As the season of winter deepens its hold on us, nature provides us the opportunity to pursue an increased awareness of the gift of silence. There appears to be a death to growth all around us. Nature presents to us a picture of stillness which other seasons lack. But it is the silence of nature that beckons us to come and savor the inward experience of peace and tranquility. Have you ever noticed during a snowfall the exquisite silence as the flakes fall upon your face and you almost drown in the beauty of it all?
It is more than just a sense of quiet as one’s sense of hearing seems so much more acute. No wonder Rumi's words “The language of God is silence” come to mind. Winter offers us truly gifted moments if we are attentive to them. At every moment of our day, this world of ours tries to distract us from what truly matters with the noise of phones, computers, and the like. The stillness of winter calls us to know that God’s presence is embracing us and begging us to care more about our relationship with the eternal than the mundane events of earthly existence.
The season of winter can also be described as one of transition since it appears as if everything has halted and grown pale to our eyes. Green has turned to brown, blue skies have grown gray, and the air has become cold and hostile to our physical being. All of this can seem to crush our spirits. However, we know that beneath it all the seeds of new life are merely sleeping. It seems that God has given us a yearly reminder that transitioning and change are to be expected, even anticipated with hope and joy and not despair.
During these past two years, we have all experienced a great deal of transitioning. The challenge for each of us is not to allow negative thoughts to swallow up our lives but to remind ourselves of the words of Saint Teresa of Ávila that “all things are passing; God alone is sufficient.” We can find comfort in God’s language of silence during this extended “winter” which each of us has endured.
Our Buddhist brothers and sisters teach us much about impermanence in their mandala art. They devote many hours, if not days, to creating intricate and beautiful designs with colorful sand, stones, and tiny beads. After all this labor, they then blow it all away with one single breath in order to remind themselves that all in life is impermanent.
A winter snowfall is like a mandala; it is beautiful and then it disappears. The wonderful lesson from the Buddhist tradition teaches us not to hold on too tightly to the circumstances of life, be it our health, friends, or positions. When we are called to a time of transition—or a season when so much of our usual active life vanishes, we can find comfort in the beauty of winter and joyfully embrace God’s silence.
-Sister Helen R. Boyd
Sister Helen resides in Dominican Convent where she serves
on the Life Enrichment Committee and co-chairs the
Committee for Serving Vulnerable Populations.