This is an excerpt from the chapter The Radiant Core in the book Emptiness Dancing by Adyashanti:
"Winter is an interesting time of year. Many of our most sacred days of the year are in the winter. It is the season of spiritual holidays such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Christmas, and often Buddha's enlightenment day is celebrated at this time of year. Winter is a sacred portal, an opportunity. The leaves on the tree are falling; the fruits drop to the ground; the branches become bare; and everything returns to its most essential root nature. Not only in the exterior world, but also in the interior world there is a natural stripping away.
. . .
Even with its storms, winter is the quietest time of the year. There is nothing like the quiet after a storm. If you have had the privilege of being in the mountains right after a snowfall when there's no wind, nothing is moving, the snow is sucking up every sound, and you hear a deep silence everywhere, you know how potent this silence is.
In a real sense, self-inquiry is a spiritually induced form of wintertime. It's not about looking for a right answer so much as stripping away and letting you see what is not necessary, what you can do without, what you are without your leaves. In human beings, we do not call these leaves. We call them ideas, concepts, attachments, and conditioning. All of this forms your identity. Wouldn't it be terrible if the trees outside identified themselves by their leaves? These are very flimsy things to be attached to.
. . .
[What if we] saw the trees doing this, holding all their leaves to themselves as if they were in an existential crisis? This is our tendency, to pick up the pieces of our pet beliefs and theories, and hold on for dear life.
Sometimes this falling away feels like a powerful storm stripping leaves from a tree. You may have a sacred identity and some wind blows through--usually another human being--and that identity is ripped away. You can be thinking, "I am so enlightened, I can't stand it, it's amazing." Then some wind is going to come along and rip the thought away. Some friend or fellow worker is going to come along and say, "That doesn't look too enlightened to me," and you see it was just another unnecessary identity. If you don't reach down to gather it up, this is a sacred opportunity. Then as it falls you will see that you don't need that identity. It's an illusion, just more dead weight to toss overboard.
Returning to the core, the root of your own self, and seeing through everything that you take yourself to be allows even your most sacred identities to drop away. There is such beauty in discovering what we can do without. The most beautiful gift of this wintertime is ultimately something that is unspeakable; it is only livable. The winter is actually begging you to just let go, and then let go of letting go. Let this natural and spontaneous returning tot he root of your existence happen. Return to that which is not definable.
There is a wonderful poem about a lone tree with no branches standing at the edge of a cliff in winter, which was written by someone describing his own awakening. A crack opens and runs through the bark of the tree, and then the bark peels off. Imagine cracking a tree or log open to see what is in the core. To see what is inside, you have to crack through to the core. What would you find? You find radiant emptiness, the full radiant emptiness of winter. Imagine something radiant coming out of nowhere, something just radiating out, coming out of nowhere, absolutely nowhere.
When you reach the core that comes after allowing everything to drop, you are naturally cracked open. There is a spiritual heart in that core. You uncover not only the emptiness of the radiant mind, but the radiance and warmth of the spiritual heart as well. When you're really resting, you can actually feel the radiant, empty mind--not as a thought, but as the radiant emptiness of yourself, the nothingness of yourself and of all selves. You also experience the radiant heart fullness and realize that the emptiness isn't just a bland emptiness--it is heart-full. When the emptiness awakens, you know that it is also the compassionate heart. The warmth of your own spiritual heart comes alive.
Sometimes the winter seems cold, lonely, and isolating. You might find yourself being very still and at rest and feeling very peaceful but wondering, "Where is the juice? Where is the life?" You can be very still and quiet, and even quite empty in a certain way, and still have all the bark intact, without having been cracked open at all. Then you have what could be called the emptiness of emptiness. This is the fully protected form of emptiness.
. . .
You notice that as soon as you grasp a thought and believe it, the mind closes down onto that thought. So the natural mind is an open mind, and the natural heart is open, come what may. That's the shock of our natural condition--the mind and heart are naturally open and do not know how to close under any conditions at any time. And at the same time, you are beyond even the open mind and heart. Everything is contained within what you are.
The conditioned mind is always taking on God's job, wondering what people are doing and why they do it. But that is none of your business, none of your concern. You can just start walking through life with this natural openness to what is and be that way under all conditions at all times. That's what the true Self has been doing all along. When your true nature is realized, it is not as if you will have some amazing experience, and after that you say, "Okay world, I'm ready." The deepest experience is when you realize that this open, radiant, empty mind and open, radiant heart have always been open. They don't need to open; they are not going to open; openness has always been here. You no longer see two, you see the One in and as everything.
People feel so vulnerable and put up defenses. But putting up defenses is like walking out into the starry night and trying to wrap a little coat around vast infinite space. The vastness just flies out through the arms and the hood. You have this silly little coat out in the vast space and protect yourself inside it and think maybe someday you will open the buttons and be spiritually liberated. Probably not. It's more likely that someday you will stop identifying with the silly little coat. Free yourself of all limiting identities and embrace the infinite.
What allows this opening to take place at a great depth to realize we are already the openness into which we are opening. If we keep identifying with the human aspect of ourselves we think, "My God, I am opening into something too big for me." When we really let go and fall into this open silence, we can't find any end to it. It has been eternally here from before the beginning, and, in that, our humanness finds a welcoming to open itself. This is so because we are not opening ourselves into a mystery that is alien, or foreign, or different, but into what we have always been.
If you touch the sacred quality of winter inside yourself--that quality of everything returning to its most essential form--you find yourself falling off the end of the mind and into openness. You will start to experience this by not resisting the wintertime and just going with it as it opens you. It can be tremendously revealing, tremendously liberating to just return, return, return. It takes courage to do this. You want to ask, "Who will I be? Will it be okay?" But just return to the essential. When you find the courage to allow yourself to return to the essential, you are actually returning to the very root of your own self. That's the fullness that winter has to offer.
It's as if you return all the way to the seed, and only there do you see that the seed contained the whole truth."