Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again,”- The Sound of Silence, Simon and Garfunkel
Happy winter solstice!
For us in the southern hemisphere it is the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
The meaning of the winter solstice is hope. The ancient civilizations viewed winter as potentially never ending, so they prayed and performed rituals in the hope that the darkness will end and the light will begin.
In Chinese Medicine, winter is the most yin of the seasons with cold, dark, slow, inward energy. It is an invitation to rest and slow down. It is a time of quietude and reflection while seeds are germinating in the cold soil. Winter is a time to nourish the soul, to retreat and to prepare for hibernation.
The winter solstice encourages us to surrender to the darkness temporarily. This is also a metaphor for life, as we have a tendency to want to avoid darkness, within ourselves, others or in the world; we want to skip winter, the cold and the darkness whereas darkness doesn’t have to be scary, it can also be tranquil and peaceful.
Remember that retreating and withdrawing are an essential part leading to the renewal and rebirth in spring.
Winter is a great opportunity to draw our energy inwards, look within and take notice of where we are at, half way through the year. It is a very special energy calling us to look within and ask ourselves:
- What do I need to leave behind?
- What am I surrendering to?
- What am I nurturing within myself?
- How can I nurture myself?
- What are my hopes?
To support your nurturing this winter
- Do soul-nourishing activities like Tai chi or Yin yoga
- Journal on the above questions and on what place you have made for the darkness on your transformative spiritual path?
- Nurture and nourish yourself by staying warm
- Drink warm cups of tea and turmeric lattes
- Wrap yourself in warm and soft fabrics such as wool
- Rest and strengthen the Kidney Jing, the seat of our essence and full potential (see Yin yoga poses below)
- Enjoy the beauty of Nature in winter
- Be grateful for the wisdom that winter brings
- Eat warm foods and vegetables like Brussel sprouts, cabbage, squash, pumpkin or sweet potatoes
- Enjoy this creative gestation time
Yin Yoga poses for the kidneys
From seated, bring the soles of your feet together and then slide them away from you. Allow your back to round, fold forward, lightly resting your hands on your feet or on the floor in front of you. Let your head and neck hang down toward your heels. You can also rest your head on a block or a bolster for support.
Lie down on your belly. Clasp your elbows with the opposite hands and move the elbows just ahead of your shoulders, propping yourself up. Notice how this feels in your lower back. If the sensations are too strong, move your elbows further ahead, lowering your chest closer to the floor. If you like, you can place your palms flat on the floor in front of you like a sphinx.
Sit on your heels, big toes touching, and open your knees as wide as they are willing to go, maybe as wide as the mat. Slowly walk your hands forward and bring your forehead to the mat. You may chose to rest your forehead on a block for support. Stretch your arms in front of you. Focus on the natural rhythm of the breath and allow your breath to soften your body.
Remember the 3 principles of Yin Yoga:
- Find your appropriate edge. Don’t force or push your body. Simply stay where there is enough stimulation for your enquiry. If you start feeling pain, please come out of the pose. Try to relax as many muscles as possible.
- Remain still and focused on the present moment, on your slow and steady breath, and on the sensations arising and dissolving.
- Hold the pose. Use a timer. Start with 1 or 2 minutes and slowly increase to 3, 4 or 5 minutes, if it feels comfortable. Your body will tell you when to come out but will your mind listen…?
A Prayer for the Winter Solstice
The dark shadow of space leans over us…
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred also lengthens its shadow over our beautiful planet Earth.
As our ancestors feared death, evil and all the dark powers of winter,
We fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter
May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night, hope in one another and in all who from the web-work of peace and justice that spans the world.
In the heart of every person on this Earth burns the spark of luminous goodness; in no heart there is total darkness.
May we, who have celebrated this winter solstice, by our lives and service, by our prayers and love, call forth from one another the light and the love that is hidden in every heart.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
So, keep hope, dearest friend, and let your light shine brightly. From now on, the days are only getting longer!
What are your favourite winter nurturing and reflective practices?