By Rebbetzen Rina Shindler, Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue

One of my favourite things about living in London is just how mild the winter and summer seasons are. I feel grateful every time I defrost my car in the early, dark morning before the school run that we don’t live somewhere with a harsh, unforgiving winter where it bites deep. Still, winter here is a cold, dark, barren time of year. The trees are bare and, aside from the avid horticulturalists among us, so are our gardens. The vibrant colours of spring and summer have fled and in their place we face a grim, grey few months.

Yet strangely, we find a bizarre celebration of botanical life right at this juncture in our calendar. When the world appears most barren and devoid of the life and vitality that the spring season heralds, what message can we take from Tu B’Shevat , the so-called “new year for the trees?”

In her book, Emotional Mastery, 90 Seconds to a Life You Love, Dr Joan Rosenberg presents a striking analysis of what she believes is the pivotal determinant in whether a person experiences a life of confidence, resilience, and success. Based on the latest neuroscience, Dr. Rosenberg shares that the key to living a life of growth and mastery is one’s willingness and ability to embrace unpleasant emotions and feelings such as embarrassment, disappointment and vulnerability. If you can experience and move through eight core unpleasant feelings, she says, you can pursue anything you want in life. Our first awareness of any feeling comes as a biochemical rush which is fired off in our brain and then flows through our bloodstream. This is experienced as physical sensations in the body which linger for approximately 60-90 seconds and then subside, similar to a wave. Being in touch with and remaining in a state of present awareness can be difficult and uncomfortable. But it is our ability to ride the wave – to experience and move through the unpleasantness – which leads directly to our inner strength and the vibrant life of joy which we seek.

Life is comprised of seasons. For many of us, the winter times in our life can feel bleak, hopeless and barren. We naturally shrink away, distract, or avoid the difficult stuff. Yet it is now that the “sap is rising in the trees.” Tu B’Shevat shows us that deep beneath the hard frozen surface, beyond the here and now which our eyes can see, there is a magical transformation that is already taking place. What is happening deep inside the tree during the unpleasantness of winter is that which allows for the magnificent blossoming and flowering of the tree in the warmer months. When we are able to embrace our moment to moment experiences even when they are uncomfortable, it is the very willingness to fully experience and move through that discomfort which brings the promise of a season to come pulsating with life and energy, full of dazzling colour, warmth and joy.

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