Many of us know that nature is a great teacher. In nature, we find life, sustenance, rhythms, creation and, working through it all, a deep wisdom. One of the ways in which nature exists is through the structure of the seasons. The seasons of summer, autumn, winter and spring are evident somewhere, all of the time.
In summer, life is at a high. The days are long and bright and warm, animals are active, there is a palette of colour, sound and smell and everything thrives.
Then, slowly, the brightness recedes, days get shorter and cooler and everything quietens down. Autumn ‘contracts’ so to speak. We see this contraction in the formation of the seeds. Many plants die. The life forces return into the earth, marked by the falling of the leaves. Animals retreat and slowly darkness sets in.
This leads into winter, when life seems to have disappeared altogether. Long, dark nights give way only for a short while to cold and grey days. Nature appears almost sterile, without colour and smell. Often the word ‘sleep’ is used to indicate the state of things.
Sleep implies a potential for awakening. This is the miracle and mystery of spring. After the cold and the dark, slowly the sun begins to travel a slightly higher path in the sky, day by day. Tentatively animals appear, to meet and produce their next generation. Trees begin to bud and life seems to rise up from where it was hidden, deep down in the earth. Seeds germinate and all kinds of new life appears, renewing the world.
Each season has an energetic quality to it, and those of us who are fortunate to live in a fairly close relationship with nature are very aware of that energetic quality.
Summer is vibrant, inspiring, extrovert, loud and on the go.
Autumn is quieting down, retreating, slowing down and contracting.
Winter is hidden, still, dark, cold, pristine, and introvert.
Spring is awakening, renewing, hopeful and promising.
Nature exists and continues because of the seasons. “Nature has invented death to create new life”, Goethe said. Each and every season not only has its energetic quality, but it is absolutely necessary.
The Seasons of your Life
Why do we bring this reflection here, on a site dedicated to counselling?
Careful observation will reveal that any and all areas of your life are also subject to seasonal dynamics. You experience a ‘summer’, an ‘autumn’, a ‘winter’ and a ‘spring’ in say, your health, or your relationship, your emotions, your professional life, and so on. And here too, these ‘seasons’ are very necessary.
‘Summer’ happens when things completely go your way. You are fully engaged and you feel inspired, motivated, in love, committed, on your way up, strong, assertive, filled with confidence and purpose. You are ‘in the flow’ and life is great.
‘Autumn’ is often marked by a crisis of some kind, possibly as a result of some sort of loss. A loss of trust, a loss of job, the ending of a relationship, the onset of an illness, a financial loss, an emotional disappointment – any crisis that represents a passing, or a death even. This crisis then, brings about a contracting – you are relentlessly thrown back onto yourself, your experience contracts into a small space, you can feel at a loss, isolated and abandoned. There can be strong emotions of anger, frustration, cynicism, of having lost your way and of feeling a victim. The reality and the values that inspired you in ‘summer’ are gone, and there can be an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and despair.
Then comes ‘winter.’ The crisis stage is behind you. Whatever loss you suffered has become a part of your emotional and physical life. That which flared up with such conviction in ‘summer’, has ended and a new reality is settling in. Slowly, albeit reluctantly and under protest, you come to a measure of acceptance. Your life has changed. And this acceptance can bring peace, stillness, tranquillity and quiet. You may feel the need to withdraw, to spend time with yourself in contemplation and reflection. Inner quiet and stillness are essential now.
Next, you begin to design a way ahead. The profound change that has happened in your life and which at first felt like an ending, will be the foundation for a new future. Your loss, your suffering and your despair have taken you into a depth of experience and of self-knowledge. The promise of ‘spring’ is that you will survive, that what you first thought was a sure death, was basically an ending so that something new could emerge. In spring, what the caterpillar calls the end, the Master calls a butterfly. This is your ‘spring’ – the sprouting of new life and expansion.
Tending the Seasons
It is really very important that you can recognise the working of the seasons in the different areas in your life, and accept the value and absolute necessity of them all.
Motivational workshops, life coaching, executive coaching and trainings focused on happiness, fulfilment and success often urge us to always be in ‘summer.’ To be pro-active, to invest, perform, achieve, expand, aim and strive.
But is it not so that each season can only exist because of the other seasons? They each precede and follow one another. This is the structure. To always be in ‘summer’ is not only unnatural; it would make any form of renewal impossible. It would make development, transformation and growth impossible. Without ‘winter’ for example, life forces would soon be depleted and exhausted.
It is our challenge and task to recognise and accept each season for its value and necessity, and to work within their energetic quality.
When you experience ’autumn’ in a specific area in your life for example, that season has its own possibilities and requirements. We tend to resent ‘autumn’ – the ending, the death and crisis. But what if we can come to an inner recognition and acceptance of that season? What if we can come to closure, what if we can achieve in-depth evaluation and sincere gratitude for that which was? Then we can say goodbye and take with us the essence of what we learned and were given.
As much as we tend to resent ‘autumn’, we try and avoid winter altogether. ‘Summer’ is a time for doing, whereas ‘winter’ is a time for being. And we are oh so unfamiliar with being. In a culture and society that glorifies image, possession, glamour, status, achievement and performance, there is little appreciation for being.
It is well known that prolonged stress lies at the foundation of most physical and psychological disorders. And this stress is often caused by the fact that we cannot recognise and accept the working of the seasons in our own life, and meeting their requirements. We don’t feel free to be. We don’t feel free to bow our heads in autumn and grieve our losses. We don’t feel free to withdraw, to reflect, to be still and just be, when ‘winter’ requires that.
And so, you resist ‘autumn’ and ‘winter.’ You struggle to accept those seasons’ presence, their necessity and their needs. This is the time where you are in need of guidance. This is the time when you are in need of perspective and insights.
The counselling of HEART AND SOUL will help you identify the working of the seasons in your life and guide you through the needs and the possibilities of each season when you don’t quite manage to do that by yourself.
"In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer " ~ Albert Camus