WINTER IS THE coldest season, but on the subtle level it’s a time of rest, peace, inner focus, stillness and reflection.
The flow of life naturally slows down and turns inward in this season, and we stand to gain a lot spiritually if we align ourselves to its rhythm.
Winter is nature’s way of giving us time and space to return to ourselves, again and again.
The darkness of winter gives us opportunities to explore corners that have gone unseen for some time, and to delve into places that we do not often visit.
It is important that we go there.
Why is knowing ourselves important?
Knowing ourselves opens the door to our freedom.
When we are ignorant of the belief systems, assumptions and behavioral patterns operating within us (and that we often mistake for being us)we remain captive to them, unable to make wise decisions for ourselves, unable to overcome the self-limitations instilled within us and unable to recognize when we are being manipulated by those who may consciously or unconsciously seek to activate our fear and prejudice for their own purposes.
Self-knowledge takes us below the surface of day-to-day routines into that elusive thing called wisdom.
Wisdom can never be attained, no matter how intelligent we may be, if we remain ignorant about ourselves.
The ancient Taoist philosopher, Lao Tzu, once wrote, “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.”
Jesus touched upon a similar theme when he said, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”
Socrates put it this way: know thyself.
That’s not to say going inward is easy. To know ourselves — what makes us tick, what brings us joy, what triggers our inner demons—is hard work.
As W.B. Yeats once wrote,
“It takes more courage
To examine the dark corners of your own soul
Than it does for a soldier
To fight on a battlefield.”
So how do we summon this courage?
Some of us need prayer and meditation to explore our own depths.
Others need walks in the sacred majesty of nature.
Some need meaningful conversation with trusted companions or a therapist.
Others benefit more from solitude.
There are many pathways into our inner realms.
Do whatever works for you.
For the more we come to know ourselves, the more we are able to invite healing and transformation into our lives, to embody compassion, to face our challenges as opportunities for growth, and to experience life as a meaningful gift and adventure.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Kate Lore is a minister at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend. Her email is [email protected]