Nature is our Spiritual Teacher:
Nature is one of our best spiritual teachers (a topic that I'll explore in a future blog post). When we take the time to pause, observe, and reflect, we can learn so much from the natural rhythms, energies, and actions that we see happening with animal life, the earth, and the solar and lunar systems.
If we pay close attention, Nature can guide us in developing personal spiritual practices that give us a sense of internal calm and peace so that we can flow with (rather than resist) the constant changes in our lives and world.
What is the Winter Solstice:
Nature is constantly changing and our earliest ancestors marked the peaks of its changes as important spiritual occurrences. The Winter Solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year for the northern hemisphere (the opposite is true for the southern hemisphere), is one of these spiritual and natural occurrences. The transition that occurs on this day also marks the first day of Winter. This year, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st at 10:59 am (EST).
Spiritual Meaning of the Winter Solstice:
From a universal spiritual and natural (and cultural) perspective, the day of the Winter Solstice has been long revered and celebrated in many spiritual traditions, as it simultaneously represents the spiritual transitions of "death" and "rebirth" of the sun. We now know that our earth's positioning to the sun is just changing, but there is a very real death and rebirth process that we see occurring in Nature as the earth's positioning and seasons change.
The longest night - with its prominence of the moon, rain, and cold season - marks the final stage of the death process in Nature that began in the fall season when the amount of sunlight began to decrease. The longest night also means that each day that follows will have increasing hours of sunlight, so this day also marks the very early beginnings of the rebirth process that will take hold in the growing season of spring and peak in the summer (at the summer solstice).
In some spiritual traditions, feminine energy is also associated with this season of the moon's dominance, cold, wetness, dark, night, death, and rebirth (whereas masculine energy is associated with the seasons with the sun's dominance).
From a religious context, it is interesting to note that many religious traditions, practices, and rituals that later developed throughout the world are founded upon or incorporated these universal spiritual beliefs and practices about natural occurrences such as the solstices.
Spiritual Practices for the Winter Solstice:
This season encourages our collective balancing by encouraging us to slow down and nurture our bodies, recognize the depths of our emotions, assess our spiritual growth and challenges, nurture our spirit by spending time with the Divine Spirit/Energy, and contemplate how our life is interconnected with all other life. On an individual level, the peak of the moon season reminds us of the importance of reflection, grief, rest, healing, faith in new beginnings, and dreaming.
You might begin this process by reflecting on all that has occurred since the summer solstice on June 21st - when we last experienced the longest day of the year and the nights began to grow longer.
What have you learned about yourself, your life, your community, animal life, the earth, and the world over the last year?
What areas of yourself, your life, your community, animal life, the earth, and the world need rest, reflection, grieving, release, and balance?
What do you dream for yourself, your life, your community, animal life, the earth, and the world?
What do you need to work on within yourself before you are able to develop (or contribute to) a plan that will make these dreams a reality?
Here is a list of practices (I love lists!) that you might use on the day of the Winter Solstice and throughout the season:
- Slow down - create a manageable and realistic daily schedule for yourself.
- Pause your action - take moments throughout your day to step away from your activities and let your mind observe what is happening around you.
- Spend time outdoors - grab a coat and a warm drink and deep breathe in fresh air for at least 5 minutes each morning and evening.
- Nurture yourself - treat yourself gently and with love, allow yourself to ease into each day, eat as healthy as your budget allows, do gentle stretches, dance, wiggle, find reasons to laugh daily, and be patient and encouraging with yourself.
- Hydrate inside and outside - the cold weather and heat indoors is extremely drying, so drink lots of water and take baths and use oils and lotions to lock in moisture and protect your body.
- Connect with the Divine Spirit/Energy - regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, take time to focus on and connect with the beauty and goodness that exists all around us. You can do this through prayer, meditation, watching for acts of kindness/love around you, and observing Nature.
- Sit in silence - take time to sit alone in a room or outdoors (without a cell phone, tv, etc.) to find a sense of peace in the calm of silence.
- Reflect on the seasonal energy - what are you holding onto that you need to release in order to make way for new beginnings or possibilities?
- Grieve as needed - letting go or releasing is a process, so don't be surprised if emotions arise. Don't run from them, let the discomfort arise and let the tears flow.
- Recognize signs - from the Divine Spirit/Energy or positive serendipity that encourage and uplift you.
- Listen for wisdom - from within yourself that guides you to act in ways that support both your highest good and the highest good of others.
- Rest - listen to your mind and body when they give you signs that they need relaxation time and rest.
- Sleep - to regenerate yourself which is really just a type of rebirth (regeneration and repair of cells during sleep).
- Keep faith - whether you have faith in yourself, the Divine Spirit or Energy or the Universe, or the innate goodness of all people, trust that things are always changing and there is always the possibility for things to improve.
- Dream - of possibilities for a better future!
Use these practices to embrace the darkness of this day. Repair and regenerate yourself. Find a sense of peace and inspiration. Balance and prepare yourself to take action that uplifts yourself, others, and our world in the spring and summer.
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