||Volume 16, Number 6, May/June 2004
The changing seasons of wellness
by Julia Johnson
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." — Ecclesiastes 3:1.
We are fortunate to experience four distinct seasons. Much of what we do and many of our interests are governed by the seasons. In spring, the season of new growth, we create gardens, nurture new life, step into the warmth of the sun, and reconnect with the neighbourhood. In summer, the season of abundant growth and longer days, we extend ourselves beyond measure. Days are full from sunrise to sunset with activities that keep us outside with others, basking in the success of our springtime endeavours. In the autumn, the harvest season, we reap what we have sown, drawing to us those things that will nourish us physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually during the long winter months. In the winter, the season of rest, the season of death, we cocoon.
This spring has burst into our province with bright sunlight and unusual warmth. In the Lower Mainland, the transition from winter to spring is heralded by trees exploding with blossoms and grounds blanketed with a rainbow of colours from a wide assortment of spring bulbs. Elsewhere, spring creeps in more slowly, making this the most anticipated and the most welcomed season. With each melting snowbank, new growth is revealed. And as the spring rains wash away the remnants of winter, we are reminded of the cycle of life. The bleakness of winter and the dreariness of cold, dark, short days and long nights slowly pass, and in this new light and new warmth, we find new energy. With the passing seasons we enjoy a natural rhythm of seasonal activities that challenge, inspire, motivate, and encourage relaxation, connecting us to who we are. We await each season with anticipation, hopeful for another opportunity to express ourselves in unique ways. Poets frequently use this cycle of natural change as fodder for their craft. Their poetry, a language of reflection exemplifies an inner journey, a journey that expresses their struggle to wellness.
Even though the cycle of the seasons determines, to a large degree, the kinds of activities in which we engage, when we reflect upon the life we are living, we do so from the perspective of a linear time line. This linear view of examining how we live compels us to interpret upheavals in our life’s journey as catastrophic. For many, having to cope with a severe illness, a forced employment move, a marital break-up, or the loss of a loved one causes us to feel as though we have reached the end of the line. With this perspective comes the fear our life as we know it has ended, and we become worried over what we will do now or what will happen next. Living in harmony with the natural cycles of the seasons, as many of the indigenous people of our planet once did, provides an alternative way of viewing our journey through life.
To view a life’s journey in the context of the natural cycle of the seasons is to understand that when we are afflicted with traumatic change, we are experiencing the winter season of our life. From this perspective, our personal drama becomes a reason to rest and to reflect. This view brings comfort and safety, as we begin to realize that our personal upheavals are not the end of the road, but part of a natural cycle of living. When we live our misfortunes as though we are only experiencing a winter season, we are able to appreciate the need for winter’s silence, for it is a time to listen to our soul telling us what to let go, so room can be made for planting the seeds of new endeavours. This cyclical perception of life takes away fear and uncertainty. We come to know that in time the winter season we are living will end and we will be entering our life’s spring season where the seeds of new ideas will take root, new projects will surface, new roads will be taken, and new friends will be made. With this perception, hope is restored. Knowing this enables you to view your life’s journey as a continuous cycle of change in a wellness paradigm, instead of a journey to old age, where ill health and death await.
This view of a life’s journey is not new. It is rooted in the ancient wisdom of our sages long past. Hear how Rumi (1207—1273) expressed a similar thought in his poem The Guest House.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
(The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, Harper Collins, 1997, p. 109).
As we approach the end of another school year and enter the natural season of summer, indulge yourself with the time to examine your life in the context of the changing seasons. In what season are you now living? The answer will create a frame of reference that will gently nudge you onto a path of lifelong learning and personal well-being. I wish you a great summer with the signoff from CBC’s Dead Dog Café, "Stay Calm, Be Brave, and Watch for the Signs," for that will facilitate your journey toward being well.
Julia Johnson, a learning resource teacher at Red Bluff School in Quesnel, is a BCTF PD wellness associate, firstname.lastname@example.org.