As the wheel of the year turns towards the Winter season for us here in the Northern Hemisphere, many may consider how to best stay positive and energized through this season of short days. This is particularly true where I live in the shadow of a temperate rainforest, as the Autumn and Winter seasons here are characterized by months of dark cloudy skies and rain.
For many, the Winter season is a difficult one to manage emotionally. Many who are prone to depression suffer more through this season, and for these souls it is important to seek professional medical or psychological support. What I would like to share here is not a replacement for medical treatment, but rather an alternative way to approach this season of stillness.
|Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash|
Our predecessors on this Earth lived with the cycles of Nature and marked the change in seasons in a number of ways. In Earth Medicine we follow the teachings of Indigenous and Earth-based cultures. In my studies, we learned of the Medicine Wheel which is a way of living for many cultures. On the wheel that I learned, Winter sits in the direction of the North and its themes are those of stillness, wisdom, introspection, and renewal. It is a time of quiet solitude where we have the opportunity to go inward and replenish our 'inner soil" in preparation for the light and growth of Spring. The North is held by Buffalo and Elk, and by the element of Earth. It is the place on the Wheel where we feel most connected with our Ancestors.
Ancient Celtic traditions speak of the Wheel of the Year, with similar connections to natural cycles and elements. This Wheel is marked by 8 celebrations throughout the year as the Wheel turns and the seasons shift, including the Sabbat (main festival) of the Winter Solstice or Yule. In the Northern hemisphere this is the darkest time of the year, and for ancient people it was challenging not only to stay warm and fed, but also to remain faithful to the belief that the light would return. This was held as a time to create closure of the past year and to mark the shift into the new. Traditionally, this Winter Solstice marked the beginning of the Yuletide and the origin of the 12 Nights of Christmas (originally connected to Yule, not Christmas). These sacred nights were considered time to have deeper awareness of our intuition and as such, these nights were known for dreams, visions, and other insights of the coming year.
What a change from the celebratory state of our present society! Is it any wonder many feel unsettled during this time? In losing our connection to our traditional and natural connection to the seasonal shift, we have created a state of imbalance.
So how can we create a new sense of balance that may better serve us through the busy holiday season of our modern times? For me, this is a matter of allowing myself some time to slow down, time to breathe, and time to celebrate "being" rather than "doing". And yes, this takes some planning. While it seems contradictory with so many tasks and commitments, my meditation and journal practice have become more vital this season. Even 20 minutes spent in stillness and/or journaling can have a profound effect on my days and ultimately increase productivity! The other important piece for me has been getting outside and breathing fresh air. Stepping into my garden to breathe under the trees, even if only for a few minutes as I gather garden herbs, serves to connect me with something greater than myself and has an immediate grounding and calming effect.
|Photo by Teddy Kelley on Unsplash|
This season, I invite you to create some space for yourself to explore this ancient wisdom of seasonal living. Some ideas for creating moments of stillness include:
- being present as you wait for baking to finish- breathe in the aroma, observe the transformation from uncooked to golden goodness
- pausing between tasks to re-centre; go outside for a breath of air if you can
- creating a ritual to mark the Solstice - make time to take inventory of the past year, focussing on those things that you would like to leave behind (closing the old year) and those you'd like to carry forward (welcoming the new year)
- connecting to your soul by connecting to Nature.