There were days not long ago when in the midst of chill and wind, I thought about how wonderful it would be to live in a place where it was always summer and the sun beat down on purple flowers and the green trees danced in a mild breeze while I sipped a cool drink beside a still lake and gave thanks for another warm day. And then I realized something ancient people knew long before we had computers giving us weather forecasts–the seasons provide a wisdom for living that if we pay attention can impact our internal weather as well.
The last few days have made living through a winter worthwhile. But would I have appreciated the green buds and bright skies without the cold and dreary gray skies? I might have, but I doubt it. It is the contrast that awakens my senses to give thanks. And when the hot, humid days of summer arrive, I can better appreciate the cool fall evenings.
The lesson of the seasons is not that different from modern physics or the ancient Taoist philosophy: Opposites are complementary. We tend to think about differences, seeing separateness, not unity. Without day there would be no night, without heat no cold. One great metaphor for this age is that we are learning about the great interconnectedness of life, how we are related to all living things, on this earth or on another somewhere in outer space.
The seasons certainly impact our inner life as well. I know from living in Vermont how the long, bitter winter can damage one’s inner world. I also know when Spring bursts onto the Vermont scene, what a great joy one feels. And I remember moving from a Vermont winter to the beginnings of a Pennsylvania Spring, and feeling an inner shift. But here’s another piece of wisdom from the human world–one can adjust one’s inner world to shape what’s happening on the outside. It is possible to feel good about oneself in winter and, conversely, poor in Spring. The trick is learning how to balance the inner and outer worlds.
The ancients knew before our technology that the seasons have much to teach us about how best to live. But you have to pay attention, else the seasons pass without our being aware of them. I appreciate the story of the Buddha traveling down a road, when someone asked him if he was a God. “No,” he responded. “Are you then a great prophet?” the questioner asked. The Buddha again said no. “Then what are you?” The Buddha responded: “I am awake.”