Despite the busy drive of the holiday season, this winter dark is a time for rest and reflection. While humans hustle about, nature and her creatures curl up and let go of unnecessary work. And when we resist our primal instinct to slow down, we create stress and disconnection for ourselves.
I encourage us all to find some moments of pause and creative introspection. This might mean letting go of obligations that feel draining. This might mean slowing down and relishing our experiences instead of hurrying through them. And it also might be a chance to look back on the past year with curiosity about what we want to change intentionally for 2017.
Storyteller and mythologist Michael Meade on the meaning of Winter Solstice: “Solstice means “sun stands still;” at mid-winter it means the sun stopping amidst a darkening world. The essence of solstice involves stopping, even if only for a moment. We stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop in a crucial moment of fear or beauty; then begins again, but in an altered way. Solstice is a time to start anew and begin again after stopping in the depths of darkness.”
Darkness, like the unknown, can be uncomfortable. But if we aren’t willing to stop and face it, if we move too fast to acknowledge it, we risk losing the growth opportunity that comes next. Because Spring will come. The sun returns, the trees and flowers wake back up and we humans naturally become stirred to more action.
My family and community practices a simple fire ritual to give meaning to Winter Solstice. We build a big fire and each write on slips of paper the feelings and experiences we are ready to release from our year. Then we mindfully take turns casting them into the fire along with dried herbs. By letting go, we are creating space for what comes next. We are stepping into the darkness of the unknown with open arms.