December is here, the temperature is dropping, and I'm feeling the urge to slowly retreat into the darkness of winter. For some of you, the snow may have already arrived in full winter wonderland fashion. With 15 day's left until the Winter Solstice (December 21st) I want to start the conversation of what it means it live in tune with the bigger rhythms going on around us. Part of seasonal living and living in sync with your inner rhythm is understanding how the energy of the seasons affects us and can help us slow down and lead a more purposeful life. In our western society we are so focused on going, going, and going. Living seasonally gives us the opportunity to take a pause 4 times a year, on the solstice, to reflect back on the previous season(s) and set intentions for what the next season has in store. Living seasonally can be seen as being the farmer for your life. In the winter we rest and plan, in the spring we plant our seeds and begin to activate our plans, in the summer we are full of action and tending to our growing seeds, and in the fall we reap the benefits from and celebrate our harvest (and/or learn from our challenges and failures).
I like to use 3 R's to describe the energy of winter: Rest, Reflect, and Renew. Winter invites us to slow down and to rest. When we create the space for rest in our lives we also allow our bodies the opportunity to heal. And by rest, I don't just mean sleep. Focus on implementing good sleep hygiene and prioritize activities of self care that both rejuvenate you and build resilience. Spending time in quiet, reading, practicing yoga Nidra, listening to relaxing music, and meditation are all great ways to incorporate rest into your day.
The winter solstice represents the start of a new cycle and the upcoming new year. It provides us with a moment in time to set intentions or goals for the next few months and the year ahead. I recommend performing a winter solstice ritual in order to be intentional about what you want to create in your life for the upcoming season and the upcoming year. A ritual doesn't have to be complicated or involved. It simply means creating intentional space where you can keep track of your thoughts, dreams and goals. This intentional space can be as simple as a starting a new journal to creating an intentional space in your home and setting the mood through lighting, candles, music, an altar etc. If you have never done a ritual before, use this as an opportunity to play with different ways to connect with yourself on a deeper level, in ways that resonate and feel authentic to you.
Here are some guiding questions you may find helpful for setting your winter intentions:
What are my dreams and goals for the next 1-5 years?
Where do I want to be and how do I want to feel come next fall?
Forward thinking to fall, what seeds do I want to plant in spring?
What do I need to accomplish in the next 3 months in order to plant these seeds?
What support or tools do I need?
Once you begin to feel fully rested you can begin the process of reflection and renewal. Allow yourself the time to rest as this builds resilience, and this resilience is necessary to truly dig into the reflection process. This process of reflection can help you stay on course with the intentions you set for yourself during the winter solstice. In understanding where we came from we can give ourselves a better chance at learning from our experiences and having success in the future.
Here are some guiding questions to help you in the reflection process:
Reflecting on the past year- What turned out right? What went wrong? Where could I have improved?
What are my basic values and needs? Have they changed in the past year?
What are my strength's and weaknesses based on your outcomes from the previous year?
What area/s of my life do you want to see improvement?
By slowing down, resting, and reflecting we set our bodies up to be renewed come spring. We give ourselves the time and opportunity to plan what seeds we want to plant and cultivate in the year ahead. We can awaken to spring with a renewed sense of energy, passion, and purpose.
Heidorn, Keith. “Winter Planning.” Living Gently Quarterly: Winter Planning, https://www.islandnet.com/~see/living/articles/lifesea2.htm.