The winter can leave one feeling cold. There is something about the piercing wind and the frigid air that gives an impression the environment is unconcerned, or probably more accurately, at odds with our needs. In my city I find this leads us to spending as little time as we can outside of the forced seventy degree heat that shelters us in the places we call home. I’ve spent many winters with little to no heat in my Harlem apartment, so I am in no way knocking the modern joys of walking into a warm house in the winter– a warm place to eat a meal and read a good book in the midst of a deep freeze is nothing short of heaven on earth. But if the modern convenience of being able to tweak our environment to always provide our warmth squelches our experience of mustering our own heat, I think this robs us of the opportunity to tend to, rely on, to stoke, our own inner fire.
In the past few weeks, I’ve realized that the best answer to the question ‘You bike in this weather?? Are you crazy?’ is to tell them that I love Winter sports. Which is true, but that’s not why it’s the best response. It’s the best response because it allows my questioner to shift from worry to camaraderie. Most can understand the sport, the adventure of battling the outdoors. It connects us to the resolution that comes with being a human taking on the big world.
My less successful responses included ‘I like the cold’ and ‘You really warm up when you’re on the bike!’ Those answers seem suspect, far too removed from the desire of my questioner to make sure I’m protected from the cold. But in my relationship to the cold I’m interested in far more than just protecting myself. All of these answers are true to me– I really do like the cold, you really do warm up when you bike, and I absolutely love winter sports! But ultimately, underlying all of these casual remarks, I find winter offers an opportunity that no other season does– an insistence that one contact the power within to generate heat. Our bodies are alive and very warm.
No, we aren’t quite the same as the ducks who are still slipping and sliding around on the ice, nor the tiny birds that stay the winter here in the northeast. But when we don our stylish layers we have the same invitation– to be out and warm, at the same time. To run wild through the snow, do jumping jacks, take a yoga class indoors and then step out again with vigor. We have the innate power to warm ourselves from the colds of the world. And when we feel this freedom, to be warm when the world only seems to be delivering the cold, then we have touched the knowledge of our own power to be warmth, to emanate the light from inside us that is at the essence of heat. (Please note the subtle shift from physical to spiritual here…)
We are meant to know our power as the warmth in the world. Whether the world seems to only project cold makes no difference to the yogi. We practice over and over so that we begin to gain lasting trust, we relish the opportunity to realize again and again, that we are truly what lights and heats ourselves and those around us. We loose ourselves from the confines of expecting, or having to wait, until the outside world does this for us.