full of snow,
the trees around it
bowing under white.
Again the cycle
gives us North –
will be bend
or break this time?
ache and clench of tired body, both familiar and
small fire within
with which to meet
The mountains become
stronger in winter,
the snow their shaman’s
cloak, clouds and gale
their spirit allies.
speaks to me, asks
I have brought
Loren Cruden, from Compass of the Heart
Today, December 21st marks the time of Solstice. For those of us in the northern hemisphere this is the Winter Solstice. It occurs at 12:11 PM EST and 5:11 UTC Solstice marks the shortest day of the year with only 9 hours and 32 minutes of daylight to be experienced. The Winter Solstice is celebrated in many cultures and traditions around the world as the Return Of The Sun. Although we are just entering the depths of Winter, from this point onward, our days begin to get longer and light begins to expand in our world.
Through the autumn months up until this Solstice day, there has been a journey into the darkness happening around us and inside us as well. Whether or not we have been conscious of this or not, many people experience an intensity this time of year, deep seated feelings can come to the surface, our energy can feel chaotic, and we often need lots more rest. In essence, there is a very strong compression of energy that has been occurring which often feels like a heaviness but is actually an alchemical process of transformation. As the light has been diminishing in our experience, we are challenged to face more of our “darkness” or our shadow self.
If we observe the natural world throughout the autumn months, there is a process of going in that occurs. Plants that have been above ground during the spring and summer die off and remain alive underground. Animals, such as the bear enter into a cycle of hibernation each year. Living in a modern world allows us to overcome our place in the “natural” world in many ways. We “create” artificial light which in many ways keeps us from connecting with our natural rhythm.
Winter is most often associated with North and Wisdom is an attribute of the North. When we are willing to listen to our own natural rhythms such as the need to rest more, to be still, or to journey within, there is an incredible opportunity to connect with our own inner wisdom, too. We do this through our attention and receptivity as we listen deeply to the stillness of self. Just as the bear goes into hibernation each year, we too have the opportunity to go within and to seek counsel with our own true selves, to look into the depths of our own heart and soul.
So, why do we resist this journey into the darkness knowing it carries with it a deeper wisdom and a fuller knowing of ourselves? For some there is a natural fear of the darkness or a fear of being still. Also, as I shared above, during this time not only are we experiencing more darkness outside and inside, but there is a strong compression of energy and emotion. Feelings are intensified; there is in a sense a natural cleansing process taking place in our being and we are often faced with the parts of ourselves that we wish not to see. This journey into the darkness can be an uncomfortable one, but choosing to work with it in a more conscious way can “lighten” our experience of it.
Winter is asking, or rather, demanding that we go within to journey on the inner planes and uncover a deeper sense of who we are. Winter Solstice is a powerful time to be present with ourselves and to explore where we are holding resistance. Remember, this whole process of compression and contraction is occurring so that as the light begins to return to our life and the world, we can hold more of it in our being.
A few years ago at this time of year, I was called to do a shamanic journey to the Darkness. As I was led through the underworld into the darkness, I felt a tremendous sense of comfort. This is where my energy longs to be this time of year. I asked what I could learn from the darkness. This was the guidance I was given:
“The Darkness allows you to see what is real,
it guides you within,
the truth is to be found within,
your vision comes from within,
the light is always there,
even in what seems to be the blackest moment.”
So, this moment of Solstice is really a time to honor the darkness and to look within, especially if we haven’t done so as of yet this season. Too often we seek answers to questions outside ourselves rather than explore our innate wisdom. We often seek advice from others, from books or even go to Google for our answers. Winter is a time to begin to journey from the inside out, to look within our heart and soul for our answers, and to connect with the wisdom and guidance, which lies within us.
It is in embracing the darkness that we access our true essence and allow more of our light to shine in the world. In many cultures, the Solstice celebration occurs over a period of days from December 21st to 23rd. I hope you will take some time during this Solstice time to journey within, to honor the Darkness and then to welcome the return of the Light.
After I have taken some time to honor all of the wisdom that has come from my journey into the Darkness, I use this short meditation to release what needs to be released, to celebrate the return of the Light and to access the new wisdom coming into my life:
Find a quite place to practice. Move into a comfortable position either sitting or lying down. Take a few deep breaths, breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five. With each cycle of breath allow yourself to let go of any tension or discomfort in your body. Let your breath flow into it’s own natural rhythm. Notice any busyness or worries in your mind and send them out with the next few exhales. If at any point your mind wanders or distractions arise, just return to the next breath, breathing in and breathing out.
Move your breath and awareness into your heart center in the center of your chest. Just notice how it feels to be present in the heart, the center of love, compassion, gentleness or mercy for yourself and for others. Does it feel open, spacious? Do you feel resistance or constriction? Just notice. No judgment. Spend a few moments just noticing how it feels to be in the center of your heart.
Now imagine that the center of your heart is a like a cave that you have drawn all of your energy into during this Winter “hibernation”. Even if it’s uncomfortable, allow any feelings, patterns or beliefs, which may have been stirred up with the compression of energy to come into your conscious awareness. Tune into what you feel ready to release. Create some type of hole or opening in the cave that you can send these “discomforts” out through. Take a few moments to use your breath and awareness to release them. You may wish to do this one by one or all at the same time. When you have a sense of clearing or relief, move on to the next part of the practice.
Now, imagine a lighting a small flame right there in the center of your cave and in the center of the your heart. With each cycle of breath allow the flame to get a little bigger and a little brighter, and bigger and brighter. Let it expand so that it fills you, your whole body and then even beyond your body. Let it be so big that you are now dwelling inside this flame, you are this flame ~ know this bright light is your true essence. Feel how bright you are. Feel how clear and strong you are.
Ask your flame self “what wisdom do you have to share with me now?”, “what insight can help me with on my journey?” and “what new energies are you bringing to my life?” Take some time to be still and simply LISTEN! Continue to open your heart with your breath and awareness. Listen for the wisdom. Slowly allow your flame to move back inward until it is once again in the center of your heart. Feel that the wisdom, the guidance you received dwelling in the center of your heart.
Ask for a word or image to emerge from this flame deep within the center of your heart that will represent all of the wisdom you have just received. Carry this word or image with you as a reminder, a Power Symbol to help you reconnect with your true essence in any moment.
Happy Solstice, Beautiful Beings!