Be Good to Your Body
(page 3 of 5)
THE WINTER FEAST FOR THE SOUL
Sustaining the Meditation Online
The Winter Feast for the Soul hinges gracefully on a short poem by the Sufi mystic, Rumi, who wrote, “What nine months does for the embryo/ Forty early mornings/ Will do for your growing awareness.” Founder Valerie Skonie, while meditating herself one morning, was powerfully struck by the notion. “I read those lines and I thought, ‘Somebody has to do something with this,’” she said. “And it didn’t take but 24 hours before I had a whole vision of how this would look.” The result was an event dedicated to daily spiritual practice: 40 minutes of stillness each morning for 40 days, just as Rumi recommended. Entering its sixth year, the Winter Feast has grown far beyond the original concept—and its web-savvy creator has gone fully digital to keep growing.
According to Skonie, who lives in Hailey, the Winter Feast for the Soul is an invitation to create planetary peace by first creating personal peace. When diagnosed with Lyme disease over a decade ago, said Skonie, “I spent a lot of time learning how to slow down and take care of myself.” She believes in the transformative power of meditation, both personally and collectively, insisting that entire communities can benefit from a contemplative populace. Yet she also understands the difficulties of doing anything on a daily basis, let alone being still for 40 minutes. To make the Winter Feast more accessible, Skonie has consolidated everything online, from streaming meditations (for those who prefer instruction) and daily inspirational quotes, to a monthly newsletter and events calendar, all of which are available for free and year-round.
In doing so, the Winter Feast has become a campaign with staying power. The website, now a highly trafficked resource, supports many individuals in their daily practice long after the Feast has ended. Interested in Buddhist Insight Meditation? What about Christian Contemplative Prayer? Skonie has recruited an interfaith medley of instructors for 2013, whose guided meditations will be hosted on the website each day. Afterward, Skonie will archive the recordings alongside those from previous years, adding elements to the Winter Feast’s online hub of spiritual encouragement.
At first, said Skonie, “I didn’t see it as a worldwide event, but just as something local to show people in the Valley how to have a daily practice—and for them to know what that experience would mean in their lives.” But the connective power of the Internet has transformed the Winter Feast into an event without borders. Considering our global pandemic of stress-related disorders, perhaps a break in the noise, if only for 40 days, is precisely the nourishment our souls have been craving. -Alec Barfield