In my twenties I loved fall. I loved the symbolism of the trees shedding their leaves as if to remind us that we too should shed the old to make way for the new. In my fascination with fall, I never really gave winter much thought. To me it wasn’t a season with much brilliance at all, at least not here in Texas. Lately though I’ve come to view and appreciate winter as a season of waiting. A season of silence and reflection.

Despite the barrenness of the trees and the lack of vibrancy in the landscape, there is a strong and quiet depth to the season, an unspoken wisdom that resonates in the air. A wisdom that knows this season serves an important purpose. It’s as though mother nature herself turns inwards in preparation for the next season. The forest animals hibernate, the plants appear to die off, the rivers and streams freeze over, and the daylight hours are short.

We too reach these seasons of forced stillness in our lives. Maybe we feel like our life is stagnant in the area of a hope or dream we’re pursuing. Maybe we feel like nothing in our life is working. Maybe we feel like we’re in a dark place with something. Maybe we can’t see the ground beneath us and feel shaken to our bones.

We will all face moments where we feel tested, depleted, or stagnant. We have to learn how to sit with these moments and go through the stillness instead of trying to avoid or escape them. Our response to these moments defines and shapes our future trajectory.

Sometimes it’s easy to try to attach meaning and judgment to these seasons; we act like we’ve broken a sheet of glass or a fragile vase, and then we try to either hold onto the pieces or put them back together. It’s with this mindset that we see only the broken fragments instead of the light of the lessons behind them. Sometimes the more broken we think we are or a situation is, the more the light gets through, just as the winter tree allows the sun to permeate through its branches.

It’s what we do with these “winter” seasons in our own life that has the power to propel us into something new and exciting or keep us stuck. It’s when we tune in and listen to what needs to stay and what needs to go, when we dig deep into the core of our being, our essence, that we find the magic of our existence. It’s when we give the silence and stillness the space to be heard and seen for what it is and what it offers that we can dive deeper into the journey of radically changing our lives for the better.

Here are five questions I ask myself when I am in the middle of a season of stillness and contemplation:

  1. What do I love about life and about myself?
  2. Am I spending my time wisely and in accordance with my values?
  3. Am I holding onto something I need to let go of?
  4. What is getting too much of my time and attention that is outside of my control?
  5. What are 3 things within my control that I can do today to propel myself forward?

Remember this, it’s in the stillness that you can come back home to yourself.