In the past week the topic of hibernation has come up with many of my students and clients. Some are trying to figure out how to work with their need for increased sleep. Some are finding that it’s just too much – too cold, too tiring – to get out. Some say with the state of world affairs this feels like a good time to check out and hibernate.
What is this impulse to hibernate? Some of it is about winter. Some of it is about our ability to endure harsh conditions.
We’re supposed to slow down in winter
We humans are part of the earth’s cycles. In Minnesota our landscape is full of dormant trees. The roots are still awake and able to grow throughout the winter. Similarly, our inner roots are pulling us into dream-time and spiritual growth. Wanting more sleep is an expression of your body wanting more inward time. You are right on track if you are sleeping more.
Rhythms of rest are very good for us. There is emerging research that a short afternoon nap is very good for our health. (I still haven’t figured out how to make that one happen.) Looking at the cycle of the year rather than a cycle of the day, I believe a season of greater rest is also really good for us.
Hibernating from extreme situations
Many animals have evolved the capacity to hibernate in order to survive extreme conditions that include having poor food sources (winter!). When we feel that our world is extreme, unsafe, and not nourishing to our being, then it is understandable that one might want to hibernate.
Our country and world are facing big, high stakes questions right now. Tensions and emotions are high. These times are asking us to tolerate a lot of discomfort, summon courage, heal old traumas, lean into risk, creatively resolve what feels impossible and expand our capacity to love. It’s a totally human response to doubt that we have what is needed either individually or collectively. The impulse to hibernate in response to this situation is actually an indication that our souls need nourishment and support.
Get the nourishment and support you need
Humans don’t hibernate because we don’t need to. We have tremendous problem-solving skills that have helped us adapt to the arctic, rainforest, desert, and mountains. In all these situations we have found ways to nourish ourselves and flourish.
Difficult situations call for the spiritual equivalent of winter comfort food. We need high calorie spiritual practices to sustain our best selves. The most nutrient-dense spiritual practices that I know are those that include embodiment because they engage our whole being. Dance and qigong are my personal favorites.
We also need places to shelter us from our extreme surroundings – our figurative bear caves. These are places where we can rest and return our hearts to a state in which they can see the world clearly. I’m grateful that my home is a refuge. So is my community of friends and communities of spiritual practice. When you’re inclined to dive under the covers, consider whether you might be equally if not more satisfied by time in community.
What if we saw the impulse to hibernate as a pull to tend to the work of awakening? Now might be the best time to listen to the wisdom arising from our dreams, reconnect to source through spiritual practice, and strengthen our ability to be alert, responsive, and creatively engaged in our world.
I wish you deep rest, soul nourishment, and an awakened heart.
Needing a touchstone practice in community?
Looking for a theology that supports your transformation?
I am leading a series exploring the dynamic and transforming qualities of the Divine as understood through the lens of the Trinity. This series if based on Richard Rohr’s recent book The Divine Dance. Beginning January 31 at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality.
Feeling stuck and in need of extra support?
Sometimes some one-on-one work can help you get your mojo back. I offer private qigong healing sessions.