The Tao Te Ching reminds us to honor each season in our projects and our lives. Yet in Western society, it seems we recognize only three seasons in life: spring, summer, and fall, the beginning, middle, and end. The wisdom of Tao reminds us of the fourth: the season of winter, during which little seems to be happening.
Throughout the natural world, in the winter months, many plants are dormant, looking apparently dead. But beneath the surface, within the earth, a great deal is going on. My Japanese maple tree stores up energy for a spring of rebirth while the flowering quince brings forth the earliest blossoms.
Winter is a natural time for slowing down, for contemplation. At the end of any project, a wise leader pauses to take stock, to go over our notes, to recall what went well and what needs work, learning from the experience. This final phase is essential so that our new beginnings can be more successful. Tao leaders bring forth deep wisdom from the roots of winter to initiate a spring of new possibilities.
The Tao reminds us to:
Hold to this timeless pattern
Throughout the time of your life,
Aware of the eternal cycles,
The essence of Tao.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14
How can you use the wisdom of winter in your life?
An earlier version of this lesson appeared in Dreher, D. (1996). The Tao of Personal Leadership. New York, NY: HarperCollins.