Most of these summer days, the sky tips our faces upward and it feels good to remember just how small we stand amongst all this wonder.Read More
The following piece was written by Maggie Gavin. Maggie has been teaching yoga for The Perri Institute for Mind and Body for five years. She is currently pursuing her MSW at Fordham University to learn how to support mental health through yoga. Catch her class at Steps on Broadway: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 AM and Fridays at 12 PM.
It’s time for me to stop pretending I hate winter. I love winter. If my love for winter means I buck the tide of popular opinion, so be it. Winter feeds my introverted soul. I get to cozy up on the couch with my love and my favorite cup of tea, because the cold provides the perfect excuse to stay in. I get to sit in front of a fire and sip hot chocolate because going outside means my body is working hard to stay warm and should be rewarded for its effort. I get to enjoy my favorite outdoor activities – skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating – coming home the best kind of fatigued. I get to sleep soundly through the long, dark nights. And then, when winter ends, we get a slow thawing. We get to reemerge, hopefully better rested and more thoughtful from our months of hibernation. Winter becomes not just a time for rest, but for reinvention.
I recently came across Thomas Hardy’s poem, "The Darkling Thrush". In the desolate winter landscape, there’s one voice of joy and hope. Though the thrush is battered and frail from its winter battles, its song reminds the speaker to keep the faith. Winter won’t last forever.
So here I am. Let me be your thrush, cutting through the bleakness with a joyful song. As we look forward and hope for the rising temperatures of spring, savor the rest of what winter offers. Give yourself permission to hunker down. Enjoy the quietness while it lasts.
The Darkling Thrush
By Thomas Hardy
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
Photography by Maggie Gavin
The following piece was written by Kathy Hartsell, a fellow yoga instructor and mind-body practitioner who studies alongside the Mind Body Dancer® community. She writes from Boston, MA.
Even in the heart of winter, our bones beg to be walked. This particular winter has been kind in personality, releasing shoulders that customarily brace for bitter cold and steadying a cadence that habitually ticks in haste. With nature as the companion, walking offers a shift out of the direct, linear rhythm that drums out daily life. The stretched out pace of an unhurried walk is at once wecolmed by my legs and lungs, even when resisted by an impatient, jogging mind. As did many, I spent endless childhood hours outside, learning lessons that only time, space and nature can preach. Like a coveted jar of fireflies, I tightly sealed in reverence for these lessons, even as I adjusted to the walls and screens so present in our modern habitats. I now walk to simply remember all I intuitively knew as a child--that the sky is worth seeing every day...that nature is a magical teacher...that work becomes stale without breaks. The gentle wholeness hidden inside walking tames my impulsive pushes and pulls through life.
While as a city-dweller it's practical to live at least a chunk of life on foot, what always proves difficult is finding unaltered earth to tread on. With priorities of convenience and safety, cities have smoothed out nearly all our pathways. We have essentially genetically modified the art of walking. Each foot, unasked to experience the pureness of the earth, forgets the nearly limitless dances that its thirty-three joints can choreograph. Registering this loss, we routinely purchase "support" through shoes, seek familiar ground and accept shiny alternatives (escalators, elevators, subways and cars). Walking has been downgraded to an automatic and mechanical experience. Quite often, this whole-body experience is replaced by clunky feet that mindlessly shuffle, while heads, shoulders, and arms curl towards a cradled smartphone. I speculate that this blocked sensory experience has a sneaky a way of locking in our particular ways of being in and understanding the world we move in.
In Being Mortal, author Atul Gawande suggests that as we age, we start to prioritize security over engagement. He explains that we are quick to latch onto safety, even if the quality of life can be significantly compromised. I would add to Atul's insight that our attachment to security is observable at every life stage. I have many times watched my decisions, actions and thoughts be silently dictated by a desire to have what seems predictable and secure. While ahimsa, or nonharming, is imperative, we know that the body adapts, grows and sustains itself through the variability and challenge that punctuates our existence. The difficulty then is to find enough comfort to keep us balanced, and accept enough discomfort to keep us developing. It is, of course, a tricky task.
Explorative walking doesn't typically threaten our security. But it certainly can feel inconvenient, unproductive and unnecessary when held against the laundry lists that tug us up each morning. Safety isn't merely the handrail we cling to as we age; it is also our attachment, at any age, to the routines, circles and boxes that are most familiar to us. While a little of this comfort helps us feel grounded in the chaos that is life, it’s variety, adventure, and even discomfort that feeds our souls with other essential nutrients that comfort cannot. As I experience the value of outdoor walking - with the way it oils my hips, weights my feet and frees my neck- I notice that my willingness to explore my "walking ways" (especially in January) directly relates to my overall sense of connection to the world. Walking reminds me to find ground that isn't paved and to seek detours that ask for time. It kindly turns my gaze towards patterns marinating in my mind and body. It gives me a moment, even in winter boots, to feel the earth that I so easily forget I am part of. I have found that walking helps capture a broader sense of home that, like each of us, has seasons and weather just waiting to be explored. If we lean just outside the security of our routines, and soothe the racing mind, we will find trails and skies and trees that speak to us, whispering songs that stir ordinary days awake. Even the darkness of winter can brighten us up, if we take a walk, hand in hand with nature.
Photography by Brianna Goodman