Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Does a Bear Meditate in the Woods?

I had lunch with my friend Barbara the other day at one of my favorite downtown spots, the Elbow Room . She was a flight attendant for a major airline in Texas for years (retired now). Additionally she has a masters in social work and is a specialist in Danish Indiana history.

As we ate she asked me how I was doing. She knows I typically struggle with winter's gloominess here in Indiana--and being the good social worker, airline attendant, Indiana specialist that she is, she is quite the comforting soul to talk to about it. I told her that I was having a suprisingly positive January, this despite record rainfalls here. Back in December I had decided to develop strategies for handling winter. One strategy I'm using this year is to stay close to Sam as much as possible when it is gray outside, doing Sam things like reading, sketching, praying, reflecting. The other strategy is to stay busy if I find myself having to be outside surrounded by winter's bleakness instead of dwelling on just how depressing things look.

I told her that this all seemed to be working. I was still surprised, however, by how deliberately I had to think about things to keep from ending up on an anti-depressant like I have in the past, especially since I loved winter in Arkansas.

She pointed out that until this past March I was in a work situtation that didn't help matters. She also suggested that part of the problem I have had was that I was trying to live through winter here like I did in the South. In the South you don't really slow down during winter. The occassional snow storm (and they do have them) doesn't stay on the ground long--which means you actively do anything you can to bond with it before it goes away. Additionally, my personality is one that doesn't stop unless it is forced to do so. So things like meditation, planning, sitting still and just being have always been a little hard for me.

Then, like the Danish/Hoosier/Texan social worker shaman that she is, Barbara asked me to imagine a bear in hibernation. Bears don't really sleep through winter. They slow their heart rate and bio-systems down; they keep a personal distance from the outside world by maintaining a state of half-consciousness, during which nature takes care of them in other ways. In essence, they naturally adopt what would look biologically like a meditative state. Whatever bears produce (offspring? fearful hikers?) ceases until spring.

This kind of reminded me of what my friend Dave, a proud Hoosier who wouldn't live anywhere else, said when I asked him how he handled winter. He said he loved it. He puts on comfortable, but nice looking and well-made clothes and blankets (fashion is as important as comfort to Dave). Then he paints and reads and enjoys his and his partner Ken's home. He is a marathon runner so he still does that too, but his focus is turned inside the home.

Barb encouraged me to meditate and pay attention to my inward life more in winter, ceasing or at least lowering expectations for producing things then. This way when spring comes, my mind and heart, like the thawing ground are ready to sprout wonderful things. Another real world example of this: at John's job he has to supervise a complete shut down of their entire building's operations before it can gear up and resume production. (When I told John about the meditating bear idea he closed his eyes, held out his hands with upturned palms, and growled.)

My point, I guess, is that I haven't really been working with what God gives me here in the way of weather. Paying more attention to bear-like ways of getting along in winter (I do have the extra poundage thing down) I can work with what God provides rather than against it.


Post a Comment

<< Home