The comparison of emotional cycles to the natural cycle of the four seasons; from the cold winter to the joyful summer.
As the weather in winter suggests, things are cold. Lakes get frozen, snow falls and covers the trees. Sunrise is late and sunset is early. Colourful flowers and long warm evenings are but a distant memory.
In this phase of emotions, we are lost, confused or in pain. This could be for an endless list of reasons, however I find the most common in this life is that of things ending. The lack of permanence. The human heart longs for permanent love or peace, but that does not exist here. Here everything ends. All of nature gives us these examples: their cycles of life and death, and life again. The same flowers do not stay beside each other forever, they complete their cycle and decay (in winter). All of natural life testifies to the complete impermanence of all that exists. Our hearts, however, do not want things to end, they do not want that love to go away. So when it comes to the season of endings, winter, we suffer. We do not like to say goodbye, for our little hearts break.
We never really want to imagine a whole lifetime ahead of us without that person or phase of life we are saying goodbye to. Like a branch will crack and fall from a tree, the overwhelming pain leaves us speechless, or unable to breathe. If we were to scream from despair, it would just echo into the emptiness that this place is.
Although outside is dark and gloomy, one of the joys of winter is being able to go inside, into the warmth and perhaps drink something hot. This means that although on the outside everything in our lives may be cold and unpleasant, there is always a chance to go inside and find peace.
What I don’t understand is that if we suffer so much because some things we love are impermanent, how do we not see that the suffering itself will also be impermanent? We despair so much at the realisation that everything ends, but we do not consider the implication that the desperation also has to end?
But no, they cannot see. So, like the long winter nights, people stay in darkness, unaware of how close spring really is and unaware that, like everything, this also is merely a phase. They stand in the middle of the snowfall, felling the sharpness of the cold, the deep cuts in their hearts. Like an eclipse has occurred on their hearts. I’m not saying this isn’t real, or the pain is overrated, of course the cuts are as deep as they feel. What I am saying is that winter is a necessary season, without which the new life of spring would not be possible. Heartbreak is the heart’s way of purifying itself. The snow and cold cleanse nature, after all of the blossoming of the months before and in preparation for new life to grow.
Through our suffering, we cleanse ourselves and prepare the depths of our beings for new life and new ideas to grow forth. Pain is not a punishment, it is not a torture, it is a season. Embrace it, feel it, but do not fall into the delusion that it is permanent or does not serve a purpose. Do not let your loss define you, for although it does hurt, it simply signifies that change is in progress; as a part of our lives dies, a new part will soon be born. Within this transitional phase is a door to change and deeper understanding of life.
Just as after the long cold winter comes spring, after tears and heartbreak comes relief. With hardship comes ease. New flowers start to grow again in spring, leaves start to show on trees, temperatures become more bearable and all of nature comes alive again. This is the human heart after much suffering; new ideas come forth, changes occur, and the ice begins to melt.
This is probably best defined with ‘hope’. We do not yet see a full manifestation of growth within nature; flowers start to grow but they are not fully grown. There are still cold mornings or evenings, there are still some days that remind of the winter that has passed just as there are some days that bring a promise of the summer to come. In this phase of emotions, we realise that there is more to come. We are not there yet, but it is a step outside of the aching pain of winter. We capture that hope, we get a glimpse at the light that exists. Most importantly, it is the realisation that, just as life starts over, we also start over. Like every morning the sun rises after a night of darkness, continuing the cycle of life, death and life again.
One of the issues people face in this phase is that they fail to appreciate the process of growth, expecting the full blossoming of summer without the growth of spring. Adding to this the worry that the full blossoming may not occur. This worry, however, is not found in nature.
A flower does not worry if it ‘wont make it’ to blossom. Birds do not get panic attacks wondering if they will find food/water: they know it exists and how to find it. When birds, or other animals, migrate during change of season, they do not take anything with them. They don’t have a suitcase ‘just in case’. Plants don’t try to put sunlight into a bag when night falls, worried that it may not appear again when morning comes. This is because they know that wherever they go they will have everything they need. That is the rule of nature.
So why does the thought of change bring us such anxiety and worry? Do we really think that we are exempt from nature’s laws?
Are we able to migrate, at the change of season, without our suitcases? Are we able to close our petals at night, without attempting to capture the sun beforehand?
This is how people get stuck in this season; again by getting lost in the worry that the next season will not come. Just as when in winter they do not see that the impermanence that caused their suffering will also relieve that suffering, in spring they do not see that growth and rebirth of the heart is inevitable. Again, like an eclipse of the sun, darkness (lack of understanding) is drawn over some hearts.
The appreciation of this season brings great happiness; like the fresh air of the morning brings anticipation of a day ahead. If rain falls, it is only to nourish and bring forth life. Find joy in the preparation for what is to come, work on the ideas that come forth with the rebirth of the heart, go back to basics and fall in love with the process of starting over. It is a mix of gratitude for the chance to start again and a sense of anticipation of how this chance will develop.
From the initial blossoming of spring comes the full development of summer. People love this season: long hot days, holidays, breaks from school or work. Flowers are shining their brightest, animals surround us, trees are full of leaves.
In our hearts, we have manifested the new seeds and ideas that came about in the previous season. The hope of happiness and contentment that we had has transformed itself into them actual feelings. Like the fully blossomed trees, all of our leaves have grown. We are living what we once planned and hoped for. If spring could be considered going back to basics (rebuilding a foundation in our lives), summer can be seen as adding decoration. Playing with the colours of the season, doing things in our lives that go beyond having a basic foundation.
The mistakes that are often made in this phase is that of forgetting the impermanence of all things, along with not realising this is just another season. Although it is a very joyful season, we have to remember that, like the previous ones, it will also pass. Excessive attachment will cause excessive suffering when it inevitably ends. This does not mean we should not enjoy it or feel the happiness, it simply means we should remember that it is only the passing moment that is beautiful.
Perhaps the beauty of life’s moments lies in the fact that they are only moments. Eternity embodied in a moment. I find beauty in our attempt to cling to what is not meant to last and in the fragile essence of the passing moment that will continue to live only in our memories. Its so tragically human, so tragically real. Beauty, in this world, in this moment, through which we get a glimpse of infinity, and then its gone.
Again, this is not about avoiding life, but about realising its nature. The truth will set you free, not the beautiful illusion. If we live the illusion that the beauty of summer is permanent, we will suffer incredibly when it passes. If we realise the truth that it is a season, we will still be hurt when people leave or times change, but it will not lead to our destruction.
In the mean time, breathe in the warm air, the fragrances of nature and join in the dance of summer evenings. We should also not feel bad about feeling happy (“I don’t deserve it” or “this happened before, so I shouldn’t be happy now”). You suffered the cold winter, you kept believing in the hope of spring, you do deserve to be happy. You do deserve to sit in the sun and live in that light. You can’t deny your heart a season, and who wants to deny the summer.
Inevitably after the climax of the summer, things gradually commence to change. Leaves start to fall off trees and nature slowly retreats. The party of summer has come to an end, but there is still incredible beauty in the colours of autumn. Autumn is a season of gradual transition, just like spring. There is beauty in the gradual decay, just as there is beauty in the gradual growth.
Like when we feel that something is gradually fading away; it is still with us but it just is not the same. As with the other seasons, this is a process that we must allow to happen. It is when joy begins to mix with loss, like a painter will take two colours and mix them together. A half faded smile that emanates contentment and resentment at the same time. Aren’t the autumn colours themselves a mix of different colours? Isn’t a flower blossoming and decaying at the same time?
As nature prepares to cleanse itself during winter, it lets go of all that was born in spring and brought to life in summer. Just as when we prepare our hearts to rest and be reborn, we have to let go of all the ideas/places/people we once had and brought to life.
Recently in the world we don’t really see four seasons anymore; summer jumps out of winter or vice versa. Or autumn will linger on when the winter should have already arrived. Maybe this also represents how people’s emotions are not following a natural path, but are rather filled with confusion and rapid change from one extreme to another.
What each season contains each year is different: although on a superficial level it may appear the same. Summer may look the same each year, but it is not. The flowers are a slightly different shape, the colour is a slightly different tone. It is never identical. This means that although we go through our seasons of loss and growth, the external manifestation of these is always different. Different situations, different people. If we did not say goodbye to a previous situation, we would not be able to experience a diverse situation and encounter new people, see new places, learn new lessons. Our lives have the capacity for infinite change, which is especially made easy in this era: all we have to do is travel somewhere new, start over, maybe even alter how we look and there we have a new life. Regardless of this, we can never escape the laws of nature, of our own nature: everything ends, and everything beings again.
The seasons are the framework within which we have our life experiences and learn our lessons. Just as people are different, so is nature: some parts of the world have different types of seasons (different people have different cycles). Some flowers and plants blossom in winter (different people need different conditions to grow).
Perhaps if we are lucky, some things will remain with us through a lot of changes. Leaves grow, leaves fall, flowers show their colours then they decay, but behind all of this is another reality. The hand of eternity hides behind the veil of moments, the face of eternity disguises itself behind that of impermanence. What remains with us through all these seasons is what is actually real. Eternal love cannot fade, a purpose that leads to the infinite cannot disappear. We learn our lessons through the change of seasons and through nature’s rhythms, but that which does not leave, and simply waits for us to learn and come through, is not a lesson. We may like a lot of things in this life, but only what survives the grinder of time is a part of us. The death and rebirth of our hearts is part of a learning process; what does not go through this process is not a lesson, but a part of what we are. Like a house stands still as the seasons pass, the rocks that just do not move from the seaside, or the stars that refuse to separate from the night sky; they simply belong there.