So, you’re all bundled up and ready to get outside (and if you’re not, check out Part 1). But it’s cold. How about I just stay inside?
I fully agree that being indoors on a cold day feels good. There is good reason many creatures hibernate during the winter, and humans can certainly learn from other animals in that way about how to get through cold seasons. Something humans have that other animals don’t, though, is the ability to heat indoor spaces to a comfortable temperature. And you know what feels even better than being inside on a cold day? Coming back inside after being outside on a cold day. When you feel that rush of heat surround your chilled skin, you exhale cold air and inhale warm, your body shifts and slows into a different state…that feels amazing. I’m not sure we can really appreciate the warmth without being cold.
I don’t mean this in a deprivation/suffering sort of way. Don’t get yourself really miserable outside so you can enjoy coming in! But bundle up, have an adventure, and really pay attention to what it’s like coming inside. Notice how you may be able to feel differently the muscles in your legs, the expansion in your lungs, the blood flowing in your limbs, the gentle sweetness of warming skin.
Comfortable or Cozy?
A lighthearted podcast episode out of a show called Outside/In helped me elucidate something I’ve felt for a long time but hadn’t thought about enough to put words to. Staying in all the time is comfortable, but it can also lead to a stillness that can feel more like stuckness or even lethargy. Going outside and coming back inside leads to a a consistent felt experience that goes beyond comfortable and into cozy. Comfortable is sort of…fine. Maybe a little better than fine because it’s better than uncomfortable, for sure.
But cozy–that’s something else entirely. Cozy is a warm blanket and hot chocolate, a loving embrace, nestling under the covers and reading to a child, snuggling with a pup, reading a favorite book in front of a woodstove. A candlelight dinner with a trusted friend or partner. Gathering around a campfire with s’mores, laughter, and stories. Falling into clean, line-dried sheets that smell of the wind after a long, sweaty hike. The smell of baking bread. Notice what happens in your body and mind as you read those images of cozy. Of course, some may not resonate with you but for those that do, pay attention to your response. My heart feels a little warm just writing the lines. My shoulders relax a bit further down.
Cozy is an experience that generates a deeper warmth and ease, and I think one of the easiest ways to experience cozy is to embrace the contrasts. If we lived inside a bread bakery, it wouldn’t be long before we stopped appreciating or even noticing that smell. We’d need to leave the bakery for a time and have the absence of that smell in order to appreciate it. Same for warmth. Get outside. Then come back in. Be cozy. That’s an experience we all need and can offer ourselves, even in a pandemic winter.
For more concrete ideas about embracing winter (drawing heavily from European cultures that have even darker and colder winters than Maine), check out the Outside/In podcast episode, ‘If You Wanna Get Koselig, You Gotta Get a Little Friluftsliv‘.