As I write this we are approaching the Winter Solstice. In the Southern hemisphere, it is actually the Summer Solstice. Both are times of transition. Because of where I live, I will focus mostly on the Winter Solstice. That is mostly just for my convenience than anything.
So the Winter Solstice as a time when we will experience the transition from the longest night of the year into the gradual growth of light in our days. It may only be by a few seconds or a minute at a time according to the clock, but over a number of days or weeks, those few seconds and minutes gradually begin to turn into hours and more hours. Every single bit of light that we can squeeze out of our day at this time of year is like a drop of water in a desert. And then eventually we get to the point where it is no longer drops but buckets full of water and eventually we begin to take that for granted…until the autumn days begin to rather noticeably get shorter and shorter.
These cycles are a force of nature. There is no escaping them really. But how do they serve us? It is not that everything in nature is here to serve our every need, but more that if we can recognize the things that may be going on within us as an inner response to the natural cycles, then we can glean some medicine from the experience. These cycles actually affect us on a deep cellular level, causing our bodies to have responses that we would not have any other time of year. As the days get colder and darker, for example, our bodies often go through stronger cravings for fat rich foods. This is because on a physical level we are insulating ourselves from the cold. We really are only a half-step away from our ancient ancestors who were completely at the mercy of the weather systems. So our bodies still do the same things that theirs did. Yes, we now have furnaces to heat our homes and vehicles with heaters to go from home to work, but that has been extremely recent in history. So our bodies still do what they have been hard wired to do.
On an emotional level, it is our time to dive into the shadow of the self. This is not in any way the “evil” part of ourselves. We all have light and shadow selves. The shadow stuff usually stays hidden, or cloaked. That is why it is called the “shadow”. It is the part of us that holds onto the aspects of our being that are difficult to address. The shames, the guilt, the insecurities, the biases, the hurts that have accumulated over the many years of our existence. This is what we unconsciously start to process. This is part of why so many people around this time of year slip into anxiety and depression as well. It is not the only reason. Lack of light itself can do that to a person, and dysfunction over the holiday season can certainly contribute to it as well. But what is underneath all of it is the shadow, waiting quietly to be noticed and processed. It doesn’t actually WANT to hold on to any of the stuff we bury within it. It wants to help us to heal it. That is why we need to do our shadow work. And whenever we do, there is always a light at the end of it all. The shadow can be our ally. But we do need to let go of our fears about it in order to make good use of it.
We can create small rituals to assist us in the processing of the shadow work. Lighting a candle can be a ritual in and of itself. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be simple and meaningful. Lighting a candle brings us the reminder that there is light, even in the darkest of times. Pampering ourselves with a spa day at home or in a professional spa can help us feel the fulfillment of our desire to be nurtured. Having a tasty meal with a friend can help us to feel the connections we have with other human beings while nourishing the temples of our bodies. These are all easy things. But being easy does not make them something that we should necessarily neglect. We can all get ourselves so busy we forget those things that bring us joy and fulfillment. We need to actually stop that pattern and get ourselves less and less busy. That way we can attend to the things, and the people, that are most important to us…beginning with ourselves.
Shadow work is one of the times when personal isolation can actually become destructive. We all need to cocoon now and then to process. But when we are dealing with shadow work, against the advice of many a book, I can honestly say that I have thrived only when I have worked harder at my interpersonal connections. If I cocoon during shadow work I can go into a place so dark that not many would even want to venture in let alone have the skill set to help me out. I know that I can handle it, because I have in the past. But the fact that I have handled it does not mean that it is the way to go about it. Having been there, I can honestly say that taking it more slowly and making time for the interpersonal connections makes the job itself much lighter and less daunting.
As always, in a time of transition we need to take care of our basic needs. Eat, stay hydrated, keep warm and safe, take care of ourselves and those close to us. Know that it does not have to be a struggle. If we allow ourselves to go into a transition in fear then it will be harder to walk through. If we go into it with a sense of adventure, then it tends to become a much smoother ride.