Winter here in the northeast is a time of barren trees, gray colors, and cold, biting wind. It appears that everything is dormant. The leaves are off the trees, and the flowers have withered and turned brown. Many days, the sky is gray.
Often our spirits, our essence—our soul, if you will—also go through a period of winter. Perhaps due to decisions we make, perhaps due to events out of our control. Sometimes we go through a spiritual winter for no reason except as a season of life. This is called many things, such as the dark night of the soul, where we remain engaged in our lives but unmoored, with no purpose, no meaning, and a loss of connection to our spiritual self.
The Winter of Our Physical World
When our physical world is in winter, it is a time of reflection and rest. We may not be as active as at other times of the year. The shorter hours of sunlight often make it seem our days are shrouded in darkness. We long for spring but must endure the cold. But there are miracles happening beneath the surface. Science has measured that beneath the ground, nutrients are being created by microbes and fungi so when the plants are ready to emerge in the spring, they have nutrients available to them.
So then, when we feel lost, perhaps without purpose and our lives feeling devoid of meaning, what is really happening? This is often a period not of depression, but of stripping away of long-held beliefs. We often question so much of what has come before us. Embracing these times in our lives with curiosity and compassion may not be easy unless we have found a spiritual companion or director who can help us be with the not knowing, be with the darkness, and be with the nothingness that often accompanies this winter of the soul.
There have been several times in my life when I have been in this winter. As someone who also had periods of depression, there is a difference. My spiritual winters, my dark nights, were periods in my life where I felt incredibly lost. It was as if there was something calling me, but I could not hear it. I felt as if the beliefs I had grown up with were no longer my truth, but I did not have a sense of what was my truth. I felt as if I was searching for a key to unlock a door that would allow me to emerge into a new world, one of sunshine and warmth and growth and color…spring.
You Can Find Your Why in Your Winter
These years of my life are what called me to become a spiritual counselor, someone who companions others through their spiritual journey. It may include dismantling and healing old wounds from a religious upbringing, it may mean exploring and contemplating the “why” of life. The process of uncovering what spirituality is to each of us because it is very personal and can be very different. It often means becoming comfortable with not knowing the answers, but developing an inner guidance system, wisdom, that is the anchor to our essence and our spirit. As I get older, I find myself more curious than ever as I companion others through their journey.
There is no easy way through winter. We endure the cold and seek warmth and companionship. We rest in what brings us comfort and joy when we are able. We watch the days with curiosity, watching the subtle changes as we move into spring. We notice the hours of light lengthen, the sun feels a bit warmer and brighter. We are mindful and compassionate to all that is happening outside, and within.
Unlock the Door to Spring
If I have learned anything on my journey, it is that I do not have all the answers, but I know there are ways to navigate life. The times when we are in the flow of spirit and everything is going wonderfully are glorious! The periods when all seems to be unraveling can be difficult without support and companionship. I do not believe we are on this earth to receive answers to all our questions, but rather to become comfortable with the mystery of life. To see that there is beauty in the not knowing, the darkness, and the unfolding of what emerges after winter. To know that the process of a spiritual winter brings us to a place where perhaps there are no more questions, but an acceptance of the mystery of life.
The seasons change and winters come and go. Our spiritual winters will also come and go, and we build resilience and tools to be our own friend during those moments of not knowing. Fellow travelers show up in our lives to be our companion, to hold space as we search for the key to unlock that door to spring.
Ordained by One Spirit Interfaith Seminary and as a certified Interspiritual Counselor, I currently offer spiritual coaching and creativity sessions in person in my Bethany office, as well as by phone and Zoom. You can learn more about me at: www.lauriingram.com, email me at: email@example.com or call 203.435.5650.