Surrendering to Stillness

|By Steven Martyn|
I suppose I should be writing about Imbolc, but it scares me to be writing about the first stirrings of spring when winter has barely got her legs. We may still get some winter yet though, in this wobbly climate, we’ll likely get our February in March or April!

This is the time of year for stories and dreams. They come alive from the beauty hidden beneath the frozen stillness.

Living in the Algonquin area we sometimes have six months of winter. Each part of the winter season brings its own energy and pace. By the start of February we have finally surrendered to the cold stillness. And like when we surrender to old age, we find the gifts are abundant in this place we’d dreaded going. This is the time of winter – when we have the time – for making art, baskets, working hides or sewin’. And in the making of beauty from the gifts of the land, we sustain ourselves and the future. In making, we sing our thankfulness to the gods and goddesses for such a lovely life, filled with useful meaningful relationships. We weave our thankfulness into our makings. Then each time we use that basket or whatever it is, it reminds us of the prayers that made it, and brings us to a place of direct connection. In this place we can touch and feel the land and creation, living in the very fibres of the basket. Like each cell in our body, each of these fibres within our co-creation has their own story to tell, if we can be still and listen.

Surrendering and creativity, winter and spring, are part of our annual cycle of teachings the Earth offers us each year. In surrendering to an absence of stimulation, the waters of our lives calm and our soul has time to surface and play. From the dark void of winter we sense the sunlight returning now, and this lets us relax and enjoy the time we have, before the sap begins to flow again with our busy spring days.

A couple months of stillness can be agonizingly boring or blissful. We can choose in each moment to keep fighting for the last scraps of fading light or we can surrender and trust that Spirit will present Herself and help us emerge through the darkness and grief into new life.

Every day Oscar, 7, and Cedar, 3, and I skate on the pond or ski through the forest or just play in the snow for a couple hours. The kids are hard to get out, but once they’re out they don’t want to come back in. I suppose we’re all like that with “life” in some way, slow to step in and then too absorbed to step back when we need to.

Ultimately, it’s the boredom that drives the kids creativity. Children and adults that are constantly occupied, guided or entertained are denied the gifts that come through stillness, gifts born of the void. From our fear of boredom, of stillness, of darkness, people are denied our birth right of true creativity. This natural form of creativity is now, shockingly, unknown by many people caught in the fast moving tides of modernity. Creativity, our muse, is like a wild living animal that comes to us of Her own accord. She cannot be domesticated, fenced in by schedules and forced to dance or paint on command like a trained animal. Many have forgotten Her these days because She only springs up in us after dormancy, like seeds after the winter.

Perhaps with some kids that have ADD or do poorly in school, are like seeds that need winter before they can start to grow. There is no dormancy now for kids (or adults) so we begin to fear silence and darkness. Then, with fear holding silence at bay, we frantically distract ourselves through electronic stimulation. When we grow up this way, we become adults with no imagination or inspiration. It’s only through the gifts of stillness that we are capable of feeding that which gives us life. When children, or our inner child is constantly suckled by electronics they don’t have the nutrients from real life they need to mature beyond the me, me, me stage. And they grow into adults that contain an insatiable monster. We need to have the time and space to find ourselves through the “boredom” and stillness. In the constant grasping for more, our soul is set adrift, floating unseen back into the dark sea of creation from which we all came. Perhaps what many troubled youth need is to become grounded in the stillness. To be dormant in order for their true inspired selves to surface. Only then will they awaken into spring. Unfortunately most kids who are not “performing” well at school are given drugs to calm them down or are pushed harder because they’re seen as “slow”. When we live with the Earth she teaches us that seeds which are perpetually sown without dormant periods lose their trueness and vitality.

If we are separated from the Earth there can be no stillness, no deep abiding calm. We must connect with the Wildness, externally and internally to be truly calm. This sometimes requires us to isolate ourselves from modernity, and other people so we can find that place of quietude to connect.

There are many ways that we can stay connected with Her, even when we are cooped up by the winter. Get out on the land as much as you can, and play. Live by the sun, give yourself lots of time to sleep, dream and wake up so we can remember and talk about the night’s messages. Focus on turning our daily routines into prayers of thankfulness. Feed the spirit in the way we consciously recieve the sustenance we need to live, the water , food and heat. I burn wood for heat and this simple act is a consistent ritual for six months that keeps me immensely grateful that I am not freezing, many times a day. In our house we are surrounded by wood from the land and things that have been handmade from Her with love. These “objects” are living co-creations that keeps us weaved us into life every time we work with them.

And perhaps the most magical of things to keep you connected with Her is also the most common; eating and cooking with our food stores from last season. As the food comes alive again, as we smell the fragrance of last summer’s richness, from the teapot or  pan, it soothes our body and soul, and keeps the family healthy in many ways. And like the returning sun, this beauty from the other side of death, from beneath the hidden rind of winter, the bright orange of squash or the deep blood red of a cellared beet, reassures me that life is only resting and will soon come back in Her full glory.