This time last year, no-one could have predicted what lay ahead. To call it a tough year does not describe the magnitude of people’s experiences. Mentally, physically, emotionally it has probably been more demanding than any other. Any sense of normality has been lost, with no clear signal on when life may return to ‘normal’ or just how that normal may be.
Our social lives and support structures have been eroded and it is difficult to maintain faith, when so much of what we have known has been shaken beyond imagination. The implications of this have taken many of us to some dark places at one time or another, as we try find our way through the chaos.
Looking to the New Year to bring relief seems rather futile when the pandemic that has turned our world upside down is certain to travel with us as we move into 2021. It is more essential than ever that we keep the candle of hope burning to guide our way.
Winter is a time for reflection. A time to acknowledge the things we have overcome. Have gratitude for the places and people that have given us strength, love, and support. A time to recognise the many aspects that have sustained us. It has not been easy and yet we are still standing, even if our legs can feel a bit wobbly.
Whilst we are unlikely to have moved far from our homes, internally we have learnt a great amount about who we are and what we value. We have been thrown into conditions that provoke us to take stock of what gives meaning to our lives and identify those things we may have previously taken for granted. These are difficult lessons, however, by acknowledging them we gain the wisdom to move forward in a more wholesome and fulfilling way.
Winter teaches us to pause, reassess and evaluate our priorities, so we may step forward with considered intention and resolution. A time to decide what we would like to carry in our packs as we journey into next year. While the Winter woodland can look desolate at first glance, on closer inspection, we can see the signs that this is all part of a purposeful interwoven cycle of renewal.
The trees draw back their nutrients before releasing their leaves to save energy when light is limited. The fallen leaf litter decays adding nutrients to the soil in preparation for spring growth. With the falling leaves also falls the seeds, which later germinate from that earth for new beginnings.
Some of the plants remain green at this time of year, such as moss and lichen, bringing benefits to their natural communities. The evergreen trees that we bring into our homes are a symbol of hope, a celebration that life goes on throughout Winter. A sign that in the dull bleakness, transformation is ever present, even when the future is unknown.
The animals that snuggle and slow down to endure the season are perhaps good teachers. They focus attention on what is essential and finding pleasure in what is available in the present, not fretting over the things they cannot control. It seems these are times to weather the storm rather than fight against it and somewhere in this we are taught to be at peace with what is.
Whilst we may feel the loneliness of that stark woodland, being outside in nature provided solace to many when this situation began. The cold seasonal weather can make us feel more reluctant to venture out, yet when we do the benefits of our connection to the natural world can still be felt. We need only breathe in the air to know we are sustained by environment around us. When we can notice this, we gain a sense of comfort and belonging. We are one with our surroundings, a part of the whole. This may not make up for the lack of human contact we feel or the need for a hug, it is however a place to lay faith and know we are never truly alone.
With the future so uncertain we can lose the motivation to dream. I have created this board, on which to pin positive aspirations and affirmations of what I would like to bring into my life. A way of focusing my thoughts. For as sure as the waters flows, energy will continue to move through our intentions. It is extremely easy, at this time, to let our anxieties and fears steer the direction, so this is my way of remaining optimistic about the future.
Another practice to increase my sense of hope involves lighting a candle. Rather like a prayer, I share my thoughts with the light. I give gratitude for things that have blessed my day, I hand over my fears and worries and ask for guidance when needed. This is a simple action, although it has proven powerful, moving me to tears, helping me to recognise hidden concerns and clearing those repetitive thought patterns that prevent me finding peace. It has also increased the sense that I am supported by forces that have no name.
I invite anyone reading this to share any practice they have found beneficial in the comments below. We are all unique and have different ways to maintain hope. It would be great to identity methods that others people may like to try to boast their mood, calm their thoughts and increase a sense of well-being. We can turn a difficult time into one of personal discovery, transformation, and connection.
However you may be feeling currently, it is worth remembering that even when the wind is blowing icy rain in your face, it is a reminder that you are alive. After the darkest night there is day, and after the fiercest storm the sun shines again – stay hopeful!