True, we are experiencing a major thaw here in Madison with temperatures of 50 degrees, but it is still February, and we know winter will make another strong appearance sooner rather than later. Therefore, it is not too late to think about how winter can enhance your spirituality. I am working on an essay right now about the spiritual invitations of sickness and what spiritual practices might be possible and helpful during a challenging time. In reality spiritual practices are not limited to a particular time of life or season, but the beginning of the year and the winter months suggest possibilities for expanding one's use of spiritual tools. Here are some ideas.
Create a collage to discover the year's focus or themse. Title and date your collage. Write your reflections about the process and note what was revealed. (See my earlier post about my end of the year collage.) HINTS: Take photographs or collect images, words, and other matierals and objects for additional collages during the coming year. Use a bulletin board or your refrigerator foor as an ongoing collage.
Consult your calendar. Each time you check your calendar, electronic or paper, pause to express gratitude, offer a blessing, or recall a memory. Consider adding a brief note of explanation on the calendar itself. For example, write "healthy teeth," in appreciation of your dentist's skills when you note your next appointment. HINT: USe that extra gift calendar as a mini-journal.
Study. Select a topic, such as compassion and expore it deeply, reflectively, contemplatively. What interests or puzzles you? Forgiveness? Happiness? World religions? Eating locally? Current child-rearing theories? Do you have a spiritual hero? Gather a variety of materials and open your heart to the topic's spiritual lessons. HINT: Create a space to use as your study sanctuary. A comfortable chairs with a good light will do.
Build a fire. Bake bread. Cook soup. Wash dishes. How does your body feel as you carry the wood to the fireplace or punch down the risen dough? Be aware of your senses as you stir the pot and steam blurs your vision or when you immerse your hands into hot, almost prickly water. Do memories arise? Breathe in the fire, earth, air, and water energy. In what area of your life do you most need renewal and how can these homely tasks restore you? HINT: Invite guests to share a meal. Relax and tell stories in front of the fire.
Open to winter. Watch and feed the birds. Invite them to be your spiritual teachers. Bundle up and walk. Notice winter changes. Winter's beauty. Respond to people who sent you hoiday cards or check on those who didn't communicate this year. Try a favorite childhood winter activity, such as ice skating, sledding or make a snowman!FINAL HINT: Most any activity or experience can be a spiritual practice when you approach it with mindfulness and a commitment to deepen your spirituality. My prayer for you is that winter is a time of many blessings for you.