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23 November 2021

Sacred Hibernation

by Hugo Ticciati

Winter Hibernation

There’s a poem by Emily Brontë called Fall, Leaves, Fall that embraces the seasonal transition from autumn to winter with open-eyed delight:

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

It’s common for autumn to be presented with subdued and contented melancholy, but from the outset Brontë also rejoices in the familiar associations between winter and the passing of time that only lead in one direction. The falling leaves, dying flowers, lengthening nights and funereal wreaths of snow seemingly do nothing to dent her zest for seasonal change, while even the advent of a dreary winter’s day inspires her to song.

The strange energy in Brontë’s words movingly reflects the way our inner lives follow a cyclical pattern that passes from birth to fruition and maturity to old age, while our creative imaginations continue to discover poetry and song in the spaces between.

Being creatures of the spirit, our inner cycles are not necessarily co-ordinated with the changing seasons, but as the winter season sets in, there is undoubtedly an inclination to turn inwards, to open up to the veiled mysteries within. Many of us might even practice a kind of sacred hibernation in form of silence, contemplation and self-inquiry when autumnal twilights and winter darkness are in the ascendancy. But, as is celebrated in every midwinter feast – Christmas above all – the cycle inevitably moves on, and we are invited to consider the mysteries of birth and creation.

Silence is the only teaching and the only teacher that is there all the time. Adyashanti