Winter is coming — How to Approach the Solstice
Winter is coming.
The days are short. The frost is setting in. Time is slowing.
Or is it?
For eons, the coming of winter heralded a slowdown. After all, the crops had been harvested, and there was no farming left to do. Fruits were dried, nuts were stored, and meats were smoked…all in anticipation of the cold hard months where we would hunker down and survive. We’d gather wood for fuel so we could stay warm and we’d huddle together and lock down for the season. Time would dilate and we’d find ourselves wrapped in stories, fantasies, songs, and some much needed sleep. Naps and more naps would help pass the time as we had little else to do but to wait out the cold dark season.
Sounds kinda good now doesn’t it?
Today we have industrialized food production and can get fresh produce whenever. We burn coal to create electricity so it’s not really dark at night. We pump natural gas or propane into our furnaces and keep the house warm. We pass the time on Netflix and watch countless docudramas in a never ending string of moving light shows that keep our brains stimulated.
And then there are the holidays.
So many gifts and so little time. So much crap plastic to buy for the kids and the grandkids and the cousins. So many gift baskets and chocolates.
Wine. So much wine. Or spirits? Sure why not. Let’s get drunk to pass the time.
It can get exhausting if you’re not mindful.
The holidays and the incessant need for the consumer driven economy to keep us spending have made this era a frenzied time.
The lack of awareness around how we actually need cold, dark, and quiet to psychologically reset has driven us to madness. Year after year we forget to put energy and rest into life’s “piggybank” and we trudge on into failed new year’s resolutions and a busy January.
From there, we continue to tumble.
Let’s think of a stream of water. Sometimes it’s still and other times the water moves fast and tumbles.
We live in the white water all the time.
That’s our culture- our new way of life and it’s spitting out anxious, depressed humans who are getting chronic diseases and autoimmunity.
We need the still water to reset. In fact, the water slows to a freeze in the winter.
Not for us.
When’s the last time you actually stopped time?
When’s the last time you honored your fatigue and let yourself sleep in some more to recover?
When’s the last time you took time for yourself?
If not now then when?
Going into the Winter Solstice, let’s take a minute to breathe. Water slows to “ice” right now. Nature has a rhythm and you’re part of it…at least you came from it.
You have permission to chill.
You have the right to recover.
You need the rest. Stop running around in circles.
In Taoism (in most ancient traditions), we understand that the Winter Solstice is the time when the Yin Energy (slow, dark, passive, restorative) is at its highest expression and that the Yang Energy (fast, bright, active, expressive) is at its lowest. From December 21st on, the Yang energy increases everyday while the Yin begins to diminish until they are equal in expression on the Spring Equinox and flip in on the Summer Solstice where Yang is at the maximum and Yin at the minimum. Again they find balance in the Vernal Equinox as the cycle continues to roll…as it has for millions of years through our evolutionary arc.
Our ancestors grew up with this reality and over the past 200 years, we’ve dramatically departed from it with the advent of technology and modern living.
I’m not saying you need to burn it down and move to a cave here. That’s not tenable for most.
What I am saying is that a little bit of reverence for the seasons goes a long way. I’ve watched patients and students do this for over 20 years and the results are often miraculous. Where’s the hitch?
Can you give yourself permission to relax?
Is dad looking over your shoulder still?
Are you in such a bad place financially that you can’t humor the idea of slowing down?
Are you so run down and beat up that it takes multiple coffees to keep you running all day? Leaving you twitchy in the evenings…
That’s deficit spending. Just like the government you’re creating “credit” to survive- borrowing from tomorrow to get through today.
Well when it comes to your body, you can’t simply “print money” to make things keep rolling forward. There’s a price to pay. We see it in the form of insulin resistance, heart disease, autoimmunity, and cancer. We see it in nervous breakdowns, terrible decisions, and drug addictions.
Look around you. Is the world balanced?
So what now? Run around with your hair on fire like everyone else? We see where that’s gotten us. Our leaders can’t even agree to cut emissions enough to stave off our extinction. Nope. They’re lost and they’re mad.
It’s time to end the madness and that starts with you.
You are the hero you’ve been waiting for.
Don’t feel it?
Of course not. You’re exhausted.
Take this next couple months to rest up, lick your wounds, and get some quiet time as much as you can. Slow your roll, make less plans, watch less TV and start to take care of yourself.
For some, that may look like more sleep. I’d argue that most of us need that.
For others, it’s time to journal and weed out the toxic thoughts and associations to memories that have been haunting you.
Perhaps it’s time for more gratitude.
Perhaps you need to make amends with people in your life?
You know what you need to do. Not all of it but you know where to start.
Stop running from yourself.
The world needs you.
Your family needs you.
You need you.
Take some time and relax into your healing journey this season. The insanity stops here…with you. Slow the white water to a still stream and come to a freeze. Allow your adrenals to recover. Allow your brain to detoxify and flush while you sleep. Allow the red light of a fire soothe your brain and nervous system. Allow some soups to feed your soul and heal your gut lining. Allow some time for song and conversation around meaningful things once the TV is off.
Allow yourself to heal.
If not now then when?
If you need additional resources to help you in any of these areas, check out my Urban Monk Academy here- https://join.theurbanmonk.com/life-garden-program/ — It’s a treasure trove of resources to help with health, happiness, sleep, dreams, trauma, sex, parenting, and much more. You are not alone.