Warm yourself up for better results
“Bundle up, it’s cold outside.” These were frequent words from my mother, as I dressed for school on cold winter mornings. Sometimes bundling up meant putting on warm but ugly clothes. When I let my vanity get the better of me, I suffered on the way to and from school and outside on the playground. Over time I learned the value of staying warm, in spite of outward appearances.
Recently I was given the same advice to prevent stiffness in my neck and shoulders after skiing in very cold weather. The doctor said that when we are cold, our body shivers to create energy and stay warm. To prevent future stiffness, he suggested putting on more layers, covering my neck with a scarf and applying heat to relieve the tension. Not surprisingly, this advice to “bundle up” has worked.
This metaphor of bundling up to prevent stiffness made me think how it could apply to our challenging life situations. Perhaps applying some heat in our interactions, instead of shivering away, would create the opportunity for better results.
In the book Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer shares these words about the importance of bundling up in winter and in life. Being from the Upper Midwest myself, I can relate to what he says.
In the Upper Midwest, newcomers often receive a classic piece of wintertime advice. “The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.” Here people spend good money on warm clothing so that they can get outdoors and avoid the “cabin fever” that comes from huddling fearfully by the fire during the hard-frozen months.
Our inward winters take many forms – failure, betrayal, depression, death. But every one of them, in my experience, yields to the same advice: “The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.” Until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate our lives. But when we walk directly into them – protected from frostbite by the warm garb of friendship or inner discipline or spiritual guidance – we can learn what they have to teach us. Then we discover once again that the cycle of the seasons is trustworthy and life-giving, even in the most dismaying season of all.
As we start the new year, do you have a “stiffness” in your life right now? A difficult person or a challenging situation? As you prepare for this challenge, can you do something you enjoy to “bundle up”, for example having a coffee, laughing with a friend, practicing mindfulness, doing a sporting activity or reading an article on your favorite topic? A few minutes of doing something nice for yourself may be enough to warm yourself up so that you can respond to your challenge in a calmer and more thoughtful way.
Questions for consideration
1. What simple activities do you enjoy that warm you up? Having a coffee, laughing with friends, practicing mindfulness, doing a sporting activity, reading on your favorite topic?
2. Do you have a “stiffness” challenge as you start this new year? For example, a challenging person or situation?
3. What could you do to “bundle up” before facing your challenge to respond in a calmer and more thoughtful way?
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