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The Never-Ending Winter – a Mindfulness Practice

Winter provides us with so many ways to focus our mindfulness practice. Whether it’s doing yoga to prevent falls, or breathing in the cold and fully experiencing it in all its crisp, needle-like glory, there are things to be noticed and felt that we normally find unpleasant and wish to ignore.

“Unpleasant” seems to happen every year, usually sometime in March. One week the birds are singing, the sun is shining, you’ve busted out your jean jacket ... then boom! It’s freezing again. There’s snow! Your giant boots are back on your feet, and you feel a bit like you’re in jail.

This isn’t right! It was supposed to be Spring!

Suddenly, all over town, you hear people bargaining with the universe:

“Seriously, I just can’t take any more!”

“But I already put my SAD lamp away!”

“I saw daffodils coming up, it can’t be snowing!”

And yet it is. The long-term forecast says we’re in for at least another week of below zero weather. For all the shaking of heads and stomping of feet and tensing of shoulders against the cold, the reality is we have to hold on a little bit longer. We have no choice. It will not change until it changes.

So where does mindfulness come in?

Take, for example, this feeling that it simply should be over by now. This is a perfect time to closely examine our aversion to the cold, the dark, and the enduring snow, and look at how we assign a negative value to them in our thoughts. When the Spring finally arrives, many of us hardly acknowledge that the feeling of lightness and warmth and relief exists precisely because of the cold, dark, heavy qualities of winter. One cannot exist without the other.

Rather than reject and hate them, we could really have a close look at how these last few gusts of winter feel. The more we practice actually experiencing things we label as negative in our everyday lives, the more easily this ability to be calm and present will come to us when we are faced with serious adversity. The weather can provide excellent training for whatever life may throw at us.

Just turn your frown upside down?

Not quite. Think of this more as an opportunity to engage fully with your surroundings, to take note of your thoughts, and perhaps to even cultivate gratitude for these last winter weeks. This may sound like a tall order, and an annoying one too, but the more you try to be present the more you may find to like. When waiting for the bus, see if you can gently roll your shoulder blades down your back. Observe how you use them as armor against the cold. When you breathe, fully feel the freezing air in your nostrils and take in the smell of snow. Examine experientially how your feet physically feel in those giant boots when you’re not attached to the labels of hot and itchy and confined.

Try it! Why not? And if all else fails, hit your local hot yoga studio, close your eyes, and pretend, pretend, pretend till Spring finally arrives!

Julia Tausch practices yoga and writing in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a certified yin yoga instructor, as well as the author of the novel Another Book About Another Broken Heart. She is currently completing her second novel and blogging about the process.

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