Using the Dark of Winter to Light your Life
January. It’s always the longest month. But how? (a soundbite from nearly every lunchtime conversation I had during the last two weeks.)
Somehow, it’s true. Even here down South. The nights are short, the days are cold. The whole month seems like a frozen holiday hangover. It’s as if our tired lives have been covered by frost and we can’t quite hit a clip.
Yet, we fight it this time that Mother Nature has gifted us to slow down.
Instead, we force ourselves into hasty action – New Year, New You! We set resolutions, torturing ourselves with expectations that we should be different, often without success. We craft corporate performance goals – sometimes without a solid strategic plan in place to guide us.
Rather than snuggling up under cozy blankets with our journal and a mug of hot tea, we layer on an enormous amount of “shoulds” and “need tos,” and then we set the alarm before the sun gets up. No wonder we’re so lethargic and overwhelmed!
Embracing Life’s Rhythm
We only have so much energy to give. To ourselves. To others. Nature is here to guide us through times of outward expression and inward contemplation. Even within the course of the day, we have dark and light. As Jennifer Piercy notes in one of my favorite Yoga Nidra meditations:
“Our nervous system, in fact, our whole ecosystem needs natural darkness to turn on all the beautiful built-in quieting and healing responses available to us. Yet we live in a time of addiction to junk light, many of us overstimulated, anxious, inflamed; our sensitive biorhythms literally brainwashed into thinking we must always be awake and that it’s not safe to rest.”
When we keep pushing, burning the candle at both ends fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, we feel exhausted and confused. Especially in the New Year when nature says “hibernate!” and society says “get cracking on those goals!”
As we evolve and grow, it’s critical to make time for turning inward and listening deeply, attentively. Doing so allows us to clear out what’s no longer serving our highest good and making space for what’s ready to rise (a creative endeavor, an exciting project at work, or a big life shift).
But in our society of more, more, MORE, we often add on endeavors and expectations without making space first.
I like to envision my energy body as a garden, with only so many plots to effectively grow nourishing, beautiful things that fill my life with happiness and contentment. This garden includes everything from my relationships with myself and others to travel and professional pursuits.
In the wintertime, much of my garden gets frosty. I’m tired after the holiday rush, and I use my more limited energy to keep the most important things thriving: my body, mind and soul; my home life; paying bills.
Other things seem to naturally wane. Old projects, friendships, maybe even some ideas I’ve had of myself – labels I’ve given myself or ideas of who I should be to please others. Those things you only notice when you give yourself time to step back from the hustle of life.
Now is the time to clear away that dead brush to make space for what is rising up.
Light up the tunnel
Instead of waiting for someone or something else to make things clearer for you, light up the dark tunnel yourself. Protect your personal time. As in time for just you.
Ask others (a partner, your kids, friends or colleagues) to help you manage overflow while you take an evening or two for yourself. Sit in the cozy quiet of your favorite room. Make it really inviting – a little luxurious even. Light candles, slowly sip some tea or a glass red wine, enjoy some dark chocolate.
Then empty your cup. Grab your journal or some junk paper and write until you get everything out. Create space for what’s rising, even if you can’t see or name it quite yet. Just clear away the junk that’s no use anymore.
Letting go is hard. We attach so much meaning, so much of ourselves, to things outside of our center. But the process is critical to moving forward. Critical to our individual evolution.
But with some deep breaths, a few moments of stillness, and a mantra, it can be done to graceful success. You might try these out this month. It’s not too late to release what’s ready to be let go and to make the most of this winter season, creating fertile soil for your dreams to grow.
(Exhale) I bravely release what’s falling away. (Inhale) I joyfully welcome what’s rising from within me.
I am grateful for all that is unfolding in my life and all that is yet to come