Our stories are marked by rhythms of life and death—or to put it simply: everything changes. Connecting to the rhythms of nature grounds us in a larger, collective story and empowers us to honor the more personal patterns of our individual lives. This post is the last of a four-part series in which Mandy reflects upon the pattern of nature and its relevance to our personal development. (If you missed part onetwo, or three, you can find all three parts here.)

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world.”

Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

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Photo Credit: Bigstock (Dmytro Kozak)

It’s the darkest time of the year, and all around me I see light. Strings of bulbs like stars line my neighbors’ rooftops, and Christmas trees twinkle through the windows. As I gaze at my own sparkling tree, I remember that Christmas isn’t the only holiday that celebrates light breaking into the darkness; for millennia, humans from a number of traditions have lit candles, lamps, and fireworks as they remember or wait for the dawn of new light. Today, as we begin the coldest and most barren season of the year, winter solstice celebrations remind us our days are about to lengthen. The winter solstice is like midnight: though the sun seems hidden in the north, we know it is returning to the east. Just when the world seems darkest, we celebrate the coming rebirth of the sun.

If we pay attention, we can see ourselves reflected in nature. The emptiest of seasons, winter comes with a promise of warmth and new life; she is hopeful and resilient—and so are we. It seems the most impoverished seasons of our lives have a way of calling forth the most hardy and fertile parts of us.

Many centuries ago, Tibetan Buddhists who believed in a model kingdom called Shambhala predicted that our present era would be one of global crisis and terror. They also predicted that during this time people of great courage would emerge, people who would confront structures of power and dismantle weapons of oppression. They called these courageous people “Shambhala warriors,” and they believed these warriors’ weapons would be compassion and insight—specifically, the insight that compassionate acts are generative, reaching farther than we can ever possibly imagine.

In our present mainstream culture, the term “warrior” usually conjures images of violence, domination, and bloodthirsty aggression—a toxic and fractured version of masculine strength. But in the imagination of the Shambhala teachings, true warriorship is not based in a spirit of violence, nor is it bound to any particular gender. Instead, a warrior is someone fierce enough to enter the very heart of darkness and undo it. Their power is in their willingness to be vulnerable. Their weapon is their love for the world.

A true warrior is tenacious enough to keep loving through the harshest of seasons, seasons when love seems hard to find. This warrior is like Wonder Woman: defying evil; protecting and nurturing light; fiercely fighting to end violence; confidently hoping that love will finally win. This warrior is fearless not because she lacks tenderness, but because she is brave enough to love the whole world.

This season, may your heart be open. When you face a bleak and seemingly lifeless world, may you let your own heart break—and when it breaks, may you find out how fiercely bright and powerful you are.

This season, may you believe in love.

(Trigger warning: The following clip contains images of war and gun violence.)

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Mandy Hughes

Mandy Hughes

Mandy is a licensed professional counselor. She counsels adults, adolescents, and groups and has a particular interest in helping survivors of trauma and abuse navigate their stories of harm with self-compassion instead of shame. Mandy is passionate about empowering her clients to live more integrated, vibrant and hope-filled lives.

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Mandy Hughes

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