Crunching through the snow and taking a moment to inhale, I paused to take it all in. Winter is a powerful beast. She simultaneously shows us the grace, strength, and beauty of darkness both in the vast sky above and the deep earth below. The snow acts as a protective barrier so that in the depths of the underground the seeds and roots can work their magic until it’s time to pop through the softened soil and charm us with their vibrant colors.
Listening to the natural rhythm of their growth without force or resistance, they take their time and receive the nourishment needed to bloom when it’s time. We can learn a thing or two from these sweet seeds.
Learning how to face our own darkness, whether it be fear of the unknown or shame of what’s been hidden, is what permits our systems to shed what no longer serves us, inviting in light for our spirits to grow brighter and our minds and bodies to stretch their branches and flourish. Just as the ground offers a natural cushion for the seeds to sprout through, by paying attention to our thoughts and feelings, we’re in essence doing the same. We’re supporting ourselves to unfurl in the darkness within so that we are able to ease and soften our hearts allowing in more light, which in turn, is reflected out to the rest of the world.
Our darkness is a shared human condition. It is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. The exposed, bare bones of winter remind us of the power that comes from dropping what we don’t need while choosing a trusted confidante to share our story. We do not have to, nor are we wired to go at “It” alone. Never have been, never will be.
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” – Mary Oliver
For now, I offer you this clear and grounding exercise to have in your back pocket anytime that you feel hijacked by your mind. Taking only a few minutes, it gently nudges you back into your body and your environment so that you can pay attention with more creativity, clarity, and kindness.
Bonus points for bundling up and experiencing the exercise in nature. It’s so powerful, invigorating and grounding. Enjoy.
The Five Senses Exercise
- First, notice 5 things that you can see. Look around you and become aware of your environment. Try to pick out something that you don’t usually notice.
- Second, notice 4 things you can feel. Bring attention to the things that you’re currently feeling, such as the texture of your clothing or the smooth surface of the table you’re resting your hands on.
- Third, notice 3 things that you can hear. Listen for and notice things in the background that you don’t normally notice. It could be the birds chirping outside or an appliance humming in the next room.
- Fourth, notice 2 things you can smell. Bring attention to scents that you usually filter out, either pleasant or unpleasant. Catch a whiff of the pine trees outside or food cooking in the kitchen.
- Finally, notice 1 thing you can taste. Take a sip of a drink, chew gum, or notice the current taste in your mouth.