Winter Solstice has been celebrated by cultures around the world for thousands of years. Most of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with "Christmas" actually are linked to Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient Pagan cultures. This longest night of the year is a celebration of light and rebirth of the sun, as the days will now start to lengthen. In Chinese Medical theory, winter is a YIN time of year. Yin is cold, wet, and marked by stillness, introspection and rest. Winter solstice occurs this week on Friday 12/21; the point where Yin is at its peak and yang is just beginning to flourish with its tiny light. Ironically in our culture this is typically the time when we are called to be most YANG; outward, frenetic and social. Alternatively, if we don’t have much going on socially we can get caught in comparisons and self criticism, rather than allow and enjoy it. It’s all about balance. Here are some ideas to consider to help you honor this yin time and feel relaxed and harmonious.
Take a Time Out- If you are like many out there, your To-Do list can get crazy this time of year. Overwhelm can ensue, creating underlying anxiety and irritability, which is no fun at all. Whether you are caught up in work or shopping, give yourself intentional time out to just be. That means at least 15-30 minutes of YOU time to walk, sit or lie down. No taking care of others, preferably alone, and DEFINITELY not on social media, just breathe, daydream, enjoy nature or try this mindfulness app. This nourishes your yin energy. Your nervous system will relax and you will find yourself more efficient when you get back to activity.
Flood Your Senses- You are in a body, remember? A great way to come back to the present moment is through your senses. Whatever you can see, hear, touch, smell or taste is only happening RIGHT NOW. Pick a time to take a bath with essential oils or to eat with intention: pay attention to really tasting that tangerine. Notice it’s smell, color and texture while you are at it. You will almost certainly feel a sense of pleasure and, dare I say, delight. You will also have been practicing presence, which is the perfect panacea to our modern crazy.
Gratitude- For many people, gratitude is difficult…. because life is difficult. And yet, just the act of reaching mentally for something you are grateful for will change your brain chemistry for the better. The New York Times published this article about the research behind gratitude. The practice of gratitude means every day thinking of or writing down 3-5 unique things you are truly grateful for. Expressing love and appreciation to those dear to you is also an age-old way to honor this solstice time.
Light it Up- The pagan ancestors celebrated the return of the sun at Winter Solstice. Honor the new solar year with light. Do a Solstice Eve ritual in which you meditate in darkness and then welcome the birth of the sun by lighting candles. If you have a fireplace you can light a fire and save a bit to start next year’s fire. Otherwise you might light candles or holiday lights in your house to light the darkness on the 21st which is the longest night of the year.
Manifest Like a Goddess- This yin time can also be thought of as a time of gestation. Allow time for an enjoyable creative project and to muse about what you may want to create or give birth to in the months to come. How would manifesting that dream feel? Ask yourself what tiny steps would help you start to feel that way today? Happy Winter Solstice!!
Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial Y. Joel Wong, Jesse Owen, Nicole T. Gabana, Joshua W. Brown, Sydney McInnis, Paul Toth & show all Pages 192-202 | Received 31 Jul 2015, Accepted 01 Mar 2016, Published online: 03 May 2016
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Crim, Keith, editor, The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989, pages 154, 182