After the frenetic activity of the winter holidays that culminates in a new year, we’re faced with a cold, dark expanse of winter. Many animals hibernate or migrate, but we humans, for the most part, just slog on through, bundling up, digging our cars out of snowbanks, and doing what we can to ward off colds and depression.
There is, of course, a certain necessity to this if we’re to live in the modern-day world, but we can still find ways to diminish the stress produced by continually overlaying our agenda on the unavoidable flow of the seasons. While we still may have to shovel snow and be out after dark, we can embrace the hibernating season of winter in our spiritual life and find a surprisingly rich source of inner warmth and renewal.
While fall poses the challenge of letting go and releasing what we no longer need, winter asks us to live in the emptiness and not fill it right away. The winter season is particularly suited for embracing an experience of the “void.” The “void” is a state of not doing, not having, and not knowing. It’s a place of emptiness and of stillness—the point after we’ve sustained losses and before anything new has come along to take their place. We may experience the void as a peaceful state of acceptance and surrender, or with the restlessness that precedes change when we’re dissatisfied with what is but don’t know where to go next.
When we resist the void, we hold on too long to jobs, relationships, and material things, resisting the ebb and flow of change, even when what is has become unfulfilling, even stultifying. We cling to what we have, not because we love it, but just so we won’t have to face emptiness.
Yet it’s in the stillness, the silence, the open space that’s left when all the clutter is removed, that we’re best able to hear our inner guidance and see the bigger pictures that will lead us to a new, improved quality of being, doing, and having—one that will better suit who we’ve become. It’s through emptiness that we make room for our highest good, not just the best we can currently imagine.
Paradoxically, allowing rather than resisting the natural barren cycles of life tends to shorten their duration and fuels the next stage of active growth. When we stop struggling against emptiness, the void becomes a fertile place of limitless possibilities. Instead of scrambling for something to fill the void, we do better to use these times for dreaming, listening, healing, and building energy. They are an opportunity to get clear about what we really want before proceeding forward. Speeding through the void is a bit like a caterpillar emerging too soon from the chrysalis, coming out a slimy, lumpy thing instead of a beautiful butterfly. There’s no efficiency in this. When we try to skip over the void, we tend to find ourselves suddenly back in it again. There’s a process to the void that can’t be hurried except by surrendering to it wholeheartedly.
The void is a good place to do some dreaming—as opposed to planning. Dreaming is an open state of imagining possibilities before we have a clue as to how they might manifest. It is about exploring in our imagination what we might want rather than what we think we can have. Planning, on the other hand, involves working out the means to the end. While planning is a good thing at the right time, too much planning when we’re in a void phase of life can actually limit rather than expand our possibilities. Imagine the caterpillar in the chrysalis, desperately planning a way out. The truth of his condition is that he needs do nothing but dream beautiful butterfly dreams and let nature take its course. Planning doesn’t serve us when it’s rooted in a fearful distrust of the process of life.
The void calls for a leap of faith in an invisible process. It’s a time to listen to inner guidance and trust what feels right even if it doesn’t jive with what seems sensible. All of this requires letting the empty spaces in our lives stay empty for a bit—allowing time for inactivity, silence, and introspection. In this way, we gently grow out of the void and emerge organically into a wonderful new way of life instead of struggling out, feeling beaten and battered, with nothing positive to show for our efforts, like the caterpillar who succeeds in breaking out of his chrysalis too soon.
Questions for Thought
- How are you pushing to know an outcome, or make a decision, or force something into being in a way that isn’t really necessary at this time? See how many things you can think of that you are trying to push ahead that don’t absolutely need to be acted upon or known right now.
- What are you afraid would happen if you just let all these go for now?
The preceding is an excerpt from the Winter 2015 Session of Lynn Woodland’s Miracles Course.