Today is the Feast of St Martin, which was traditionally seen as the start of winter. It was a day for feasting, because from tomorrow a forty day period of preparation for Christmas began. These forty days were a time of reflection and a simplification of activity and intake. Ironically this older way of marking this season is in marked contrast to the modern emphasis for this period, one of speeding up, of acquiring more, or consuming. I wonder which is the wiser way, a way that is closer to the rhythm of nature?
Nature has its periods of growth and its periods of rest. After the colours of autumn with its clear, brisk days, the quiet of winter begins to sneak up on us. All seems still and peaceful, but it is a necessary part of growth and underneath much is going on. In this, nature becomes for us a symbol and a model in its beckoning our inner life to rest, reflect and simplify. The Cistercian monk Thomas Merton reminded us of the value of “winter, when the plant says nothing.” There is a time for us also to slow down, to say little, to wait and watch.
Our task is to find a balance, to find a middle way, to learn not to overextend ourselves with extra activities and preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more. The key to finding a happy balance in modern life is simplicity.
Sogyal Rimpoche, Glimpse after Glimpse