Today is the shortest day and the longest night of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and it was a day of tremendous importance to our more Earth-based ancestors.
In our sun-centric, action-oriented culture of today, the darkness that Winter brings can feel oppressive, as if it's keeping us from doing everything we're “supposed” to do. I've felt this annoyance in years past, and especially now that I have a young baby who significantly "limits" how much I can get done in any given day.
I reached a point recently where I realized that the problem isn't that my daughter Wyette needs to nap twice a day or eat every couple of hours; the problem is the internalized expectation I still have about what my life should be like, which is busy, productive, and "accomplished."
I find that the same frustrations I felt about not being able to do as much with Wyette is what many of us feel in the Winter, when the darkness pushes us to get home earlier, go to bed sooner, and sleep in a little later.
Since I accepted that the thing causing me distress is actually the belief I had that says I need to be doing more, my days with Wyette are a lot more fun. I can actually appreciate that she pushes my husband and I into a daily rhythm,
How would we experience the darkness of Winter if we realized that the darkness and the limits it brings are actually helpful?
Some of the fruits of being “constrained” by the needs of a baby, which I see as similar to the constraints of Winter’s darkness, have been:
- Increased dreamtime since I go to bed so early. I’ve had some incredible, clarifying dreams since letting go and admitting that I needed to sleep more. These dreams have informed decisions I’ve made about my career in the past 2-3 months.
- More connection with my partner since we’re both usually home for bedtime, which is around 6pm. I used to do a lot more on weeknights, which meant I didn’t really connect with Chris until I was dead tired and ready for bed.
- Healthier eating. Since we’re “in for the night” so early, we’ve had more time to make healthier, more plant-rich dinners, which invigorates my body.
These are just a few of the benefits that have come from accepting that this time in my life, and in the year, requires a softer, “do less” approach. In fact, through my dreams, increased time for journaling, and a recognition of my connection to the Earth, I’m not really “doing less,” it’s just an inward working instead of an external showcase of activity.
I love what Anne Davin wrote about this time of year:
In Winter, the earth quiets and falls asleep and dreams a new world into being that we call Spring. Winter is an invitation to a restorative stillness that can be mistaken as loneliness when you hold onto the past or grieve what has yet to be, instead of letting go into the mystery of the yet to be revealed.
Between now and the Full Moon on January 1, how can you go even deeper into the restoration that the darkness offers?
Can you ask for a dream before you go to sleep?
Can you spend 30 more minutes journaling tomorrow?
Can you meditate on what might want to be birthed in your life in 2018?
There will be plenty of time for activity in the new year, but it will be richer and more fruitful if it’s guided by a deeply restored you.
Take a second to picture what could come into being in 2018 if you’re frazzled, bitter about obligations you’ve taken on, or desperate to make surface-level changes to your life in January. Most of us feel this creative (but ultimately draining) energy in our chest, shoulders, and our neck.
Now picture what could come into being if you were grounded in acceptance of the unknown and a profound trust in your intuition. See if you can feel this creative energy in your second chakra, or the “womb center” at your core.
Do you notice the difference? For me, it’s major. When I sink into my body and let go of the frenetic energy I feel in the top half of me, I know I’m on my way to greater wisdom, better livelihood, and more beauty.
That knowing is what I wish for you this time of year. Why not succumb to the darkness, release your striving, and see what’s there in the restoration?