I do believe that spiritual practices inspired by our physical environment can be quite effective. So let’s think a bit about winter’s transition to spring.*
Winter has always represented a certain level of darkness. The daylight is shorter; many of us retire into our homes earlier than we do in the spring and summer months. Partly this is due to the cold—we’re eager to go home and get warm. But I think the general lessening of activity in winter corresponds with how we relate to darkness.
Darkness invites human inactivity. Our eyes do not see in darkness, and our sight allows us to navigate our environment. Biologically we are programmed to slow down and rest when darkness comes; we sometimes ask ourselves if it’s wise to stay up at all hours just because we’ve invented means of lighting our rooms. Our bodies seem to know that, even though the television is still on and the electric lights keep the room bright, we should be resting now.
And then, spring. Darkness lifts from the daily schedule. Now I can walk to the morning train in daylight and also walk home from the evening train in daylight. What will I do with this “extra” time of natural light? How does that affect how I approach my daily tasks and my spiritual practices?
- Journal for a bit about how daylight makes you feel. Does it help you think, pray, plan an activity, dive into a task? Or does it affect you in other ways?
- How can you use the physical lifting of darkness—and the metaphors of dark and light—to reshape your prayers? Might you pray in a different location, now that the house is lighter earlier? Can you use the lifting darkness as a symbol for your own growth or hope?
*For simplicity’s sake, I am assuming a Midwest scheme of seasons: winters that are cold and dark, and springs that grow warmer and lighter. Of course these seasons are not universal, but they offer useful metaphors for this discussion.