Hello and good evening on this (Northern Hemisphere) Winter Solstice, celebration of the return of the light, longest night and time of deep introspection and reflection. Winter takes us into our dream time by forcing us to surrender to darkness, long nights, a colder, contracting climate and a general need to use our energy differently or pay the price by getting burnout, low mood, depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D). How well we can accept and surrender to these changes will make a huge difference to our sense of wellbeing.
We have a tendency in our western culture to try to override nature's rhythms, and yet when we do, we are going against the natural cycles of life, our environment and our physiological responses to longer periods of cold and darkness. One scientific article I recently came across says the following:
"The best way to get through a winter is to eat as much as you can, grow a thick winter coat, reduce your body temperature and find a hole in the ground where you can hibernate. Too easy for some animals, but not for us humans who don’t acclimatise to the cold as well as we can to the heat." Somewhat impractical on many levels, but perhaps an indicator that the body knows best. In winter we shiver to create heat, we get goosebumps and our hairs stand on end, both bodily responses acting as a physiological reaction to create a kind of 'fur coat' to insulate us naturally from the cold.
In another article on the LiveScience website, the following comment is perhaps of interest:
"It's possible that warmth helps people with warm relational creativity, meaning they may feel psychologically closer to other people and more generous toward them. In contrast, cold may stimulate referential, or distant and cold processing, as people may feel more apart from others." These observations were taken from studies looking at the impact of climate on creativity and human behaviour. I find it fascinating that it's acknowledged that we are creatures affected by changes in the seasons in both body and mind, and yet we often seem to struggle with accepting that on a personal level.
So why do we find it so hard to slow down in winter, and when we do, why are we so uncomfortable? Longest night is tough, let's not lie! All of that darkness, and little of the clear blue skies and warmth of the earlier parts of the year, little of the lightness and openness we feel when reflecting nature's own rhythms. This December is uncharacteristically warm, last night the birds were singing at 1am, buds are shooting on the trees, and nature, like me, doesn't know what it's doing, So when we find ourselves reflecting on the Winter Solstice, how can we use this time to go deep and mine for gold in the depths of our psyche? How can we befriend stillness?
The underlying energy of Winter Solstice is reflective. It is the spiritual journey of Persephone and her time in the underworld with Hades. In the classical mythological telling of this story, Demeter, Persephone's mother was so enraged about the kidnap of her daughter by Hades, that she made the earth barren until she finally got her daughter back for 6 months of the year by negotiation with the Gods. In our personal psyche, we must become our own saviours and learn to embrace the winter until spring returns and we are energised once more for new growth, new beginnings, and the planting of visions and dreams. What promises can we make ourselves before emerging into spring once again?
This is a time for assimilating all we have learned in the last six month cycle of the year. Write in your journal what lessons you have received, be grateful for the opportunity to reflect and gather wisdom from these teachings. The Winter Solstice is seen as the sun's birthday, a time of rebirth; we too can consider this a time to focus on the forthcoming cycle of light and new growth. For sure, there will be more time of cold, damp days, darkness and introspection, because nothing in nature moves as quickly as we seem to demand, so on this day of rebirth, why not create for yourself a small ritual of honouring the deep inner wisdom; a wisdom that can be easier to see when we are less 'busy' and less active all the time. Light a candle and leave it burning (in a safe place) overnight. Write down all you are willing to release and burn the paper in the flame of the candle. Make sure it only applies to you and to your wishes, for it's never wise to try and influence the decision or actions of another person. Then, when you're done, focus on all you wish to grow in the coming weeks and start to dream into those feelings, hopes and desires.
I wish you a rich and deep Solstice, whether in solitude or in company. I wish for you peaceful dreams and deep inner-standing. I wish for you love, contentment and a comfort with stillness that allows you to truly begin to know yourself.
*ART BY NOA KNAFO - see more at www.noaknafo.com
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