Here in Alaska, and across the northern half of the United States and Canada, the winter solstice signals a return to the light. We have made it to the turning point, after which each day will bring a little more daylight into our lives as we begin the gradual swing back around the cycle of light and energy that will see a spring welcomed by lush greenery and the return flush of life and activity that is the Alaska summer.
But for now we rest. We slow down and savor the fruits of our hard work through the summer by cooking up elaborate meals of braised moose ribs and roasted root veggies from our gardens. We return to our community, sharing cozy dinners and cabin trips with friends . We make time to catch up on our books and handicrafts and hobbies while we warm our bones by the woodstove.
These darker days afford us the opportunity to slow our pace and shift our focus inward. When we embrace the cyclical change in season – the dark, the cozy, the heavier days – we can learn to find and connect more with our own light. The darkness can be a great teacher, helping to uncover strengths and parts of ourselves we otherwise might not recognize. The darkness helps to renew and restore our bodies and minds , and prepares us for our inevitable return toward the light.
This Solstice I encourage you to embrace the darkness, to turn inward, and to honor the slower, quieter rhythm of this season in yourself. Spend some time listening, acknowledging and reflecting.
Here are a few ways to celebrate the Winter Solstice and honor the darkness by practicing self-care. Create your own ritual to return to when your body and mind need a respite, and find solace in the dark.
Odd though it may seem, sometimes being alone with ourselves and our thoughts can be a difficult or frightening prospect. Take the opportunity to really sit quietly with yourself, even if only for 5 minutes to start. Turn off the tv or music, turn off your phone, and just be with yourself for a while. Really key in and listen to your thoughts. You’re a pretty amazing individual; make a date to get to know yourself.
Now that you’ve carved out some time and space to be alone, use some of this precious time to cultivate awareness and connect to your consciousness. Meditation requires zero skill, experience, or equipment, and can foster heaps of mental and physical benefits. It’s a great practice to lower stress levels and begin learning to tune into your body and mind. Find your quiet space, take a comfortable seated position with a tall straight spine, and begin breathing deeply – focusing just on your breath filling up and then leaving your lungs. As your thoughts begin to stray to other things, as they will inevitably do, simply acknowledge them and return to the breath. Practice this for a few minutes, or as long as you’re able. Look to yoga downloador calm.com for resources to help you develop a meditation practice.
Putting our true unadulterated thoughts down to paper can be both a therapeutic and insightful practice. A journal is a place to express your thoughts free of judgement, to name and acknowledge your emotions, and to physically let go of feelings or thoughts that no longer serve you. Spend a few minutes writing freely. What are you feeling right now, in this moment? Journal for reflection, for inspiration, or to cultivate gratitude. Use journaling as a tool to serve you. As you being to journal regularly, dedicate a special notebook for your thoughts, try a journal with daily or weekly writing prompts like Moorea Seal’s 52 lists project, or simply dig out a spiral notebook and put a pen to paper.
However you choose to celebrate the return to light, may it be warm and restorative. Happy Winter Solstice, friends.