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A few decades ago, I didn’t give winter solstice the time of day.
Instead, I regularly attended or hosted summer solstice parties.
These celebrations involved dancing to ABBA and filling my cup with “solstice juice.”
During that time, work defined me, and I burned the proverbial candle at both ends. I had a full-time communications job, was an English 101 adjunct professor at a local university, and worked as a freelance proofreader for a local publishing company—all at the same time. To add just a little more to my day, I’d get up at 5 a.m. to push myself at the gym.
I moved from action to action with little thought for how my busyness was affecting me—or those I cared about. A few years of this constant activity eventually led to my exhaustion. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally spent. I didn’t recognize the person I had become.
Fortunately, I’ve grown up since then.
The significance of winter solstice traces back to the Romans, Norsemen, and Incas. Many ancient civilizations recognized the shortest day of sunlight with a variety of feasts, fasts, and fires. Our ancestors celebrated this dark day by illuminating its role in preparing for a new year, a spring, a renewal.
It’s taken me a long time, but I now connect with what my forebears knew.
The shortest day of the year (December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere) is marked by the highest level of yin energy (female, reflective) and the lowest level of yang energy (masculine, active) of the year.
Why should we care?
Slow down and align your personal energy with the universe:
Many of us spend our days in action mode and often don’t take time to listen to the subtle signs our breath provides. I’m a yoga instructor, but still can fall victim to a lot more doing than being. These last days leading up to and including the solstice are an ideal time to align our energy with that of the universe.
Slowing down at the end of the year can be difficult. We’ve become wired to force as much as possible into these days. Work parties, children’s parties, neighborhood parties, shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, mailing, shipping, driving, flying—and the list goes on. These activities aren’t inherently a bad thing, but when we get caught up in the whirlwind of saying yes to everyone and everything, the “fun” can have diminishing returns.
This year, I am committing to saying yes to those invitations and requests that truly fill my spirit. I’ll enjoy my yesses with my whole heart. And I’ll commit to saying no to all things that are energy vampires, that leave me depleted. Importantly, I’ll let go of any guilt about saying no to them.
Consider the lessons of the previous year:
Sure, the end of the year is a good time for reflection. That’s one of the reasons it’s filled with all those end-of-the-year lists. “Best of” and “Worst of” compilations can be fun, but mostly superficial. Remembering great trips, time with friends, activities with families, and everything that’s social media worthy does have some value. But it’s not enough.
True reflection isn’t about echoing highlights and lowlights of what came before. We must also ask: What did they mean? What did I learn? How do I need to shift or change? I will let the stillness of the season’s cooler air quiet the commotion inside and genuinely listen to my heart.
Gather the energy to put change into action:
Masculine, active yang energy is necessary, but it is important to steer this energy in a positive direction. In this time of slower, feminine yin, we can stockpile our energy to take authentic action in the new year. Some may think it is selfish to care for oneself, but I have come to understand it is the best way to prepare myself to be truly present for others.
The winter solstice supports us to refill our energy stores. Throughout the year, we must often draw on our reserves to keep going. There are deadlines to meet, reports to create, and projects to complete. If we remain in this yang state of mind, we will eventually deplete our reserves. The consequences can be damaging and even catastrophic to our lives and health: when we run on fumes, we are more vulnerable to illness, depression, unhealthy food cravings, insomnia, stress, and fatigue, to name a few.
To refill my tank, I’ll focus on getting more sleep, meditating, drinking more water, and practicing yin yoga—and maybe even show myself some love by getting a massage or taking long baths. The result will be that I’m better for everything and everyone I care about.
Let’s enjoy the beauty of the season. Sing carols, drink eggnog, and gather with loved ones. Do what is truly important, but remember to take time for ourselves. Let’s embrace the end of the year with all that fills our spirit.
This winter solstice, we become new again.