On human seasonality

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. – Carl Jung

As winter sets into Cape Town and we pull out our thick PJs and blankets from the recesses of our cupboards, a sense of sadness washes over us. It got me thinking, why the sadness? I think it is because we’ll miss the sun, mostly, and wearing sandals, lighter clothes and cool drinks! But then I thought about the wonderful things that winter brings to our lives – the hot chocolates and fluffy socks, cuddling up under warm blankets and better sleep. It got me thinking about the cyclical nature of life and how we have forgotten that humans are also a major part of Mother Nature’s seasons.

We need winter to renew our spirits and nourish our bodies. The colder, darker days and nights naturally induce sleepiness and hibernation (well, staying indoors in our case!). So why do we fight it? Of course, we can’t escape waking up for work and school, although I’ve heard that in some parts of the world, school hours are reduced with later start times. But we can embrace the changing seasons by eating seasonal varieties of fruit and vegetables – think hearty soups and stews, and using the time indoors to re-connect with our loved ones. Play those board games with your friends, lovers and children. Start up the old fireplaces and read good books – whatever works for your self renewal.

So that when spring rolls around and new life wakes up with the sunshine, you’ll emerge rejuvenated for your next life adventure. I’ve been working hard on portraying an important message through my novel on the cyclical nature of joy and suffering. This knowledge may have been passed down to me through Hinduism, but as I explore other fields and philosophies, I’ve seen the same concept come up in so many interesting contexts. Carl Jung for instance, talked about knowing the unconscious, and appreciating our own darkness in order to see our light. Other Eastern belief systems are based on similar principles – Taoism and Buddhism. These systems suggest that as long as we live according to our natural cycles, we will live in harmony. Whether this relates to our personal health or our relationships with our families, we can see disharmony in the consequences of our unnatural actions. Think about the many illnesses and afflictions that result when we over-indulge in any food group. What about dysfunctional family relationships that result when a parent or child abuses their power or role in a family?

Of course, some situations are more complicated than others, especially when you throw genetics and inherited characteristics into the mix. But this does not mean to say that we shouldn’t try to listen to our own cycles within our physical bodies and around us in the changing seasons. There are many benefits to giving ourselves the opportunity to reflect and renew our minds and bodies.

So what about those situations of suffering that never seem to end? Well, they do end. Eventually. And you get to look back at them and consider how you’d handle that situation if it ever occurred again. All living is learning. I truly believe that we’ll keep living the same challenge until we learn how to deal with it differently. And we’ll certainly find new appreciation for any situation when we realise that life is cyclical. So while I long for another island retreat, I really should just go with the flow!

 

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