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It’s still winter…

February 25, 2012

By Stephen Damon

Over the years I have come to appreciate the cold and rainy winter months more and more.  When the nights are longer than the days and the days are too cold and wet to spend a lot of time outdoors I find that I wind up spending more time with myself—in deep reflection.  And this feels more than just an emotional response to the cold—it feels physical. If it is cold outside I find myself trying to keep the warmth of my body temperature from escaping. I would say that the “warmth” of my body temperature includes a physical sensation of myself.  Gathering the physical sensation of myself is the first thing I do when I sit zazen. So trying to contain my body heat I find that I often get into the mind/body space of meditation.

So when I am walking to my car in the freezing cold, I find myself going deeper and deeper into my body—so deep that I find something else: myself. Something else often happens; I find that I keep my impressions of things longer—that is, I find that I don’t lose myself quite as easily as I do in warmer months. Instead of constantly going out of myself, I find myself taking what Dogen called, “the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward.”


I’ve been thinking of this during the past couple of weeks as the temperature in San Francisco has risen over 70*.  Yes, I’ve enjoyed not having to bundle up and I’ve enjoyed seeing the first buds of spring, and the smiles on people’s faces, but in a way I feel cheated.  I miss the deep introspection of winter. 

But at least the nights are still long.  There is something extraordinary about sitting zazen before the natural world is awake. The first of the great vows seems especially vibrant:  Beings are numberless, I vow to awaken them.



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