Some would say the winter solstice is a moment of equality, in which there is equal light and equal dark. It is also a moment of reversal. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. I like metaphors, so to me, winter solstice is about embracing opposites, or seeming opposites like light and dark. Like the yin yang symbol, they are parts that go together, equal parts of a whole. Like phases of the moon, there is a shifting from light to dark and back again. At the moment we embrace opposites, or shifting between complementarities, there is reversal. Embracing opposite thoughts can decrease stress or “stuckness” and open you to making changes.
I work with people who are struggling with weight (physical and emotional), food choices, body image, sport performance, relationships, and self-definition. Who am I? What do I want? Wrestling with these kinds of questions may not result in answers. But depending on the topic and the complexity of the issue, answers can come in a flash, or sometimes with a long slow burning process. If there is a slow-burning process, people usually feel ambivalence. “I want a partner, and I can’t stay in this relationship.” “I want to be fit, and I don’t want to give up junk food.”
Just like we embrace both night and day, we can think about embracing opposites, or polarities of a situation, with a “yes, and” approach, rather than an “either/ or” approach. This can make it easier to get to a place of decision and change. By recognizing as valid different thoughts or possibilities of a situation (I want to AND don’t want to…), you can dig deeper to the heart of the matter, to your energy about the situation. When you pay attention to your energy, you can use your body sense to help you make decisions, rather than get caught in the battle of opposing thoughts. Like the solstice, reversal and important change can happen in a moment. Make your thoughts equal and pay attention to your body’s energy.
To move toward having clarity about a decision or change to be made:
- Allow and embrace opposing thoughts. It’s ok to want something and not want something. This reverses the stress, tension, or confusion that exists by trying to pick a side. Like the winter solstice, give equality to “night” and “day” thoughts. “Yes, and” rather than “Either, or.”
- Once that thinking struggle is lessened, stress decreases. Take deep breaths and pay attention to your neck, your chest, your midsection, and breathing. Pay attention to the sense in your body.
- Once you can feel and observe your body’s energy, bring the decision or change you are considering to your mind again. What happens in your body as you do this? Notice how your body feels when you think of option 1, and notice what happens when you think of option 2. Does one option create a “lighter” feeling? Does one option create a heavier, darker feeling? Pay attention to this energy, sit with it, meditate, and even journal about the experience.
Here are some examples:
I want a partner, and can’t stay in this relationship
You may struggle with whether to continue in an intimate relationship or not. “I want a partner, but this doesn’t seem right…” With the struggle, you might feel very ambivalent about whether to stay or go for a multitude of reasons. Thinking about and analyzing the situation may not expedite a decision; in fact, it usually doesn’t. But, if you get quiet and notice your sense experience in your chest, what are you feeling in your body when you think about staying in the relationship, and what are you sensing/feeling when you think about being out of the relationship? That is the “heart” of the matter. Do you feel lighter or heavier when imagining either option? Is there a subtle difference in your energy? By embracing the opposite thoughts of staying and leaving, and noticing how your body reacts to both ideas as you shift back and forth, you get more information that can help you get unstuck, “reversing” the battle. Over time, as you continue to pay attention to your energy and align with it, you will make the changes and decisions you want to make, that are best for you.
I want to lose weight, and I want to eat cookies
You may struggle with food choices. The same process of shifting back and forth between seemingly opposite thoughts applies. “I want to lose weight/be healthy, but I also want to eat that plate of Christmas cookies right now.” You know that losing weight/being healthy requires discipline over time with food choices. A part of you wants to stick to that discipline, and a part of you wants really badly to eat all those cookies. How do you make the decision about what to do amidst the tension of that moment?
If you can slow down and be quiet inside yourself, notice the thoughts about eating and not eating the cookies as both legitimate, both ok, you reduce the tension of the fight against one or the other, and then can get to your heart/body energy. What do you really want to do? Stop, feel into your chest, think about eating the cookies – how does that feel? Stop, feel into your chest, think about not eating the cookies – what sense is there? Does one option feel better than the other? If you can’t tell, then pause longer and keep checking inside. Choose the option that truly makes you feel lighter and aligned with your body sense at the time. Know that you are making the choice, and the more you pay attention to the energy in your body and in your heart, the more likely you will be aligning yourself with what you really want.
Struggling with two sides of an argument, for or against a behavior or a change, the idea is to shift back and forth between the opposing thoughts, and then shift from thoughts to the sense in your body related to those differing “night” and “day” thoughts. In that shifting, we can reverse the struggle into an experience of clarity based on what the body tells us if we only pay attention.
In the spirit of the winter solstice season, reversal in a moment, let’s pay attention to the sense in our bodies when facing decisions or making life changes. Let’s celebrate light and dark, let’s embrace and celebrate opposite thoughts; they show us the way to the energy of the body and heart. In that space of energy, we can touch the divine energy within us that is beyond all of our stresses and struggles. That is the ultimate reversal.
© Copyright 2011 by Darla Sedlacek. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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