For so many of us, the past two years have been dark times. Many of us have lost loved ones, jobs, relationships, familiar routines, our sense of security and peace of mind. Yet as the Tao Te Ching tells us:
"The way to greater light leads through the darkness.
Going ahead feels like falling back.
The even path seems rugged and hilly,
The highest power, a yielding valley."
The Tao tells us not to hide from this reality in denial with distractions but to look within, to listen to our hearts, to recognize what we're feeling—"the way to greater light leads through the darkness." Relating the wisdom of Tao to times like these means spending time in nature, taking time to listen to ourselves, and being kind to ourselves.
Connecting with nature helps restore our hope as we realize we're part of something larger than ourselves. Researchers have discovered how nature can fill us with a sense of awe, a flow of inspiration that restores our hope, broadens our perspective, and builds our capacity to deal with challenges.
How can you connect with nature today?
You can pause throughout the day to listen to yourself, to ask:
--What am I feeling?
--What do I need?
--What can I do?
Then wait for the answer to the last question. By listening to your heart, you can begin creating greater harmony within and around you.
Finally, you can be kind to yourself in this challenging time, giving yourself daily gifts that bring bright moments of joy to your days. Research has shown that responding to hard times with "mixed feelings"—times of joy amid the suffering—can bring us a deeper sense of meaning and build our resilience.
What are some gifts you can give yourself in this time? You can share your concerns with a wise counselor or therapist. You can also begin spending more time in nature, meditating, connecting with friends, playing with your cat or dog, listening to your favorite music, engaging in a hobby you enjoy, or something else that lifts your spirits. Like the stars shining in a dark winter sky, these bright moments can help you find your way.
 This quote is from the Tao Te Ching, chapter 41. An earlier version of this passage appeared in Dreher, D. (2000). The Tao of Inner Peace. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, now available as an ebook and a new audiobook edition, published by Penguin Random House in 2022.
 Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M, & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 883-899.
 Berrios, R., Totterdell, P., and Kellett, S. (2018). When feeling mixed can be meaningful: The relation between mixed emotions and eudaimonic well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(3), 841-861.