It's the dead of Winter here in Canada and that deadness is one of the most mysterious and beautiful powers of this season. Indomitably, Winter slows everything down and forces us inside to shelter from the bitter weather outside. We are urged to take heart by going inward to find the true flame of our soul to warm us. In ways, it's like a forced meditation retreat--we have no choice but to spend more time with ourselves, which can be difficult as we come face-to-face all too often with our inner criticisms, shameful voices and all the verbiage of our negative self-talk.

This is a great opportunity to reach a compassionate hand to those wounded parts of ourselves, embracing them not with analysis but the transformative balm of our unconditional presence. When challenging emotions arise, that is our work--not to judge, nor resist, but to go as deeply as possible into feeling it. Something beautiful happens when we honour our so-called 'short-comings' in this way. We end the relentless war inside of us and we also open ourselves to the profound dialogues that can happen during the writing of these peace treaties, as old wounds, when they feel trusted and in a safe space, often raise the origins of their pain to us, perhaps from the depths of our childhood. Sometimes the pain simply dissipates from awareness alone, which can be a miraculous experience, and one that fosters confidence that we are our truest healers.

Yoga gives us interesting examples. To honour the slowness of Winter, I've been partaking in Yin self-practices where poses are held anywhere from 5-10mins. It can be incredibly challenging to feel the tightness in the body where life-energy is stagnant and blocked and then know that one has the conviction of staying with it for such a long time. As I went through the poses, my mind reeled at some of the pain my body expressed. I thought to myself "get out of this pose now! this is way too intense!". And yet, a wiser aspect encouraged me to breath into it, befriend the sensation with my utmost attention. It was wondrous to find almost immediately with that change in perspective that the tightness would begin to soften, the body opening. This is a physical example of the same metaphysical work we can offer ourselves when we encounter emotional tightness in ourselves. 

My friend Devon Christie recently posted this numinous writing from her own, sagacious self: 
"Healing comes from a place of self-compassion and self-love. As long as you remain in the surface emotions and states of anger, fear, anxiety, upset, judgment, resentment, blame, victimhood, etc., you will continue to go in circles. These surface states are expressions of resistance. Underneath these masking emotions and states there is usually profound grief – sorrow over losing what’s important to you in life as a result of your suffering; and on a deeper level, over losing conscious connection with your own essential humanity. You would not feel such grief if you didn’t love these parts of your self, if you didn’t care about your innate essence."

How true it is and how frequent that in the hustle-bustle of our culture where we rush around all day do these emotions surface as just that--anger, envy, fear, etc.--and we far too frequently toil with them, feeling ashamed that they're there in the first place. They are so loud and aggressive, but perhaps that is because they must break through our busy trance to get our attention! Especially for those on a spiritual path, such emotions can make us feel deeply disappointed with ourselves as we, sometimes obsessively, vie to be paragons of virtue. And yet, this is exactly the good work the spiritualist needs to take on for it is our unconscious that holds the power to light our light even greater.

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." Carl Jung

One of the greatest acts of self-love when such emotional 'triggers' surface is to make the time in our busy day to be with ourselves in a space of love. Burn some sage. Light a candle. Sit before your altar if you have one and offer yourself the gift of relaxing meditatively into the uncomfortable feelings to untie the ferocity of the emotional charge, the karmic knot, to feel the deeper feelings of grief and sorrow that lie beneath. Tears may come, which are the way our soul detoxifies and releases. We make time for timelessness, as I am fond to say, and in those rituals of self-reflection, eternity surrounds us with its magnificent time, as we veer into the past memories of suffering, thread them to the present with its messages, vision into future with our newly liberating vivacity. We soar in the ethereal highways of spirit, alchemists, magicians.

In Michael Brown's pertinent book, The Presence Process, he asks us to reframe these emotional 'triggers' by calling them 'the messengers', so that anytime we are shrouded in upset, we can take a moment in presence to ask "what message are my feelings expressing to me?" In times of deep contemplation, this question can open up worlds of understanding.

Winter is a great dying as nature draws to stillness. And yet, death always offers rebirth. This is one of the great ancient understandings that was experienced in the great initiation ceremonies: “Initiation is a matter of dying to an outmoded Ego structure, so that a wiser one can be formed; luckily for the Greeks, their mystery rites were stewarded by ritual elders who worked carefully to pass their wisdom on.The Magician is one intimate terms with death. He is the guide of souls; as the shaman he is the rescuer of lost souls. He also knows the deep secret—hidden at the wellspring of all things—that out of death comes life, renewed, transformed, and triumphant.” (Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette, The Magician Within). 

Honour this time by being with yourself with fierce compassion, alchemical zest and robust, infinite tenderness. I invite you as well to place on your altar (whether physical or metaphysical) what you would deem your greatest wound and simply hold it in honouring. See what happens when our lowliest aspects our given a lofty station, a space to teach us. This is love, revised, radicalized and ready to start a revolution in your soul...