Nature is one of our best spiritual teachers. 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 wildlife, the earth, and the solar system.
If we pay close attention, Nature can guide us in developing personal spiritual practices that give us a sense of internal calm and peace. This internal peace allows us to flow with (rather than resist) the constant changes in our lives and the 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 4:47pm (EST).
Spiritual Meaning of the Winter Solstice:
As part of their spiritual practices, our ancestors around the world celebrated the Winter Solstice as the death of the "old sun" and the rebirth of the "new sun". Modern science tells us that this is just the earth's rotating around the sun. Still, there is a cycle of death and rebirth that we can see slowly occurring with plants and animals as the earth's position causes the seasons to change from fall to winter and winter to spring.
The Winter Solstice - the longest night - with its prominence of the moon, rain, and cold weather - marks the final stage of the death process in Nature that began in the fall season when the amount of sunlight began to decrease. But, the longest night also means that each day that follows will have increasing hours of sunlight, so this day also marks the very earliest 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). For this reason, many cultures also referred to Winter as the Moon season.
It is also interesting to note that many religious traditions (such as Christmas trees), practices, and rituals that later developed throughout the world are founded upon or incorporated these spiritual beliefs and practices about natural occurrences such as the solstices.
Spiritual Wellness Practices for the Winter Solstice:
The cold conditions of the Moon season tells us that it is time to balance ourselves by slowing down to nurture our bodies and explore our emotions. The peak of the moon season reminds us of the importance of reflection, grief, rest, healing, faith in new beginnings, and dreaming. We can also use the slow pace of this season to review our spiritual growth and challenges, nurture our spirit by spending more time with God/the Divine Spirit, and think about how our life is interconnected with all other life.
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, wildlife, the earth, and the world over the last year?
What areas of yourself, your life, your community, the natural environment, and the world are in need rest, reflection, grieving, and balance?
What do you dream for yourself, your life, your community, the natural environment, 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. Our wellness sets help as well.
- 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 inspire, 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, the Universe, or simply 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.
First published on Dec. 15, 2021.
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