Winter Solstice, Solitude & Faith
3 Minute Read: Winter solstice, Chinese Medicine, mindfulness, spiritual practice, alchemy, solitude, faith.
This Friday, the winter solstice, marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. In Chinese Medicine, it’s the time of maximum yin, when yang is a mere seed of potential.
In our lives, it’s a time to turn inward…even as we hold faith in return of the light. What this means for me this year, plus thoughts on the cycling of things…
In Chinese, winter solstice, or Dongzhi (冬至), translates to “the extreme of winter.” It’s occasion for honouring and celebrating the shortest day…and return of the light.
As the most yin time of year, the solstice and surrounding weeks are a time of receptivity, reflection, silence and solitude. They offer opportunity for physical rest, inner cultivation and spiritual practice.
Through the alchemy of this inner work, we plant seeds that manifest in spring and summer.
In daily life, the darkness and harshness of winter requires doing the next right thing…then doing it again. Chopping wood. Carrying water. Staying warm.
Internally, it calls for touching into true self…while also connecting to something bigger. Cultivating acceptance. Holding faith.
Part of this means sitting with the difficult places – the places of discomfort, change and uncertainty. The places where clarity escapes us and we feel trapped.
Pausing there – learning to stay without stalling, numbing, running or distracting – is how the good stuff comes into being. It’s where we grow…where we find true gold…where we emerge into a whole other way of experiencing self and others. All by staying with the hard stuff – even just a little while.
What’s this mean for me, this solstice?
A few things, the contours of which go this way…
Turning towards the experience of living alone in a cold, dark cabin on the lake for the first time (I treasure some parts profoundly…others, not so much).
Savouring simple, warm dinners in solitude while wrapped in a grey wool blanket, listening to Billie Holiday, enjoying nourishing reads, and gazing at a candle.
Going to bed very early (like, before 8pm!) and waking before dawn for dark, quiet, reverent yoga (I also practice before dinner each evening, usually listening to classical cross-over or a dharma talk).
Exploring buddhist ethics…and what this means in my own life – one choice after the next.
Remembering and holding space for the lingering pain of last winter, which was one of the hardest I’ve known.
Having my partner leave again, with plans to return come spring.
Sitting with the difficult places…and not knowing.
Holding faith, even in the “last curving and impossible sliver of light before the final darkness.”
Please join me.
This season will come and go…as is always the way with darkness, light and the cycling of things. It is part of us. It makes us whole.
Please join me in holding a candle of faith and hope, honouring the sweet darkness and gifts it brings…before heralding in the light.