The winter solstice represents the depth of winter. The midpoint or height of the season. Yes it may get colder in the months to come, but it’s at this point, the longest night of the year that we start to welcome back the light.
We’ve been slowly retreating inwards, letting go through the fall, and shoring up our resources. We have now reached the shortest day and the longest night. The exact opposite of Summer, where our energy, heat and light is at the peak.
Winter solstice has been celebrated in almost every culture around the world through different traditions – the recognition of the darkness and the many ceremonies that help us to welcome back the light. Referred to as Winter Solstice, Yule, Midwinter, The Longest Night – there are many celebrations that come at this time of the year, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Toji in Japan, Yalda in Iran, Dong Zhi in China and many others.
Deep in winter, we can turn to many things to help us keep warm – both physically and energetically.
Longer, slow cooked foods help keep us warm internally and help keep our digestive systems stay strong and healthy while it’s so cold outside. We let go of the fresh or raw foods of summer and turn to roots, tubers, and naturally warming foods like onions, garlic and hearty soups and stews.
Using warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, fennel can add inner warmth and a slight sweetness that contrasts the bitter cold outside.
We can call on candles to cultivate the hygge (my favourite take away from my time living in Denmark). It basically translates to all the things that make us feel cozy – inside and out. Our environment, foods, friendships and just that feeling that warms our hearts when we feel seen, cared for and contented.
This is also a beautiful time of year to go deep, to go inward and simplify things by stripping away the unnecessary. We spend more time indoors and socialize less (this year more than ever!).
We are also prompted to DO less. Do fewer external activities and spend more time in stillness. This stillness is key in keeping the Yin-Yang balance of life healthy. We do less now, so that come spring, we have the resources built up to begin again.
It’s a time to reflect and see what needs to fall away and what seeds of inspiration are starting to stir.
From the outside it might look like there isn’t a lot of life happening, but when we tuck ourselves in toward the fire and inner light, it’s just like the tree that pulls it’s sap from the branches to shore up its resources for the winter. This is the core of life. This is all about the things that make our hearts happy and feed our souls. It’s the good stuff. It’s the important stuff.
It is in the darkness we have the opportunity to find our brightest light. And as the wonderful mystic Rumi says “A deep silence revives the listening”
Winter is nature’s way of hitting the pause button. As the world stills, we can use this time to quieten our minds and lives and come home to ourselves yet again.
So I invite you to take some time around the solstice but also for the remainder of the winter to get quiet, and listen to the gentle whispers of your soul. It is calling.
The following are some journal prompts that you can use during the solstice (or any time for that matter)
I recommend creating a bit of quiet time and space for yourself as you do these. Perhaps light a candle and make a warm cup of tea or cider as you allow yourself to explore the following questions.
I suggest allowing yourself to write freely without censorship or trying to edit or analyze anything. Once you are complete with these questions, you might even consider lighting a small fire and letting them be released physically and energetically. If you don’t have a fire, you can use your candle and a fireproof bowl instead.
Questions for inquiry:
- What have I learned in the past year?
- Who or what have my best teachers ?
- What have been my greatest challenges?
- What have been my greatest delights in the last year?
- What have I lost in the last year? Who or what has passed away from me?
- What have I received in the last year? What have been the biggest gifts ?
- What have been my greatest moments of confusion or suffering?
- What have been my greatest moments of insight, success, transformation or understanding?
- What do I consider sacred ? What and whom do I value now?
No need to do all these questions (unless you are called to). Pick one, sit with it for a few moments in silence and then write for 5-10 minutes.
“I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.”
~Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God