I’ve not been sleeping so well recently. Some nights it feels I hardly sleep at all, just bobbing like a little boat on the ocean of asleep – sometimes drifting under for a while, but more often watching as the light beneath my bedroom blinds subtly shifts from a streetlamp glare to the dawning greys of another winter morning.
Not so long ago, my worry about my sleepless nights was as deep and dark as the midnight hours themselves. I spent those long nights tormented as the minutes ticked by, and clocked up the days ahead ‘ruined’ by projected exhaustion. I counted the hours, and recounted them to any audience the following morning. My sleeplessness, and her twin anxiety-about-not-sleeping, propelled me through the day and into tangled sheets of restlessness the next night.
But as the seasons of my life have shifted, so too has my approach to the long nights I spend awake. I see the world around me, and know that I – like the trees and plants, the animals and all of nature – can rest in a different way, these long Winter nights. Winter is not asleep, and yet she shows us how to rest in a different and dynamic way. The leaves have fallen, the branches are bare, even the sun has gone away leaving us each morning with dragon-breath and nippy noses. We’ve had our harvests, we cut back our gardens, we put out extra seed for the birds as there is not much left for them to eat. Winter is stripping back, pulling in earthly energy… knowing that this is the time, in the dark, to press pause and hunker down.
Winter is not Spring, with its bursts of new life. Nor Summer with its abundance and colour. Winter is not Autumn, full of golden treasures and harvest. Winter rests. Everything has pulled back, nothing much seems to be happening. And yet Winter knows that, in time, the dawn of a new morning Spring will come – and in the meantime, this is the opportunity to be still.
In Winter’s deep rest lies the life-giving power that births the creation of whole new years. Under the soil, hidden from view, unseen things are being brought to being. The trees and the moss, the little animals that sleep, the waters that travel and spring and join together to create new rivers and new ways through places that seemed unpassable.
Winter is not asleep. She is resting (as far as any onlooker can see) so that deep, transformative things can happen below. If all her energy was in the lights-and-colours show of leaves and flowers, buds and blooms, then she couldn’t get her real work done.
So to my long nights, I bring the peace of Winter. And I rest. My daylight hours are often busy and filled with people and noise. How precious and few the hours to hold a peaceful space, just for me. I focus on my unseen soil, sending energy to my roots. I try not to think too much… I find it doesn’t help much in the night. I just ‘be’, knowing that deep, transformative things can happen below. I notice that I’m breathing… in, then a little pause, and then out, a little pause, and then in…. Just like Winter, I have a rhythm that will sustain me through the dark.
Perhaps if you’re very tired, or if the nights are long for you, it may help to think about Winter. Winter and her busy, tangled roots, hard at work under the soil, whilst above the ground the tree looks bare and still. All that Winter requires is that everything stops for a while… is still, breathes. Gently release yourself into this season, being released from the pressure of sleep and simply resting – knowing that daylight will come soon enough. Put your energy deep within your soil, trusting that the seasons will change and that all things will, in time, be well.