What could you do in winter that you don’t do in the summer? If winter is a sad time for you, or you feel restless, or like you want to slow down, consider making it a special time to do things you wouldn’t do at other times of year.
I find I have seasons in my life. Some are related to specific activities I’m involved in at certain times of year, some are prompted by the seasons themselves. Summer seems to energize me and I want to be active. Winter is my time to slow down, go inward, take my time. You may find the same thing.
A few years ago, I read that Pema Chödron travels to teach during the warmer months, and in winter, she stays put at her home monastery to study, meditate, practice, and teach students who come to her. In her form of Buddhism, this is known as yarne, or “rainy season” (in India and Nepal, where Buddhism originated, the rainy season is in summer, but North American Buddhists use winter as their time to study and go into retreat). I’ve come to think of my winter slowdown as my version of this.
Once the social buzz leading up to Yuletide has died down or the holidays are over, it may be a good time to hunker down with a good book, learn a new skill, take the time to really dig into a skill or technique.
This might be something physical: making a point of getting to the skihill or hitting the cross-country trails to really master your technique. Maybe take some lessons and make this a priority. Maybe sign up for a new yoga class or a different weight training class.
It might be a time of mental practice: read a book you’ve been wanting to read. Make an appointment with yourself to read and savour something from beginning to end. Find a series of books you enjoy and read the entire series from start to finish. Take a course in something. You might watch one of the Great Courses or see if your local library has courses you can access, in person or online.
You could learn a new creative skill, or set the goal of completing one of those unfinished projects we all seem to have. There are free or inexpensive courses online, or you can search for YouTube videos on various skills and techniques, whether your love is knitting or oil painting.
It could be as simple as making a craft with a child or a friend. Cut out paper snowflakes. Make some muffins. Tidy up an area in your home that never seems to get attention. Polish the silverware or go through old photos. Do this in short sessions, so it’s not a big job that will make you feel stressed out or weighed down, but something you can take your time over. Put on some music, turn on lights, sit on the floor or in a comfy chair, and let yourself take some time.
Give yourself the gift of time and spaciousness in winter. A client told me that when her daughter was small, her husband would take time off work during or after the holidays, and they would do things together: go for walks, go for drives up into the hills, play games. She enjoyed that, and we decided she can still do that kind of thing. She plans to take books out of the library and block out time to relax and really savour them.
Winter is when gardeners and garden designers plan their work for the coming year. You can spend time with seed catalogues or tool catalogues and dream about your spring and summer projects. If you camp, give some thought to your camping gear and what might need upgrading, cleaning, repair. Plan your next trips.
So often, we feel the need to keep going at a certain pace, that we’ll get behind or lose out if we don’t. But nature has seasons, and so do we. You can give yourself permission to slow down and dig deeper. John O’Donohue wrote, “spring is the secret work of winter all the time.” It may seem like nothing is happening when there’s snow on the ground, but by the time we see buds on trees or poking up out of the ground, they’re already fully formed. They’ve been working quietly, slowly, even in the depths of winter.
Taking time to dig deep into a subject or a skill or a pastime you love during the winter months may give you renewed vigour once things warm up. It also brightens up the dark days of winter.