Again did the earth shift
Again did the earth shift. Again did the nights grow short and the days long.
And the people of the earth were glad and celebrated each in their own ways.
We all celebrate the emerging light of the Winter Solstice in our own ways, and it seems this year--more than ever--releasing the darkness and welcoming the joy of a new beginning is achingly important. I don't know that there is any one "right" way to celebrate; I think it's all about intention.
Our family has a little ritual we created decades ago: after we return from our forest hike, we spread rosemary and pine sprigs all over the main floor of the home. Every step we take releases the refreshing scent of renewal and hope. We then each select a favorite winter solstice poem or reading and we turn off all of the lights in the home. We sit there together--in the darkness and silence--for quite some time, simply enjoying the peace that it provides and feeling the warmth and assurance of each others' presence. Then, one of us lights a candle, reads aloud their selection and then turns on a light. We go around the living room reading and sharing until the fire in the hearth is lit, the holiday lights are on, and we are celebrati ng our home filled with love, laughter and light. I have fond memories of my father reading "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost and my mother embracing our youngest son as he read from a children's book. We close out the circle with a toast to the new year with a mug of hot wassail. It's such a simple thing that requires very little preparation, yet it is so powerful that throughout the year I can return to that feeling in my body of complete stillness surrounded by the promise of love.
I invite you into contemplation about how you will pause to reflect in the darkness and meaningfully usher in the hopeful light of 2021. Here are a few ways that may resonate with you:
On a piece of paper write down your sorrows from the year and burn them in a fire. Retain the ashes and spread in your garden--alchemizing your grief into growth. On another piece of paper write your intentions for the new year and keep this handy. (I keep mine right next to my computer monitor!)
Witness the sunrise and sunset on the solstice. Lift your face toward the sun, with eyes closed, in deep appreciation.
Practice a pranayama (breathwork) method of Antara Kumbhaka. As you breathe in and hold the breath, envision golden light filling your belly (third chakra) and then filling your entire body and radiating out to the entire universe.
Create a circle of cedar leaves, pine boughs and/or herbs and place around a candle or in the middle of a table for contemplation. I know this sounds like a "Christmas Wreath", but this isn't a decoration or craft project so much as it is a process of reflecting on the cycle of the year. You would create your wreath slowly and mindfully, taking time to notice each leaf. I am reminded of the time I assisted in the sweat lodge purification ceremony of the Saginaw-Chippewa tribe. We women slowly picked tiny cedar leaves to form a large circle around the sacred fire. We painstakingly pulled away any dead leaves and snapped off the green healthy leaves and placed into tiny clusters to be gently placed piece by piece. It took us about four hours to perform this ritual in preparation for the purification and I, indeed, felt ready to be immersed into the space of rebirth. I invite you to take some time to try this form of mandala-work as a form of preparation for the new year.
Purify yourself with fire. A friend of mine, Buddha Fire, is facilitating a fire walk in Caledonia on December 22. It is a transformational 4-hour ceremony with drumming, dancing, chanting, and then walking on fire. Meditate for world peace--preferably with candlelight. Envision the light of lovingkindness filling your heart. Perhaps try chanting for world peace--and in community--as well. We are offering a free solstice meditation this Sunday December 20 in which we will raise the personal and collective vibration of peace and I would be humbled and delighted if you joined us.
Whatever you do, may your season be filled with love, light and peace.