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The Winter of our Lives: Coping with Spiritual Death

(Originally published 2017)

My favorite park consists of 30-some-odd acres of wooded trees, grassy hills, and open fields and a creek running through. This place has been a constant in my life, and it's taken on great significance this past year as I have felt drawn to return and be replenished by this sacred natural space. I went there again this week, in the middle of January, to be healed and to commune with the divine.

It was quiet and peaceful, and practically empty even for the season. I was by myself but not alone, as I felt the presence of heavenly helpers by my side. As I walked through the park and took in my surroundings, I couldn't help but be struck by the barrenness of it all. The trees were bare, of course, but their emptiness revealed scenes usually hidden from view. I could see from one end of the park to the other, catching glimpses of buildings and paths and other views normally hidden by lush green summer growth.

As I walked I contemplated the role of winter not only in the seasons of the earth, but in the seasons of our lives. Winter is the time for quiet, a time for us to draw inward, to contemplate and germinate and incubate. It is not a time for forging ahead, but instead a time to rest and gather strength and sustenance for the seasons that are sure to come ahead.

As I pondered this, suddenly the transparency of the trees seemed so wonderfully significant.

When we go within, we are not left in the pitch black darkness. When we go within, we are invited to turn away from the busyness and chaos and distractions of the outer world. We are treated to striking inward views of staggering beauty we rarely get to see in busier, more productive times in our lives—if ever at all.

Although in the park that day the trees seemed empty, cold, and lacking their usual beauty, this too served a purpose. I could see distances and perspectives never before available to me in any other season. I could see new paths, new possibilities.

Just as this thought entered my mind, a crow called to me. I looked down and there it was, hopping directly in front of me along the path. I smiled at this meeting, as I knew it was no coincidence. Crows have visited me repeatedly this past year, especially in times of change and introspection. They represent death, though not in a physical way; they represent the end of one phase and the darkness that occurs before new life is reborn. In a sense it is a spiritual death—one that is often unexpected and even unwanted, but that is necessary for true spiritual growth and, ultimately, joy and peace.

Crows also represent higher spiritual knowledge and remind us to see things from a greater perspective. They invite us to not only look within to the darkness that matches their striking black feathers and to be willing to release what has come to an end, but also to rise up and see.

This is what I invite you to do now, on this midwinter day. Go within. Look around. Ask yourself what is ready to come to an end. Be willing to see things from different perspectives. And as in all things, listen to the divine and allow your life to be blessed by the seasons that all serve their purpose in the spiritual play of our lives.


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