“I believe in process. I believe in four seasons. I believe that winter’s tough, but spring’s coming. I believe that there’s a growing season. And I think that you realize that in life, you grow. You get better.” (Steve Southerland)
Seasons Of life
Just as the earth experiences spring, then summer, then fall, and finally winter — your own life cycle has its seasons.
You, like winter, emerge into existence out of darkness.
For the first stage of your life, from the time you are born to about your mid-twenties, you grow and mature.
“The world is your oyster,” as the old saying goes. Naturally, you consume all of the nourishment that the spring of your life has to offer — in the form of mentorship, education, and other formative experiences — in order to prepare yourself for the heat of the next season.
When you’ve grown up, it is time to lay down your seeds and take action.
This is the summertime of your life, the time to be building businesses, developing relationships, and being a warrior out in the world. Usually, this season begins in your mid-twenties and ends in your mid-fifties, give or take a decade.
Who you become, the people you nurture, and the wrok you do in the summertime of your life all contribute to the making of your harvest, or your legacy. In the fall of your life, you reap what you sow.
And just as easily as you emerged, you eventually fall back into the cold of winter.
Do you see? There is a cycle to everything.
Now, what I just shared was a macro view of the seasons of life. But there are many more seasons within the course of a lifetime.
There will be times in your life where you must enter a fiery summer, and I am sure you have already experienced this. So long as you are active in the world, you will experience these summers.
The summer is an exciting time of your life. Seeds of action are planted and then come to fruition, benefiting the people you serve. This motivates you to work harder, to plant more, and to strive to be perennially generative.
But just as an endless summer would scorch the earth, leaving it infertile, living many summers in a row without taking a breaks for you, too, will eventually burn you out.
It is not natural in nature, and it is not natural in life.
When you are in the heat of summer and you are “winning”, it is easy to become blinded by the light of your success — so attached to working — that you fail to let go of the season and move with nature into fall and winter, and to cool off and chill out. Like Icarus, you come crashing down to earth by flying to close to the sun.
Paying back your winters is one of the most challenging things that you could ever do. But it is just what is needed to spring back to life again.
We have a tendency in these time to favor the catabolic seasons — spring and summer — of outward action and growth, at the expense of pushing back our falls and winters.
As a culture, we celebrate youth, vitality, and aliveness.
We dye our hair, get plastic surgery, and take Viagra to attempt to artificially keep summer going, when we should really be experiencing fall. In going hard all the time,we tend to miss out on the harvests that fall and winter have to offer.
Tell me: if we appreciate the oranges, reds, and yellows of the autumn leaves, and we admire the snowy winter landscapes that the colder seasons bring us — why, then, do we dishonor the beauty that arises in us, in the forms of gray hair and wrinkled skin? Or on a micro level, why repress the fatigue and “lack of productivity” that occur from time to time?
I say — love your gray hair and wrinkled skin, love your tiredness. They are beautiful in the same way that the autumn leaves are. Fall and winter — while no apparently productive — are in fact the times when trees send their roots deeper into the soil, regenerating for the spring to come.
Realize now that fall and winter are as contributive to our growth as spring and summer — death and life are inseparable; they support each other.
Through the experience of burning out and being forced to rest, I learned the hard way that if I deny or ignore the urgings of the heart and gut to move into the next season, life will meet me with tremendous resistance.
You must be wise enough to honor the spontaneous, subconscious promptings of your body. When you listen in this way, life will take you exactly where you need to be with very little friction. There are times for action, and there are times for rest.
Ask yourself, “Which season am I in?” Whatever season you find yourself in, embrace it and appreciate the unique gifts it has to offer.
Is it the springtime?
If so, enjoy it. Eat up all the nourishment you can get. Read, study, travel, and experience life. You are being shaped into the person that will soon get his or her chance to go out in the world.
Don’t rush the process. Enjoy this time now in incubation — for it’s a wonderful season of budding and coming into your own. Pushing a flower to prematurely bloom, or rushing a caterpillar out of its cocoon, will hinder its growth. Hold on for a moment. Experience the wonder of being nurtured.
Or perhaps it is time for summer.
In this case, go hard. Build, create, and repeat. This is the time for creating your legacy. Who are you becoming? Who are you serving? What kind of harvest will you leave behind?
There is a wonderful saying by ‘Abdu’l-Baha.That is: “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity.” Summer is a time of abundance and prosperity, so take time to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Take a vacation.
But make sure also to share what overflows from your cup with others, in whatever way you deem fit. When you are filled with light, it will burn unless you give it away. Plus, the world could use a little more light.
So, the key with summer is to work hard, but not too hard; share your success with others. Pay attention to the signs that warn you to chill out, and know that the summer sun always dims at some point.
Soon enough, fall comes.
This is where many of us fall into trouble. We want to reap the benefits of planting and harvesting in summer, but are then shocked that we have been broken down.
Remember, summer is great, but the time for that has passed. Now it is fall. Let us not miss out on what this great season has to offer by trying to return to summer. It won’t work.
In the fall, the focus is less on doing and more on allowing and reaping the benefits of what you sowed during the summer. It is time to attend to yourself and the people in your life — to give them care. Enjoy your relationships. The people around us are the greatest gifts life has to offer.
And soon, it may be time for winter.
This is the most challenging season for most people. “Why me?” we ask, as we enter the darkness. “Why am I depressed and tired?” “Why am I not as productive as I was before?” “Why am I old?”
We must remember, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha says, to be “thankful in adversity” and see the good in resting. Winter is a time to reflect and meditate on your life. Rest easy and recover, so that we may come to life again in the spring.
It has been said before that the only constant in life is change.
These seasons will come and go many times throughout your life. Learn to dance with them. Embrace each changing of the seasons in stride. It is our duty to honor the seasons when they come, and to fully experience and appreciate what they have to offer us.
All of our pain and suffering come from trying to paddle upstream against the current of life. We suffer when we try to attach ourselves to a particular season, the person we were during that season, and the things we thought we had.
Th truth of the matter is that you never really possess anything — everything in nature is constantly in flux. Life is found in yielding to the river — yielding to the seasons — and allowing the universe to take you on the adventure that it wants you to have.
When we embrace every season of our lives fully, and stop resisting, we become more alive.