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In the Dark of Winter, Embrace the Discomforts of Growth

The pandemic. Cooped up inside to avoid the cold. Seasonal affective disorder. Climate change. Mercury retrograde. 

Restlessness, discontent, and malaise is not uncommon this time of year, especially during these trying times. Our tendency may be to push through, force a smile onto our faces, and pretend it’s not there.

Certainly there are situations that require us to postpone dealing with discomfort, such as when our undivided attention is required. Don’t put it off for too long though, since unresolved feelings and issues tend to fester rather than dissipate. Furthermore, the cold, dark winter with nowhere to go is the perfect time to enter the shadows of our minds and dig for treasure. 

Yes, treasure! Those edgy feelings roiling inside are a goldmine for they are wounds that are begging to be healed, misconceptions that are longing to be clarified, and yearnings and desires that are hoping to come to light. Riches galore, should you choose to accept them.

Just like the seedling that pushes through its casing and turns in the soil so as to grow towards the light, the consciousness beneath our surface thoughts naturally tends to transform and reveal itself this time of year. Like the seedling, our rising and evolving awareness can be uncomfortable and expose feelings and ideas that demand reconciliation. 

The seedling that gets stuck in its casing, on the other hand, risks becoming deformed and languishing if it does not break through and turn in the right direction. So too may our psyche, if we fail to recognize and acknowledge our personal truth. The current pandemic of depression, anxiety, and loneliness may reflect our collective neglect of this inner reality.

It is natural for seedlings and our own awakenings to sprout, especially this time of year. The Celtic holiday Imbolc celebrates this awakening, temporarily placed midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Imbolc is about new beginnings, and the discomfort of the season reflects their emergence.

A new beginning can seem inviting and exciting and yet is often accompanied by pain (think: a baby traveling down the birth canal) or death that makes room for the new (compost feeding plants or a new job). The birth of a baby tends to be a joyful event; somehow knowing what is on the other side of childbirth makes the pain feel natural, acceptable, and more bearable. The same can be made true for the birth of our awareness, should we welcome the underlying opportunities of the challenging events and transitions that are inevitable throughout our lifetime.

This challenging era is inviting our introspection, growth, and even transformation. It can be painful whether or not we choose to learn and grow from the experience. But, like with childbirth, accepting the pain as part of the process allows us to manage, mitigate, and heal the worst of it, and even foster a deeper wisdom about the inevitability and sometimes even the necessity of pain in our lives.  

Now, I invite you to reflect and feel into the pain and discomfort you are experiencing right now. Quiet the mind and elicit your inner voice to find clarity on what is hurtful and challenging in your life. Observe those feelings change the longer you sit with them. Underneath those feelings are your inner wisdom that enables healthier, wiser, and more loving perspectives and strategies. You might discover a nugget of personal truth within those perspectives, since they are held deeply in the wisdom of our bodies, accessible when we quiet our minds and listen to what is beneath.

This exercise is the equivalent of coaxing your inner seed to sprout and turn toward the light. It’s just one of many seeds inside you. Nurture them and savor the fruits and flowers that blossom from the most beautiful and authentic you.