As the Winter Solstice has arrived, it is a time to consider yin and yang, darkness and light – and the exquisite balance that exists between all things. After weeks of shortening days, we have been affected in a number of ways by the scarcity of light and the growing darkness. Though we may have experienced sadness or slowness as a result of this winter season, we must also remember that the darkness is necessary in order to experience light.
Many of us gather with our friends, family and loved ones, and no matter what tradition we observe for this holiday season, we begin to create our own light – the light of the love we feel for those we care the most about. It’s also a time for remembering those we love that are not with us- those who are separated from us by miles or death or simply the loss of relationship.
There can be no growth without the journey – it is in the darkness of winter that the seeds, resting deep within the earth, are summoning their strength to emerge in the spring. The Winter Solstice is a time to celebrate the beauty of the dark, as well as a renewed hope for the future.
“The Solstice is a time of quietude, of firelight, and dreaming, when seeds germinate in the cold earth, and the cold notes of church bells mingle with the chimes of icicles. Rivers are stilled and the land lies waiting beneath a coverlet of snow. We watch the cold sunlight and the bright stars, maybe go for walks in the quiet land. . . . All around us the season seems to reach a standstill — a point of repose.”
Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr give voice to the feelings of Solstice in The Circle of Life:
“There is a tendency to want to hurry from autumn to spring, to avoid the long dark days that winter brings. Many people do not like constant days bereft of light and months filled with colder temperatures. They struggle with the bleakness of land and the emptiness of trees. Their eyes and hearts seek color. Their spirits tire of tasting the endless gray skies. There is great rejoicing in the thought that light and warmth will soon be filling more and more of each new day.
“But winter darkness has a positive side to it. As we gather to celebrate the first turn from winter to spring, we are invited to recognize and honor the beauty in the often unwanted season of winter. Let us invite our hearts to be glad for the courage winter proclaims. Let us be grateful for the wisdom winter brings in teaching us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal. Let us also encourage our spirits as Earth prepares to come forth from this time of withdrawal into a season filled with light.
“The winter solstice celebrates the return of hope to our land as our planet experiences the first slow turn toward greater daylight. Soon we will welcome the return of the sun and the coming of springtime. As we do so, let us remember and embrace the positive, enriching aspects of winter’s darkness. Pause now to sit in silence in the darkness of this space. Let this space be a safe enclosure of creative gestation for you.”
Here are some practices and activities that may facilitate celebration of this time of darkness and light:
Letting go, deeply
Sometimes we struggle with hanging on to anger, fear, sadness – darkness – from day to day, so it can be helpful to establish a ritual of release to take place at the closing of each day. This gives us the opportunity to have a fresh start with each morning light, uncluttered by the events and emotions of the past (though we give our deepest gratitude to everything in our lives, good and bad). Here’s how:
Choose two containers – these may be small or large, glass or plastic or wood. Gather a pile of small objects – pebbles, grains of rice, marbles – again, whatever resonates with you. Place them in one of the containers.
Each night, you will take one of the objects from your full jar.
The object represents your day. Imbue it with your day that you just lived. What happened today? How do you feel? Think about the hours and minutes you’ve been given, and the intention you’ve set for them.
Then, say aloud, with the object on your palm:
This is my day.
It was perfect in its imperfection.
I thank this day for being.
And I let go of it, fully, and release it to rest for what tomorrow will bring
Trees are healers. A walk in the winter forest is a wonderful way to quiet your soul and connect to your deepest truth. A walk in the forest is recognized by the Japanese government as a means of improving quality of life. It is called “shinrin-yoku”, which means forest bathing.
How to take a forest bath: Find a forest. Walk. Breathe. Listen to the silence and cleanse your thoughts from worry and despair. Then listen for that still quiet voice that is your inner wisdom- let that guide you.
–adapted from Lucia Journal, issue #1 (Inspiration)
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
What are the practices you use to bring clarity and calm to your winter storms and to prepare for what the future will bring?