we run the risk of missing out on the creative solutions offered by the still small voice of the heart.
It is estimated that the brain generates a new thought every 1.2 seconds. Meditation cannot (nor would we want it to) stop this process altogether – after all, problem solving is a wonderful thing! But meditation can give us a sense of calm in the midst of the mind’s storms. If thoughts are like a long line of agitated people, anxious for the chance to give their opinion, then meditation is the power to inject some breathing room between them. Several teachers of the practice advise observing our thoughts, while at the same time refusing to engage with them or follow the invariable rabbit trails our minds often take. When we become the master of our thoughts (rather than an unintentional slave to them), we can hear the guidance that is always coming from the real supercomputer within – the subconscious or intuitive mind, a.k.a. the heart.
My mid-winter vacation felt like a deep breath of space between myself and the concerns I have lived with on a daily basis for the past couple of years. Concerns like how to be self-supporting, where to live, how to spend my time, and what relationships to invest my energy in. And the real beauty of a vacation is that it lasts long after returning home. Memories of moments spent relaxing, laughing, and playing can inject that same breathing space into my everyday life right here and now.
It will be a while before I finish processing my short foray to Florida this month. Probably by then it will be time for another deep breath. In light of that, I think it is time to make peace with winter. Time to appreciate the slower days and longer nights, for without them, it would be much harder to find the time to think through and absorb the lessons my heart is still teaching me. Funny what a little perspective can do.
What about you? Do the slower days of winter provide the space and time you need for contemplation, or is a vacation in order to help you gain perspective? No matter what, please do whatever it takes to give your heart the room it needs to speak creatively into your life. The still small voice is always calling you, and the world needs you to listen to it.
As always, thanks very much for reading!