In the winter I love taking evening walks in the dark. I love the deep stillness as I walk past the hibernating trees, the deer bedded down in the meadow behind wispy curtains of fog, the occasional tree frog croaking from unseen places. I love the way the woodsmoke mixes with the crisp air as I inhale and the way the cold stings my skin, as it makes me aware of just how good it feels to be warm.
Walking in the winter darkness also makes me very aware of where the moon is in her cycle. Each month when the new moon comes around, I realize how much I took for granted her subtle glow that helped light my way, even when she was just a sliver. I realize how dark the night can really be. On the night of the new moon, there is no escaping darkness, as the shadows sink into each other and take over the land.
When we look closer, the lessons of darkness we receive from the new moon echo with lessons of death as well. Energetically intertwined, darkness and death flow hand in hand through other areas of our lives. Seasonally, winter is the darkest time of the year, and the time when much of the growing world experiences death or hibernation. Daily, we experience darkness each time that night falls, marking the death of that day. In the cycle of life, this energy shows up for us as we approach the end of our own lives or grieve a loved one who has passed on. And in our feminine moon cycles, we experience this darkness and sense of dying monthly at menstruation. These patterns are not coincidence; they are here to guide us to deeper understanding of a very complex energy that we all experience at one time or another.
For a lot of us, death and darkness are unwelcome things. Whether it’s death of a loved one, death of old ways of being, death of a dream that didn’t manifest the way we want, or our own death, they often inspire fear, and we work hard to avoid them. But like all things in life, they serve a purpose. They complete the whole. There cannot be light without the darkness, there cannot be life without death. But how many of us have heard this, get this, believe this, but don’t actually, truly know this in our own bodies? We may be able to write the book on how death completes the cycle of life, about how natural, essential, and necessary death is for life…but when death actually shows up for us, we run and hide behind dread, fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, disempowering narratives, wishing for things to be different.
This is where the energy of the New Moon and winter can guide us. Learning to embrace – truly embrace – winter energy is so powerful. The more we come to accept the darkness, the cold, the quiet, the more we can realize that death is not “bad energy,” just a different energy, that we must approach differently. We need to find out: What are we really so afraid of? Because sometimes what we thought we were afraid of doesn’t even exist.
Take some time to think about how you respond to winter. Do you dread the short days and long nights? Do you end up feeling stagnant day after day as you stay inside, avoiding going out in the cold? Does the winter seem long and unbearable as you wish for the spring? Does your body just feel like resting, but you resist that feeling and continue to push yourself to do everything you think you should be doing? Do you feel like there is an elusive balance between rest and renewal that you can never quite find? The way we react to discomfort in our physical lives can reveal a lot about how we react to discomfort in our spiritual lives. As you uncover your relationship to winter, you will uncover important aspects of your relationship with death.
Once you understand your relationship to winter, the next step is to surrender to everything you have been resisting. Bring a softness and curiosity into the relationship. Let go of your current paradigm, even if just for a few hours. Instead of lamenting how early it gets dark – go out in the dark and see what magic is out there. Instead of feeling miserable in the cold – let yourself appreciate what the cold really feels like on your skin. Instead of pushing through the day with an agenda that feels too high-energy for the winter – face the fear of “not doing enough” and find things that feel just the right amount of energizing. Release the idea that rest equals weakness. Rest is not a lack of energy, but a different energy.
If you truly explore all the magic of winter, there will be no space for fear, anxiety or dread. All there will be space for is a deep knowing of what winter is. So, embrace the dark. Embrace the cold. Embrace the rest. Embrace it all with presence. When we can embrace the winter, we are one step closer to being able to embrace death.