Winter Woes and Wonder

I was lucky to grow up where I could see the sun set across fields in winter, to see where weather came from, to see people skating on ice toy-sized. Winter arrived exactly where I was and it could swallow me. In my slightly distorted reckoning of things, it was a kind of freedom. Winter let me see horizons.

Sigrun’s latest post includes two paintings of winter got me thinking about my childhood impressions of winter. Bruegel always makes me think about childhood, why would require some thought, hmmm, another day perhaps.

The atmospheric changes for a child go way beyond temperature (despite the fact that in most places in Canada winter temperatures are something worth mentioning) but all the changes: the way the house smells and creaks; how adults behave, necks shorter, shoulders higher, (they make huffs and puffs when leaving and they return home louder, stamping and banging); bedtime and breakfast both arrive in darkness; boxes of tissue are everywhere and you have to wash you face and hands even when you aren’t dirty; you get hot chocolate, or hot cider, and you don’t have to scream for it; going pee when you come inside becomes the most wonderful sensation: All these things are like being in a new world.

As inside the house gets louder and more claustrophobic “outside” becomes quiet and larger. Things take their place on a canvas with lots of spaces, minus the sound and garish colour of summer. Wintertime if there is green it is the sky.

For children who are naturally egocentric, and they all are, it is as if they have been thrown untethered in space and time into the cosmos. How big BIG is is quite awesome when you suddenly know how small you are.

Sitting a Three Day Sesshin at Oak Tree in The Garden

Sitting Zazen for Extended Practice

It is really easy for me to be seduced by the couch and practice is one of the things that I can build up a lot of resistance to even though I have been doing it for a long time. I have so many  examples of how much I benefit and it’s even better when I can have the company of other people sitting. So I was glad when I had the opportunity to sit a three day Sesshin lately with Oak Tree in the Garden. And yet even as I was preparing to head out I was thinking of excuses for cancelling at the last moment. (wtf?)

We are often encouraged to indulge by advertising: to eat what doesn’t satisfy any nutritional need, to buy what serves no purpose, to want what we can’t afford now and even when experience shows us these things lead to despair that *ping* in our brain that happens when we follow an urge feels like satisfaction. I watched a show on the science of fast food; apparently the “stomach share” is how fast food companies look at us. It was frightening. The worst thing was I started craving junk food while watching the show! I know it is fun to commiserate with others about our favorite snack food and how we are “going without”. We know it is ridiculous in our part of the world to do something like that. The only real “problem” of food is the lack of it and it still is in many places in the world.

So why is it so hard to do what makes us really feel better? Is it really a corporate master plan to ruin us?

It helps to understand the success of marketing when trying to change behaviour. We do have to be a bit of a bore to pursue practice and to make change happen. When confronted with the onslaught of advertising that encourages instant gratification, heck it makes it seem like a virtue, well, it helps to commit to practice for change.

It also helps to practice. Establishing good habits may not sound like fun but it really makes more fun possible. The other problem is that we have been convinced of a lack of time. I am happy to say I have been reminded what a difference a day makes, or recently, three days. 😛

“OVER 2500 YEARS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE, THE GOLD BUDDHA AWARD FOR SESSATION OF CRAVING, COUNTLESS BEINGS SERVED. GET YOUR SLICE OF CUSHION NOW! RIGHT NOW. REALLY NOW. THIS IS BIG, BIG REALLY REALLY F-ING BIG!!!!”