Inspiration from wellness experts to bring your inner shadows into the light in December.
While some people may only associate the Winter Solstice — this year falling on December 21 — as the shortest day of the year, there’s so much more to this turning point in seasonality. In the Northern Hemisphere, this day marks the time when we see the least amount of sunlight, but it can also be a time to reflect on your life from the past year and discover where you want to go next year.
As the busyness of the holiday season brings you stress, the solstice is an opportunity for you to stop, breathe and take a moment to do some inner reflection. To do that, 24Life spoke to several mindfulness and wellness experts about what the Winter Solstice means to them and ways you can access the benefits of this seasonal moment in your own life.
24Life: What does the Winter Solstice mean to you?
Greg Wieting is the founder of The Resilience Project, a trauma informed Reiki & Meditation School rooted in Yogic Philosophy.
Wieting: As Winter Solstice approaches, I feel a deep inward pull. I’m called to anchor into myself and reassess what truly matters. This reset affords me a renewed sense of steadiness to lay the foundation for a new cycle. In a way, there’s a bit of a death of old assumptions, patterns and habitual ways of being, to create space for something new to emerge. Winter Solstice is a time to meditate upon what wants to be born through me. It’s a time for me to synthesize and integrate my life experiences so I can bring greater clarity and presence to what lies ahead.
Taylor EyeWalker is a Kundalini yoga instructor, spiritual counselor and botanical alchemist.
EyeWalker: It’s interesting how this end of the calendar year can be difficult for people, I see many going through what I call, a cold depression, where there’s an inner conflict or battle some may experience. The winter solstice for me, means to go deeply within and understand my internal landscape. For some, that space may be desolate or very chaotic. This time for me means to be present with the depth of who we are, the shadow side that we all embody so we can understand it and know we would never be who we are without that “darkest day of the year.”
Jon Rasmussen is a full-time shaman, advisor and author of the book, “Dreaming Your World Into Being: The Shaman’s Secrets to Having the Life You Desire Now.”
Rasmussen: We are all connected to the cycles of nature. On a very deep sub-conscious level and in the history of our DNA, neurobiology and psychology, the Winter Solstice means a time of re-awakening. As the sun reverses it descent on the horizon and begins to move higher in the Sky again for the Northern Hemisphere, it elicits the same sense of return of the light and activity within us. We feel grateful for life, and we celebrate all the gifts that nature provides.
Lauren Walker is an author, traveler and yoga guru and the creator of Energy Medicine Yoga.
Walker: Winter is my favorite time of year, and the solstice both marks its start, as well as foretells its end. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year, the shortest day, and brings the return of lengthening days and the promise of summer to come. It is also the most yin time of year. The most inward turning, quiet, calm and reflective time. This is the time when most people take a review of the past year and make resolutions to change things in the new one. This instinct toward self-transformation is reflected in the season, which is putting all its energy into the deepest roots, preparing always for rebirth.
24Life: What are some rituals you have around the Winter Solstice?
Wieting: Prior to the Winter Solstice, I find myself slowing down by paying attention to my rhythm, my pace and my breath. This helps me create space for deep listening and reflection. Taking stock like this ensures I take nothing for granted. I can acknowledge where I’ve been, note my successes and failures, and notice what is arising within me. This process allows me to reaffirm my purpose and refine how I show up to the world. On a practical level Winter Solstice is a perfect time to initiate a ritual cleansing in my home. I create sacred space and altars to serve as reflections of the returning light. Winter Solstice is an optimal time to sync with the sunrise and gradually increase my energy output. I like to sustain the energy of peace while building and circulating courage and strength.
EyeWalker: On the Winter Solstice, I am usually doing deep and long meditation work. The solstices are power days where we can maximize energy from our practice, so it’s important we are doing something to further our growth, presence and awareness. I like Kundalini yoga, but one could do any practice that helps them get more present, connected and embodied.
Rasmussen: The modern western rituals of Christmas and various Holiday celebrations of lights and gifts come from the original shamanic rituals. I like to do fire ceremonies with song and prayers of gratitude. We use our breath, which is spirit, to blow the prayers in to a stick that we then take to the fire. My Q’ero shaman tribe from high in the Andes of Peru include a “despacho,” which is offerings to the Earth and Heavens wrapped in a gift paper that is placed in the fire. The offerings include small amounts of all the important things in life, like seeds, grains and little representations of education, money, rain and so on along with our prayers of gratitude for that which we are happy to release, and that which we are happy to bring into our lives.
Walker: I like to stay up on the longest nights of the year and really feel the depth of darkness. Especially bundled up and outside, when the sky is clear and stars and moon glow and give us the beauty of reflected light. Being outside in the depth of winter, in the dark of night, makes me feel my animal nature more. Feel the part of me that is in synchronicity with the earth and the stars that is humbled by greatness and awed by beauty.
Tips for how you can take advantage of the Winter Solstice
- Wieting: Ask yourself what inspires your life? What do you live for? What draws you closer to this? Draft seed intentions to sync your life with that which enlivens you. Allow this connection to yourself, from yourself, to serve as a guide aligning you to your vision. Put your total energy into this. Notice what distracts you and keep bringing yourself back again and again. The winter solstice is an invitation to clear out the distractions and re-calibrate to the very power that sustains and guides us.
- EyeWalker: Breath is absolutely everything. One very important tip is to have a daily practice of conscious breathing. Breath gives us the energy to handle whatever is in front of us, breath reminds us to remember not react. Breath is life affirming. A breath technique I recommend to do daily is: Sitkari Pranayam, in which breath is used for cleansing, and boosting glandular function. It is done by inhaling through the teeth, exhaling through nose. When the glandular system is balanced and functioning property, we as human beings can genuinely feel, happy for no reason.
- Rasmussen: Enjoy the holiday celebrations with friends and family in whatever form it takes. Take moment to reassess your life and what you are ready to let go, and where you want to expand. Meditate or journey by imagining going into your heart and finding the light there that is the center of your soul or essential self, and imagine it expanding with each breath. Explore the full depths of all your feelings, both sad and happy. Stay with your feelings and process them fully without going into analysis mode in your mind. The mind can catch up later. There is a great little ritual for staying fully present in the moment that simply involves sweeping your hand down and up in front of your torso. Some people might elaborate with smudging sage or palo santo around their body, or using a feather or sword. Basically these movements cut any residual chords that keep us thinking or feeling the past or future. Cutting them helps to keep us fully present in the moment.
- Walker: If you want to create your own ritual, this is a perfect time of year to do that. Take an evening and turn off all your electronics. Have a candle near you. Bundle up (if you live in the north) and go outside and spend the time between daylight and darkness out in the natural world. Walk in the woods, or near a river or ocean. Go to a local park, or just sit in your backyard under a favorite tree. Be quiet and still as the light drains from the sky and see how long and slow it takes for complete darkness to take over. During this time, reflect on all the blessings in your life. Literally, count your blessings.
As the end of the year approaches, look inward to find your peace and make the most of the Winter Solstice with this expert inspiration.
Photo credit: Thinkstock, iStock Marina Sosnovskaya.