change

LifeTip: The Dance of the Changing Seasons: A Meditation for the New Year

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For a few years I lived in a tiny town in the mountains of Northwest Montana. It is one of my favorite chapters of my life. It was a time of great stillness, hard work, adventure, and learning of a vast wilderness both inside and out. One lesson I learned while in Montana has met me every year since, at about this time of year and again in the beginning of spring.

The change of the seasons in Austin is hard to notice - some say we skip a couple of seasons all together. In Montana, though, the seasons can change back and forth with such wild fierceness (before making the full transition), you’d have to be void of all the senses not to notice. Perhaps the strangest and most beautiful thing about the changing of the seasons in Montana is that it is more like a dance than a turning of a page. It wasn’t suddenly 12 degrees or suddenly 98. It went back and forth. The change from fall to winter for instance started with the changing and falling leaves. You’d notice the tops of the mountains capped with snow for a day, then back to rock or trees the next. The snow would gradually stay at the top of the mountain, forming a line that slowly crept its way down the mountain and into the towns in the valleys. One day you’d see the sun shine so bright and warm you from within - it would melt any snow that had accumulated, giving you the hope that you’d have a little bit longer to frolic outside, drive on clear roads, and listen to the birds. Eventually though, the snow would stay on the ground, building up and up. The world around would be white and the wilderness that had bustled with the sounds of birds and wildlife, and bursted with berries and flowing rivers would grow silent. A silence and a stillness so perfect you didn’t notice it until spring started to dance with winter and you realized you heard a bird chirp for the first time in weeks or months. The sounds of spring arriving could be deafening after so many months of hibernation.

As a native Texan, I impatiently awaited spring and would become frustrated when I thought we were moving in the direction of warmth, only to have to put on my snow boots, zip up my 300-fill coat, and scrape my windshield, yet again. My dear friend and colleague gently and lovingly observed just how beautiful it was that the seasons danced with each other - neither was in a rush to take over or in a rush to let go. Neither demanded the other end so it could begin. There was no harshness to the changes. It was gradual, it was forgiving, and it was in appreciation for the work the other had just done so that there was room for this new seasons’ gifts. We could not have the rare and fragile flowers of the tundra at the tops of the mountains in summer without the fertilization of the compost fallen in autumn packed in by the intense cold of the winter, which very slowly gave way to the waters of spring, eventually welcoming the heat of summer, allowing their blossoms.

As we are in the midst of the chaos of the holiday season, and beginning to think about New Year's resolutions and intentions, I am especially reminded of this dance. It is so tempting this time of year to set our sights to the future, dismissing the journey we’ve taken thus far. We set intentions or goals to make major changes, forgetting to honor the process, the foundation, the failures, and successes. We forget, at times, that we are human. While none of us are perfect at being human, that never needs to be the goal. I am not suggesting it is a bad thing to set goals - quite the contrary. I’m suggesting that before we set ambitious goals aiming to change something about ourselves or how we live our lives, we allow the change to be a dance. That we honor where we’ve come from as we move toward where we are going. That we give ourselves permission to dance with the past as we create our future. So, I offer you this meditation - maybe you’ll keep it at your bedside or in your journal next to your list of resolutions. Maybe not. Nevertheless, it is my offering to you, in honor of you and your brilliance.

May you set your intentions with gentleness over eagerness.

May you honor the foundation and roots you’ve set in place for new growth to arise.

May you practice forgiveness and appreciation for your faults and failings when things take longer than you wish.

And may you always honor and love the greatness you have become and continue to grow into.

You are ever-blooming.