Winter as medicine



If you ask a group of people to describe what winter looks like, you might anticipate hearing similar descriptions.

The trees are bare…. The ground is white… The sky is grey…

That was certainly my perception of winter, anyway. When I set the intention to surrender to this inner season, I imagined a cold, barren landscape, emotionally and physically. I was afraid to go there – I’ve shared with you previously how I resisted entering this season for along time, because I felt afraid of what it would mean. Winter felt empty… on a soul level it felt to me like death, the end, the unknown.

Logically and intuitively I knew winter was a phase of a cycle, but a huge part of me just wanted to skip it altogether and come back in the spring.

And yet by going into the season of winter, I am beginning to experience something very different.

Winter as medicine

Here’s what I’ve come to understand: winter isn’t necessarily a time of complete hibernation.

From within it, I can see how much is actually going on.

In nature, it appears that everything is frozen on the outside. But actually, inside, things are moving. I’ve been asking myself, what’s going on under the ground that we can’t see? In winter time, what’s really happening?

In environmental terms, beneath layers of snow and ice organic matter insulates; storing in heat. During winter, funghi and bacteria continue to degrade. Micro-organisms break down and compost the debris of plant matter left behind.

This hidden activity is what I’ve come to recognise as Winter medicine. Physically, we often find that this is the time when we sleep more. Take better care of ourselves – reach for vitamins and extra veggies to ward off colds and viruses.

There are other kinds of medicine too. Last week, in the middle of a challenging time, I reached out to a good friend. She didn’t give me advice or ask me to go into the specifics of the situation. Instead, she held space and asked big questions that pulled me out of the “victim” pattern I had become stuck in.

Something she said hit home. She shared that the traditional “fight/flight” response to threat is a masculine response. The feminine response is different: freeze.

I realised I had been “frozen” in my role in the situation that was challenging me.

But just as winter lakes can hide fish swimming and moving about below the ice, receiving my friends wise words was the medicine I needed to start deep currents moving below my “frozen” state.

What’s your medicine?

The people who bring true medicine to us hold the space for us to look deeper into ourselves. They create the “frozen” container of stillness that allows movement and change to happen within.

Having stepped into this; been willing to face what scares me most and surrender to the season of rest and renewal, I discovered have a whole new relationship with winter.

The lesson I am learning is this: when you go into winter, you connect with your power.

The land might seem still, but in my new image of winter the sun is shining. It’s crisp and cold. The sky is blue. I am looking at this season through a new filter. Like many of us, I tend to resist change, but when we step into a new season, we remember how beautiful it is.

We all need medicine, in the form of kinship; true kinship. Often, as women, we underestimate the importance of allowing ourselves to really be supported. We think we can manage it all, carry it all on our shoulders. Just as we underestimate the importance of going into winter.  It comes back to the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. We need a community to raise ourselves, because we’re all there for each other. When we surround ourselves with people that will hear us, people that will listen, people that will support us: that’s when women thrive.

So today, I invite you to reflect:

Where are you getting your medicine? Who in your circle is giving you medicine? Who can you reach out to who you know will say the things you need to hear?

Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to start a conversation.

Posted in A Year for my Soul, Acceptance, Soul, Surrender.


  1. Thank you Allison,
    I got my medicine from hearing Lime cordiale words from my eldest sister-in-law in America.
    Another spoonful came via a Rum punch of a text message from one of my oldest friends summarizing my response to challenges.
    The threading practitioner strawberry sweetened my experience with a curt customs official in Delhi via a sour imitation of a customer who was too prickly to be touched by understanding.

    Finally, my value of the richness of cultural diversity was imbibed via Liz Bonnin’s distilling of her ancestral roots.

    • Some medicine there Gee. It reminds me of the saying -spiritual knowledge is the medicine that can heal hearts and let us learn to love one another.

  2. Beautiful words Allison, thank you.
    I am grateful for the advice to just be. I have felt this year’s exhausting emotional and mental battle of should and guilt and self pity. My ego fights even as I sit reading this, thrashing me to do and run. Thank you for permission to be still.

  3. I believe I would have described winter as you did – the trees are bare… the ground is white… the sky is gray – but your writing has stirred up that something new. That spark inside hibernating and storing up energy.

    I am able to sit and be, even though circumstances clash their noisy drums around me.

    I freeze, become petrified, sometimes in mid flight.

    Before I have always seen this as weakness and felt angry in my inability, but now… it’s different. My frozen self is my intuition kicking in. Sometimes we race through life being busy, busy, busy and freezing stops us in our tracks.

    Now instead of the heat of anger, I will turn the warmth of my embrace to gently send love to begin the big melt.

    Thank you for your beautiful words, Allison, they have served as my medicine today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *