A Long, Barren Winter’s End

We enter, each year, a season of autumn when the beauty and lush growth of summer begin shutting down, preparing us for the austerity and cold of wintertime.

Just as the leaves of summer fall to earth and the trees appear to die, so it also happens with the human spiritual climate. We see much of the plenty around us wither and fall away, and we, as a race, prepare ourselves for yet another centuries-long winter of the soul. It is a season when many things drop away and leave our landscape barren. But out of this falling away, many new things will eventually be born.

And just as the winter only remains with us for a time, so too does this cold bleakness of spirit. Then, like our climate, which repeatedly cycles back into spring year after year, we also come again to the lush, warm time when humankind’s spirit can flow outward and fill the earth anew with plenty and joy and growth.

Each swing through the cycle brings us back over the same ground we’ve traveled before, but with a difference. We find we’ve spiraled around each time to a different level. That spiral can be either upward or downward next time. But whether it is up or down, each of these paths carries its own implications, conditions and consequences.

It may help to think of this centuries-long repeating cycle as a kind of cosmic breathing. Our collective human spirit brings in energy and growth, enjoys its richness and lush abundance, gathering sustenance from it, and in turn discards it by exhaling. Then into the interval of emptyness and lack there comes preparation for the next breath, the next cycle, when abundance reawakens and sustaining energy flows freely again.

There is a robust, vital joy in this cosmic breath that is difficult to perceive from our tiny, limited perspective as humans. Our brief life spans are but dim flickers amid the grandness and brilliance of the Universe’s monumental cycles; fireflies in the midday sun.

Winter, too, has its charms of course – the snows, the frozen lakes and rivers, the frost-scrolled window panes – and can be wonderful. But while beautiful, it does not support new growth, or not directly.

And likewise, the bleak winter of the human spirit may have its beauties, but once our essence has rested and discarded the overused ideas, concepts and constructs of previous cycles, it is time to take in another breath, begin a new springtime and let regrowth begin yet again. But unlike the climatic winter, we may grow so enthralled by the beauties and fascinations of a spiritual winter that can span scores of generations, we sometimes forget what season we are in.

As we look around at the apparent plenty and abundance of our current times, it can appear that we live in richness, with our technical prowess, our creature comforts, our instant communication with anyone anywhere. But it may be useful to think of all this as the lovely frost on the window, the scenic snowdrifts and majestic white landscapes. Do you sometimes feel that although today’s world is enthralling, it is also cold? Mostly barren of spirit? What if this is not Summer at all. Could this be the long, hard winter in which we have been struggling to find some kind of spiritual light?

You may have long been ready for a coming spring in which the ice and snow will melt away, displaced by the warming rebirth of the next spirit cycle. Even now you may feel it offering you its first tiny, shy buds of new hope, new joy, new life.

Make yourself ready; springtime comes.


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