A colloquialism that I often hear applied to parenting, but that I find true for much of life, is, “The days are long, but the years are short.” It is used to describe the paradoxical experience of some days seeming to be full of trials and “never ending” and yet, it seems that we blink and those days are just a memory in our past.
The phrase strikes me as being true about the work done in spiritual development as well. Sometimes it feels as though, for better or for worse, we are stuck in an experience. As if we have reached our maximum depths and broadest understandings only to face a dull and unchanging future. Of course, this is not actually the case. In my opinion, even the most wise and enlightened among us only begin to dip a toe in this lifetime in to what is possible within the human experience.
Philosophical musings aside, we journey through this life bound by space and time and we inevitably experience ourselves as stuck within one or both. Especially when trauma disrupts our normal flow. I have found it helpful in my own journey and practice of spiritual direction, to try and name the season my soul is in during these experiences of stillness. Like the seasons in nature, there is a flow to our growth. The seasons of the soul are not always equal in length, nor are they guaranteed to progress “in order.” However, having a sense of place in the long-term story of our lives helps us to appreciate our present season and lean in to whatever growth may be happening beneath the surface. I find that the simplest categories for these seasons correspond to those of the natural world, winter, spring, summer, and fall. Although, it can also be rewarding to personalize those names. Each season has two faces to it, acknowledging which we are walking in can help us find joy and gratitude or sobriety, whichever is needed for balance. Where might your soul find itself these days? Where is your directee?
May be characterized by explosive growth. Storms followed by sunshine and refreshment. Everything feels new and full of possibility, and the new is easy to discern. There may be a freshness to experiences, or a feeling of “airing out.” A time of cleaning house. It may also feel frenetic or overwhelming, like there is too much to see, a bombardment of the senses. Perhaps a longing for what is to come.
This season often feels like contentment, fullness, stability, abundance, relaxation and relief. A feeling of fun or freedom that lingers around even our mundane decisions. In American culture, summer is often treated as a unique and special season, even when we are out of school-age and no longer experience huge schedule changes. Perhaps there is a longing for adventure or a change of scenery. On the other hand, there may be a sense of being in the desert, of thirst, of the Light being too bright.
In this season there may be an emphasis on reflection and remembering. On the gathering in of hard work, harvest, abundance, feeling grateful and satisfied. On the other hand, there may be preparation for what is to come, hunkering down, and storing up. There may be a sense of seeing difficulty coming.
One of my favorite things about trees is the work they do in winter. When they seem barren and exposed is actually when all of the growth done during spring and summer is turned into solidity and strength. This is an integrating season. A deepening of roots in the quiet days. A time of coziness, rest, and waiting. For some though, winter may also be represented by a sense of dryness, exposure, being stuck, or buried.
How have you experienced the seasons of your soul’s growth? What names have helped you identify and appreciate your present placement in life? Where do you see the Divine in each?
Suggestions for Further Reading:
Art of Spiritual Direction, by W. Paul Jones
Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women, by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert
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