Seasonal Mindfulness

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I often find myself thinking a lot negative thoughts in the winter. I hate the snow. I hate the cold. I hate shoveling. I am always thinking about how much the winter hinders me from doing what I want to be doing. What I don’t realize most of the time is that without this season, I would not appreciate the others as much. In the summer, I make the most of my outdoor hours as I know they are limited. But, still, in the back of my mind, I am thinking about winter. I sit by my pool and think, “One day it will be winter again and I will feel sad that I cannot do this.” This is already setting me up for what I will call “winter failure.” I know many people hate summer but enjoy the winter. That is a foreign concept to me! But, are we all always in a constant state of anticipation?  

Everything has something that seems to compliment it. A yin and a yang – opposite energies, but both are needed. The shady side of winter vs. the sunny side of summer. I have to believe that winter is needed in this way for me. After all, there is really no avoiding winter as long as I live in NEPA.  Is it important to think this way? To be mindful of our seasons?

I think so.

All too often, we are anticipating the future, especially when it comes to the weather. In winter, most of us cannot wait to experience the sun and warm weather. We cannot wait for winter to just end. We think about what is to come. In spring, we are doused with a lot of rain and thinking the same thing. Where is the sun? Why do we have to sit through a season of rain? Do we examine why this season is needed? Do we think about how the rain is needed for the summer colors to blossom? When summer is here, many of us are complaining of the heat (not me, but… most others), and we cannot wait for the fall to come and pumpkin flavored everything and slightly cooler temperatures. When the fall comes, though, do we really take in that beauty of fall? I know that I spend a lot of time dreading the winter that is to come.  I often think how much I would like to just move to where it is warm, but it is not always that easy for all of us. We have families and jobs and things that tie us to where we currently are. So if we don’t want to lose all of that, how do we deal with those seasons we all dread?

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If we all take a step back and realize that we are constantly anticipating the seasons, what else are we anticipating? Are we waiting on more things that we cannot control? Does this worry of the future affect our daily well being? Constant worry or anxiety can affect us in many ways, both physically and mentally. If we can begin to notice that we are anxious, we can begin to figure out what it is that is making us feel that way. We can start by changing how we think about one thing. If we take the seasons as an example, we can try every day to live in the present, in that season. Every day we can take a good look around and just take notice of what season we are in, without thinking of the next. We can simply stop and breathe in the cool air, warm air, that fresh spring air, or crisp fall air and we can be happy that we are able to have this current experience. We can begin to check in with our physical selves. Is this weather making us tense? In what areas? Are we hot? Are we cold? How can we relax that tension, or make ourselves more comfortable?

We have this same cycle of seasons every year. We cannot control the cycle, but we can work on how we respond to it. And from there, we can begin to use this concept to learn how we think about other things that we seem to anticipate but have no control over. Every day we each fight a battle with our minds and we do not even realize it. If we stop our thoughts, or take a step back from them and look at what we are thinking, we can become more aware of that battle that we don’t realize we are fighting and we can win it. We have that control to be mindful, we just have to figure out how to use it.

From Erica Nealon