Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


The Ways of Winter Mindfulness

Winter is the season of rejuvenation and creativity

After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question had been put to me, which I had been endeavoring in vain to answer in my sleep, as what- how- when- where? But there was dawning Nature, in whom all creatures live, looking in at my broad windows with serene and satisfied face, and no question on her lips. I awoke to an answered question, to Nature and daylight.

After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question had been put to me, which I had been endeavoring in vain to answer in my sleep, as what- how- when- where? But there was dawning Nature, in whom all creatures live, looking in at my broad windows with serene and satisfied face, and no question on her lips. I awoke to an answered question, to Nature and daylight.

~ Henry David Thoreau

The winter person is restored in the essence of her creativity. Winter is mystical in many ways. As in the Thoreau quote above, it is a time of deep discovery. It is a season of rest, reflection, and conservation of your physical and psychic energies, of finding safety and creativity in the bare energy of life—nature’s and your own.

The winter cycle is your body-mind-spirit’s restart button. With it, according to Eastern traditions, you flow into that part of your mind that houses profound insights as you prepare to “reboot” into the new spring ahead and begin nature’s cycles all over again. According to Eastern traditions, the idea is to use nature’s “falling energy cycle” to help you “chill out,” to mindfully step back—if you will—and look closely, introspectively as well as outwardly, and objectively as well as subjectively, at where you have been, where you are at the moment, and where you want to be in the future.

The idea is to mindfully shut down distractions as well as minimize the attention you are giving to those things that are, in fact, draining you, and as a result keeping you from reaping the full benefits of life’s joys (especially with the oncoming holidays and all of their exhilaration). This is important. In fact, one of the most important concepts in holistic arts is that we need to be fully present to life’s natural joys so that we can absorb them. This is because we need them, as they have the capacity to restore us from the drains of our daily efforts and all our daily energy output.

We only have so much energy and once we use it, we have to restore it. You balance energy output with energy input. Unfortunately, many of us go the other way, especially during the declining energy seasons of autumn and winter. And staying at the “grinding wheel” for too long, without restoration, can have a wide range of harmful effects on your health.

To this end, holistic arts suggest that winter is mostly a time for calm creativity. And this will be the main focus of this post. Upcoming posts will offer other techniques and activities that can be used to enhance and balance life endeavors during this season.

Creativity Rules

Winter is a great time to become more self-aware, get in touch with your life’s dream and creatively assemble all you have cultivated to help get you there. This is your cycle to take a slower look at what you have “grown” and gathered throughout the year. And it is your time to begin to creatively assemble this wisdom and potential into a scaffold to help you launch the path to your goals. Note: a microcosm of this same cycle exists at the end of each day and can be tapped for its creative potential as well.

Most people associate creativity with terms like unique or out of the box. A creative thought can, in this way, resemble or be the same as an inspired moment. But creativity alone does not guarantee functionality and “good.”

When you extend a thought, another element of creativity comes into play. That is assembly or how you assemble your inspired thought or thoughts, convey and apply them to others – which implies expansion, deletion, organization… and the ability to identify “new,” perhaps inspired approaches to these components. Remember that winter is the energy of stepping back, looking, and creative assembly.

Consider this: I can give five people a list of details about an event and ask them to assemble the details into a story. Individuals who have learned their “lessons” well and who aren’t very creative at all assemble a perfectly procedural story.

Other individuals will be perplexed and make a mess of everything. Still others will assemble the piece in a way that dazzles the rest of us with freshness, because few of us will have thought of or felt their angle.

Let’s, for a moment, take a zoom-lens peek back into history.

There is a wonderful piece of journalism that has become a classic in the field. It is a story titled, Digging JFK's Grave Was His Honor, and it appeared in the New York Herald Tribune, Tuesday, November 26, 1963, the day after Kennedy’s burial. The piece was written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Jimmy Breslin.

The reason I like this story as an example of creativity is that it is more than just another famous article. It is visionary and iconic. Like Joseph Heller’s great Catch 22, Breslin’s title became so influential it morphed into colloquialism. It historically changed the world of writing. Let me explain.

With all the news articles on JFK’s assassination and with so many of the dramatic images regarding that event already locked in people’s memories, probably for life, Breslin, as was the rest of the media, was faced with the challenge of writing yet another story, this one covering JFK’s funeral.

How many stories had already been written about the assassination, Jackie, the Kennedy family lineage, and so on? How many more would be written about the funeral? With the public already saturated in information, how could a writer make anyone feel anything new, let alone be interested in his or her version of an event that would be covered worldwide?

Remember what we said earlier about assembly and creativity. These two factors were the genius I believe that separated Jimmy Breslin’s piece from everyone else’s.

Standing back and taking a long look at the events preceding the funeral, Breslin took his story down a completely different course than did his colleagues. Breslin chose to write his story from the plain, everyday perspective of a gravedigger, a man by the name of Clifford Pollard who was responsible for digging JFK’s grave. And that “assembly” made all the difference.

By telling the story from the perspective of the gravedigger’s and what it meant to him, an ordinary person like the rest of us, Breslin was able to weave “everyman” themes into his story that opened up a whole new window of sensitivities into the Kennedy assassination.

There was no Oprah back then, no confessional television where celebrities went national with their feelings. Yet, through Pollard’s rendition of events, Breslin is able to capture Jackie as a woman whose husband was murdered next to her; who “had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly.”

In the article, Pollard is said to be unable to attend the funeral himself. He was somewhere else in the cemetery, digging graves for other people, at $3.01 an hour. That’s Pollard’s job.

Creating the contrast of Pollard and Jackie, President Kennedy and the gravesite shattered conventional reporting structure and drove Breslin’s piece in unique directions capable of making deeply human connections. Among articles that had become run-of-the-mill, Breslin’s article was able to rouse compassion not just for Kennedy’s death, but for every human— readers included.

It was Breslin’s unique “assembly of detail” that placed this story in literary history. From that period on forward, the phrase, “Find the grave digger?” has been used as a colloquialism by editors to ask reporters to find that unique angle on the story that will set it apart from all the others that will be written on the same topic that day.


Like Breslin, the creative individual will find the unique assembly of details within her own life – even though upon first perusal, they may not look unique. She will use winter’s cyclical pause to bring things side-by-side (sometimes by additions, other times via deletions) that will become fresh and new once assembled as a whole.

Like Breslin, the winter person is not afraid to let go of old habits, old ways of thinking, and old teachings in order to both have his epiphany as well as to assemble his dream into a functional whole.

Life is not static. When your creativity flows from your centered Self, it seeds your future with greater potential, less conflict, and more satisfaction.

With your creativity and inspiration heightened, winter is a time for more dreaming and for tapping into your purest potential.


Making the most of winter energy and dealing with the winter blues will be addressed in an upcoming post.

For a more thorough exploration of the theme of seasonal mindfulness, you may wish to check out my newest book, The Five Seasons: Tap Into Nature’s Secrets For Health, Happiness, and Harmony.

More from Joseph Cardillo Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today