The Seasonal Cycle
There are five basic movements that interweave to create the whole of the seasonal cycle. Each month, each day, or even each breath contains the same progression from contraction to expansion back to contraction again in five distinct, yet interconnected, movements. Every aspect of our ourselves, and of nature, follows this same pattern.
This pattern flows from winter, to spring, to summer, to fall, then back to winter again. In between each season, there is a transition from one to the next. In these transitions, we reconnect with our center.
Getting in touch with this pattern helps us have a deeper sense of context for our own personal journeys. Acknowledging what different forces are at play—what is working with us and what might be acting against us at any given time—allows us to move into an easier alignment for manifesting our ideas into reality. For example, winter time is not a great time to bring a new project into the world. Instead, it is a time for dreaming up the vision for the project to slowly sprout and become manifest later on during the year.
Winter: A Time of Gestation
Movement: Inwards, Contraction
Gifts: Depth, Poignancy, Dreaming
The water element is strongest in the winter time. Water is the most powerful element. It shapes and forms us. If there is no water, there is no life.
Our first relationship with an element is with water. Long before we take a breath, eat food, or walk on the earth, we know water—gestating in the water of the embryonic fluid of our mother’s wombs.
The seasonal cycle is a circle. Water is the time before birth—the unborn, the other side of the veil, what lies beyond death as well as before birth. It is not by coincidence that mystics often talk of spiritual and physical death as a return to the cosmic sea—to the tao, the universal mind, a state of oneness.
Winter it is an inward time. It is the coldest part of the year. When we are cold, we naturally contract. We conserve our energy by pulling heat away from our extremities and into our core. What lies at our core is what is most essential for life to go on. The winter is a time for essentials—when the outer world is at its most bare in a state of hibernation.
Water is reflective. The winter too is a time for reflection. In a swimming pool or lake, it is easy to see how we create movement in the water through our actions—creating hypnotic patterns as our actions ripple through the medium. We can see how patterns ripple out to interact with other patterns that have already rippled out, or originate from different places. Through this observation of the movements of water, we attune to the depths of causality.
The womb of gestation is where things first emerge into being. It is not only the physical womb, but also the world of dreams, the world on the other side of the veil. Just as we physically gestate in this space of water and are eventually born through a passageway out into a larger environment, this is where dreams gestate to later emerge into the manifest reality. Winter time is the time when we are closest to this world—where the seeds of our vision emerge.
The rules of gravity do not apply the same way when we are surrounded in water. Likewise, the dream space has different rules than the world of manifest reality that we inhabit in our waking life.
There is a different kind of logic that rules supreme in the dream world based in flow and intuition, a following of where the currents take you. Our nightly dreams and our larger dreams for our life are not completely out of our control, but they are not completely in our control either. Dreams come from the depths of our being. They are resonant with the part of ourselves that is beyond the rational and the ordinary, the part of us that simply knows through feeling what is our deepest truth.
The power of water is to feel deeply and to trust that what feels right is right.
Spring: A Time of New Birth
Element: Plant life
Movement: Upwards, Rising
Gifts: Growth, Vision
The delicate floral fragrance of the air and the birds singing in the morning speak of springtime’s song. In the spring, plant life becomes active after a period of dormancy and hibernation in the winter. The passageway from winter into spring is akin to our birth. What was previously underground or hidden away in the wintertime is now pushing forward out of the ground, or out of the belly, and into the world. Here, there is novelty and newness.
Spring is a gradual process over the course of several months where plant life becomes more active. At the beginning, pent up energy wants to come out and can feel frustrating, like the ripe moments before a snake sheds its skin, or a mother gives birth, or a seedling breaks through the soil into the lightness, newness, and clarity of day. Over time, young plants establish deeper roots and mature plants start to sprout new green leaves and eventually to flower.
Our birth is a very significant event in our lives. It marks our transition from the inner world of the womb to the outer world of shared manifest reality. In our first years in the world, we are most impressionable and malleable. We imprint upon all of our surroundings in a deep and profound way, learning who we are and how to be by taking in the vast amounts of information all around us.
The period of our life after we are born until we reach maturity is when we grow the most rapidly. This is the time when we set the stage for the rest of our life. Just as we shelter a baby plant until it establishes deeper roots and reservoirs, spring is a time to be protective and focused on what we want to bring into our life in the months to come. Here, we use the power of our vision and imagination for the future to anchor and guide us forward. The movement of spring rises upwards, growing and maturing rapidly and, in the process, gaining strength and momentum.
The power of the plants in the spring gives us the surge of energy to propel our desires into the world with youthful confidence and vigor for the hotter months to come.
Summer: A Time of Connection
Movement: Outwards, Expansion
Gifts: Joy, Connection, Action
The sun is most active during the hottest part of the year. This is the fire that sustains all life, feeding the plants that feed us and make life possible. Summer corresponds to the element of fire. Summer opposes winter, just as fire opposes water. Water sinks downwards in its liquid state, and fire rises upwards. Between the two there is a special balance that creates fertile soil for life to grow.
Fire is expansive in our body. When we are hot, we naturally want to spread out as much as possible. In the summer, our dreams from the winter manifest in the outer world around us as we expand ourselves outwards. It is a time of activity. We bring our dreams into reality through doing. Our attention is expansive and outside of ourselves, oriented to our external environment. We become more active in our relationships and connections. Plants and trees begin to fruit and come into a state of greater fullness and maturity.
Likewise, as we mature and witness life’s unfolding, we gain wisdom. We know where we came from, where we are now, and perhaps thereby where we are going. Even before it is ripe, seeds develop inside of the fruit.
During the summertime, seeds mature inside of ourselves. We reach a state of sexual maturity and we are able to reproduce, actively participating in the creation of life. In coming into our own maturity, we inherently contain the seeds for the next generation to come.
Where we were the seed in winter, we now are the fruition of that seed with more seeds forming inside of ourselves—fulfilling the natural cycle of dreams to manifest reality, all the while containing the seeds for another cycle of dreams to come. Through fire, we connect the ancestors of our past to the descendants of our future. We carry the torch of living wisdom inherited from those who came before us as a beacon of light for those who will come after.
Fall: A Time of Settling
Element: Metal or Sky
Movement: Descending, Downwards
Gifts: Inspiration, Perspective
Precious metals, such as gold, come from literal stardust. When supernovas explode, they rain gold, which then travels through the cosmos and settles into veins in our earth. Thus, the metal element refers to the preciousness inherent both in the soil and in the stars. The season of fall mimics this movement, descending down from above, as the leaves fall and the intensity of the year winds down in preparation for the slumber of winter.
What is it like to gaze at the stars? What kind of perspective and sense of wonder does it evoke in us? Cultures the world over have derived much of their mythology and meaning from the stars, constellating them into different patterns and creating stories of epic proportion that explain our place in the cosmos.
The downwards motion of the fall is not just the leaves falling from the trees but also the wisdom of the heavens descending into the receptivity of the earth. The autumn of our lives comes after we have reached the peak of maturity and perhaps have reproduced. Here there is a greater acceptance of the inevitability of death as our life begins to wane in intensity. Life is in its concluding phase and as such, a sense of reverence emerges from having experienced the life cycle in its totality. There is a natural grace, and acceptance of letting go to allow for an easeful transition into death, gestation, and rebirth.
The maturity that presents itself in the fire element comes to ripeness during the metal time in our lives as we harvest the fruit of our labor. Ripeness is the first stage of rotting—in our fruit’s slow decay, it first becomes juicy and delicious before continuing to ultimately rot and decompose. We let go, we have made our contribution to the world for the year, month, day, or lifetime, and we allow ourselves to prepare to rest again.
In earlier phases of the life cycle, it is easy to feel slighted and affronted by the injustices we suffer—Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are people abused, marginalized, tortured, raped, and killed? Yet when we loosen our grip on our own personal lifetime and zoom out into the universe at large, we start to perceive a larger sense of order at work, a cosmic balance of the scales that is much larger and more difficult to comprehend from a human perspective.
Although we do not necessarily get answers to those questions, we develop a deeper sense of perspective from having participated in both the ups and the downs that life brings.
We distill the preciousness of our life and are left with a reverent sense of nostalgia for all that has been, both the good and the bad. In accepting and allowing for the end of a chapter, we make space for a new one to emerge.
Return to Center
Movement: Centered, Grounded
Gifts: Comfort, Stability
The earth remains steady as the other elements wax and wane in intensity—it is the medium within which the seasons come into being and thus the transitory space from one to the next. The earth changes appearance in each season—bare in the winter, green in the spring, full in the summer, and ripe in the fall.
Earth is at the end and beginning of every season. The earth signals a time of stability in transition. It is a gradual process. There is, always, a symmetry and reliability to the rhythm of the movement.
Earth is a grounding force. It reinforces lessons that we have learned and takes the lessons from all seasons and brings them back to our center. For every two steps forward, we take one step back. The earth element is that one step back—it is a coming home to ourselves after a journey to faraway lands.
We put earth at the center as an acknowledgement that what comes from the earth returns to the earth. That is true of our physical bodies as well as all of the resources we have available to us here—everything we have is here, on and in the earth.
Earth as center is how we honor our own bodies, the container in which all of our experiences happen. We prioritize nurturing, attuning to, and listening to the wisdom of our somatic experience. In doing so, we understand and acknowledge the ritual potency that comes from the simple act of being embodied and taking action from our own earth-bound, earth-based, and earth-created perspective.
Often, we neglect the earth in her wisdom and fail to use resources responsibly. Likewise, we are out of touch with our body in the same way, and expect it to work for us without working for it in return. Eventually, both the earth and our own bodies find a way for us to hear them scream—through global climate catastrophes, undrinkable water supplies, chronic pain, depression.
The body asks and then demands reciprocity, both as a ritual to honor the sacred use of resources and to avoid devastation and depletion. We can enter into a more reciprocal relationship with both our bodies and the earth through leaning into our sensations instead of running away from or avoiding them, then giving credence for wisdom to emerge from that space.
This is a humble way we honor the earth within—simply by honoring our own bodily sensations and acting accordingly. Taking care of ourselves the way we would take care of our own precious child: with love, respect, and humility.
The soil just immediately underneath the surface of the ground is dark and dense. When we go beneath the surface of our own skin, the way we can perceive that space is through inner awareness of sensation. This is the earth within. This is the tactile way we can feel, connect, and commune with the earth, both within our own bodies and with the larger earth underneath them.
Aligning Your Timing
Learning about the rhythm of each season is a mirror to our own psyche. While sometimes we might be in an “inner season” that is different than the season outside, the shifts in the natural world deeply effect us. The more conscious and connected we become to this truth, the more attuned we can become in our ability to manifest our dreams into waking reality.