Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tending to the Inner Landscape Seasonal Reflections by: John Muraco

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
-Albert Camus

One true fact: We all deal with the changing seasons differently.  As it stands true with life’s challenges and changes, ups and downs, and ebb and flow, people have very unique and important ways in which they meet the changing of the seasons.  As we leave summer behind and replace the warm weather with cooler and more ‘biting air’, I become fascinated with the approaches that each one of us has toward this change.  Perhaps merely reading this article creates some angst for you as we delve more deeply into fall and the beginning of winter.  At the same time, others may be ecstatic knowing that they get to pull the sweater out of the closet and enjoy warming drinks, rich and filling foods, and more time indoors.  I wonder though, how can this become a season of understanding ourselves more deeply?  What things can we integrate into out lives to make the darker and colder seasons more inviting?  By witnessing natural landscape changes outdoors we find many clues to the changing landscape within us.  Perhaps with some noticing and a little motivation for self-care, we can begin to harmonize with the cooler seasonal change, as we say goodbye to the golden light of summer, and go inward.

This is a great time of the year to harvest all that was accomplished in the past five months.  No matter what your experience has been, allow yourself a chance for a deep breath and gratitude for arriving to your life today.  And look back on the accomplishments made. Perhaps for you, summer was fraught with challenge, change, and some discomforts.  Now is a great time to allow yourself some time each day for quiet reflection.  Consider journaling, working with collage, drawing, or whatever you choose.  Proceed without judgment, like nobody’s watching- this is your time.  It could be that your experience during the summer was one with many positive changes, a lot of time outdoors, late nights, and high energy.  Again, reflecting on all that has taken shape in the ‘lively’ months of spring and summer, and reaping the benefits of what life has delivered, can go a long way.  Winter can be your wind down period that allows for restoration.

Just like the falling leaves, our energy too can be downward and inward-moving as we transition into fall and winter.  And as we near Halloween, a holiday ripe with ghosts, goblins, and skeletons, I ponder the possible connection to our inner life.  Let this be a time to honor the letting go or passing of choices that might no longer serve us, or take a closer look at relationships that feel non-sustainable.  Further, give yourself freedom to share gratitude for the ones who have had positive impacts on our lives. 

Perhaps you have heard the Yogi Bajan quote “When you don’t go within, you go without.”  This is a wonderful quote to exemplify the quiet inward drawing effects of the winter season, and the nourishing benefits of withdrawing our senses from the outer world to gaze within. Challenging though it may be, the colder and darker months reflect to us, that in order to be born anew we must go within.  Inner stillness and nonjudgmental self-observation empowers us to become available to new ways of being and maybe even open to the parts of ourselves that remain unseen in our shadow.  Be it in stillness, self-reflection, or support from others, we might find there some reverence and light. By that inner light, we may gaze at the things in life that have held us back, noticing what is working and what isn't, and integrating more of what makes our hearts sing into our lives. 

Here are a couple things you can begin to do right now!!

1. Allow yourself 5 minutes (go for more if you can!) of deep belly breathing.  By placing your hand on your belly, inhale through your nose and exhale through your nose.  This will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and allow the body to relax and restore.  If your mind is wandering (that is normal!) bring your attention back to your breath or the rising of your belly into your hand.

2. Self Expression – This is totally up to you!  Maybe the way you want to express yourself is by cooking a warming soup for yourself or the meaningful people in your life.  If journaling is your thing, (or something that you want to make your thing) allow yourself some free-write sessions where you can release whatever has been on your mind.   What expands you?  What contracts you?  Making art, moving your body, and enjoying your time can be very rewarding at this time of year.

3. Cleaning out closets, pantries, drawers, etc.  It may sound funny, but again, this is a great time of the year to ‘go within’ and the nook and cranny parts of our house can be symbolic of the aspects of ourselves that could use some tending to.  It is possible that by cleaning and clearing unwanted clutter might make some space within your inner world!

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to experience anything.  There is only your way.  Be gentle on yourself, listen to your needs, and move forward in the changing seasons in whatever way feels best to you.  Please stay tuned next month when we delve into some ways to use food as medicine, learn about helpful cold & flu winter remedies and ways to beat the winter blues! 

John Muraco is an art therapist and holistic health counselor at The Resiliency Center located in Flourtown.  For more information about John or to schedule a free consultation please go to or reach him by phone at 315-329-9838.

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