It happens every year, the days get shorter and darkness is drawn out. As we approach the Winter Solstice this year (coming up Dec. 21) let’s consider the lessons it may teach us. Historically this time of the year has been celebrated with an understanding of the necessity of rest and descent. It calls us to go within our homes, within ourselves. Nature is always a great teacher, the trees have been laid bare, the animal kingdom is hibernating. What might happen, as this year comes to a close, if we stop and really take in all that we have been through, all that has come and gone this past year? Can we acknowledge if our bodies are tired, our minds overwhelmed?
The distractions this time of year, are plentiful: overworking, overspending, shopping, alcohol, parties & lights, comfort food and consumerism. Don’t let cultural pressure and expectations dictate what you do or don’t do these next few weeks.
I think sometimes winter has a reputation for being hard. Depending on where you live, the weather can be bitter (I see you Freeport, IL). And depending on your situation this season can be lonely and isolating. But in reality, winter is so kind. She lovingly points us inward, in a quiet soft way. She invites us to stillness and peace, to embrace the darkness and to reflect on the light within.
“Winter takes away the distractions, the buzz, and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb like love, bringing fire and light to our hearth,” Bridget Anna McNeil
In the midst of this annual, earthly darkness, it’s remarkable to consider the emphasis many faith traditions place on light during this time. Hindus across the world recently celebrated Diwali, a five-day festival emphasizing the victory of light over darkness. Hanukkah means “dedication” but is often referred to as the Festival of Lights, remembering and celebrating the miracle of only having a days supply of oil but the menorah remaining lit for 8 days. Christians are in the season of Advent, a season of hopeful anticipation for the arrival of Jesus, the Light of the World. Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality,” Karenga writes. “Thus, Africans of all faiths can and do celebrate Kwanzaa, i.e. Muslims, Christians, Black Hebrews, Jews, Buddhists, Baha’i and Hindus, as well as those who follow the ancient traditions of Maat, Yoruba, Ashanti, Dogon, etc.” Those who celebrate Kwanzaa light a kinara with 7 candles: three are red, representing the struggle; three are green, representing the land and hope for the future; and one is Black, representing people of African descent. It may indeed be dark but we are not without light.
In some yogic traditions and Ayurveda you’ll find the terms brhmana and langhana. Simply put, brhmana means “vast expanse” and langhana means contraction or reduction. Consider your breath… the inhalation of air is brhmana, while the exhale is langhana. Winter feels like langhana to me. This brings me back to all those hibernating animals…tucked away in dens, withdrawn from activity. It feels like the right time to acknowledge the influence, power and necessity of contraction, reduction and withdrawal.
As we approach the longest, darkest night of the year I invite you to set aside some time, even just a few moments, to light a candle and reflect on the divine light that exists throughout all of creation, including the divinity within you.
If you’re local and looking for a unique Winter Solstice experience, consider visiting San Diego’s “mini Stonehenge” off Highway 75 in Coronado. Learn more here.
And if in your “wintering” you have time and space to practice with me, I’d love to see you in-person or on Zoom. Check out the schedule.