The winter solstice is nigh upon us, and marks the shortest, darkest day of the year. The term solstice is derived from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand.” On December 21, the sun’s high point in its daily path will be at the southernmost point for the year. The next day, it will begin its journey northward, each day becoming a little bit lighter. But for a few days before and after this period, the changes will be so slight that the sun’s high point will appear to stand still, even though powerful change is taking place.
The solstice also officially marks the beginning of winter. Seeds planted in the spring have yielded their harvest, and although we now commence celebration and feasting, the solstice serves as a celestial reminder that soon we must allow for stillness, reflecting on the past year before beginning anew in the next.
At times, the urge to resist going within can be strong. We may try to distract ourselves; parties and libations and presents serve this purpose quite effectively. Setting aside time for reflection enables us to make meaning of our year, however. And once we understand what has transpired, we can better decide what it is we hope to create in the coming year. If we allow it, this can be a time of grieving those we have lost, as well as celebrating their gifts and memories that remain. Similarly, it can be a time of gratitude for our accomplishments or the opportunities we have been given, as well as a time for identifying what we would like to do differently going forward.
Ideally, if we are brave enough, as we take stock of our lives we can create space to allow ourselves to fully experience the feelings we have, without fighting or judging them. We can breathe through them. It is this process that can help us to then release these feelings sufficiently to move forward—the equivalent of surveying what one’s plantings have yielded, appreciating the harvest for whatever it was, and deciding whether we hope to harvest the same or something different the next time around.self-forgiveness can liberate us from old patterns or ways of being that we likely adopted for a reason, but that do not serve us nor adequately reflect who we are and who we’d like to be.
What an incredible gift to give ourselves.
Activities that facilitate going within include meditation, setting aside time for silence, being in nature, and engaging in a creative activity, among others. If you find it difficult to quiet your mind at first, move your awareness to your breath, observing it as if you were observing the waves of the ocean, leaves blowing off into the distance, or clouds drifting across the sky. As you do so, you may wish to ask yourself the following questions. Allow your answers to be honest.
- What do I really want each aspect of my life (e.g., family, work, romance, creativity, spirituality, health) to be like in the coming year?
- How much effort am I wiling to put into making positive change?
- What tool or support will I draw upon to help me when things feel difficult (e.g., conscious breathing, meditation, psychotherapy, friends/family, religious community)?
- How will I accept the things that I may be unable to change—my best efforts notwithstanding?
- How will I know when I have achieved positive change (what will this look like specifically)?
- Can I commit to loving myself as I am now—the only way I will ever be in the present moment—even as I plan for and work toward change?
Write down what you discover. Periodically, take your list out and fine-tune as needed. Decide when you will begin making concrete steps toward your goals. These are the seeds you will sow. Visualize yourself continuing to grow and learn, and do the things that matter to you and give your life meaning. This is how you will till the soil, plant your seeds, and care for them. Every day, celebrate your life—this is what you will harvest.
A happy holiday season, and a peaceful, healthy New Year to all!
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