While mindfully riding Chicago Public Transit for the past six-and-a-half years of graduate school, I frequently find myself observing others. As I gaze upon the many forms moving to and from work each day, I notice several trends.
Early in the week--especially on Mondays during the winter season--people's half-awake eyes appear covered in a gloomy gaze. Dark lines dripping with exhaustion are painted on their faces, supporting the general feeling of depression floating in the stale air.
Later in the week--especially on Fridays during the summer months--people, draped in bright colors and patterns, move and dance to the beat of their headphones. Smiling with ease, their curious eyes seek others in a search for an enticing momentary connection.
When I really think about it, the major difference between the early-in-the-week winter months and the excitement of summer weekends is attention. And where it's placed.
In the dreariness of Chicago winters--months living in bone-chilling ghastly gray skies--people turn their attention inward. Focusing on themselves, they are consumed with only one thing: survival.
They don't have the energy to connect with others, and as a result, spend most of their time thinking about themselves. They mindlessly scroll through their phones doing nothing of value. Their only purpose is to numb and distract themselves of their suffering while heading towards another long day at the office.
This self-focused attention creates a dilemma--a fundamental sense of mistrust from the increasing distance between themselves and others. Between themselves and the world. Between their previous happiness and the current unhappiness they feel.
Fear seeps into their bones. Fear of failure. Fear of slowing down. Fear of not doing enough to feel better. Fear that this unhappiness will last forever.
And yet, spring emerges.
Sure enough, the process of changing seasons awakens a deep-seeded potential in the Midwestern geography: summer. Thank god for summer in Chicago. It's a beautiful thing.
Suddenly, the focus changes. Hearts melt open like blooming flowers searching for contact with the sun. People, now awakened, turn their attention outward towards the newly enlivened world.
They begin to smile. To feel warmth. To relax.
Their shoulders drop. Their clenched jaws ease. And they begin to feel moments of peace.
And all of this leads me to a fundamental observation about life: That trust is the antidote to fear.
When caught in the middle of your winter--seasonal, emotional, physical, spiritual, or otherwise--you must trust. Trust the process.
Trust that your suffering will ease. That, in the meantime, you have what it takes to survive. That you don't need to hold onto fear--tying yourself into a knot of pain--to overcome it.
Know that the sun will return. The liberating power of summer will once again shine on your heart--awakening the deep feeling of love that blankets and supports your being.
Trust is the absence of limitation. The presence of happiness. The felt-sense of love. And what binds you to the sustaining life force of the universe.
When you are constricted and actively separate from it, you are the self-knot of fear. Fear of abandonment--of feeling forgotten and discarded. In this state you become concentrated on what you don't have instead of appreciating what you do.
You seek instant gratification with every swipe of the credit card. Every package you get delivered. Every over-indulgent meal.
You seek these superficial pleasures to fill the void in the pit of your stomach. And none of it works. That's why you look and feel so exhausted during these harsh winter months.
Instead of remaining trapped in this vicious cycle, turn your attention back towards love. Let that pervade your being and transform you back into the child getting lost in creative play--without worry. Free from the burden of time.
Lose yourself in that process and trust that the results will come.
And they will. They always do. Just like winter turning into spring, blossoming into summer, easing into fall, and withering into winter.
There is a greater process occurring. Trust that. Connect to it. And allow it to guide you through life's uncomfortable moments.