Winter Solstice 2015
COVER TITLE: Connect
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Winter is the time for our pace to slow down. With colder temperatures, fewer daylight hours and wetter days, we naturally want to retreat indoors. The surrounding darkness and stillness in nature offers an opportunity to rest, look within and reflect on our lives. We are invited to become aware of where we are physically, mentally and spiritually, and consider where we want to go when the time for movement comes. Winter is the ideal time to decrease activity and connect with our spirit. This will replenish our physical energy, boost the immune system, and allow for great wisdom to be heard.
The winter solstice falls on June 22. Solstice marks a turning point. Trees have shed their leaves, nature’s growth is suspended, temperatures have dropped and we encounter the year’s longest night and shortest day. Solstice offers us a powerful time to pause, perceive the seeds of future growth and determine what direction we want go when the time for movement comes.
Once the year’s longest night has passed, the cycle will continue to bring more light into the day. The hope of new life and regeneration comes after solstice. From this point on, the days become longer and the sun returns its full strength in the coming months, increasing energy and stimulating renewal and growth. New possibilities await us on the horizon. As we head towards spring and summer we can bloom into our full potential. But we must first become clear about what we want to see blossom in our lives.
Imagine what this time meant to our ancestors before the comforts of electricity and gas heating. The threat of death by cold or starvation was real. This was a time of celebration to acknowledge surviving the darkest time and the sun’s rebirth. It was a time to rejoice at the start of another cycle and show gratitude for the resources and community that contributed to their existence.
The Cycle of Life
For our ancestors who lived by the seasons, the winter solstice was seen as an opportunity to honour life, death and rebirth. Death is a natural part of any cycle. In nature, the trees have recently discarded their leaves, ready to regrow in spring. We too would benefit from releasing any ‘dead wood’ to enable new growth in the approaching months. When we accept death as a necessary part of regeneration, we can more easily welcome the changes that occur as we embark on new beginnings.
Remember, darkness cannot exist without light. Just as day becomes night, winter becomes summer. Everything has its place in the cycle of life. If there is something that doesn’t serve your higher intentions (a belief about yourself, an old resentment, a job, a friend, a behaviour, a fear, etc), now is the time to let go. Holding on only holds you back.
Winter and Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter relates to the water element, which includes the bladder and kidneys. These organs store, balance and distribute our body’s fluids and maintain our energy reserves. When the water element is depleted we may experience exhaustion or overwhelm as we struggle to cope physically and emotionally without healthy energy reserves to fuel us. Everyday stimulants such as caffeine and sugar can deplete the kidneys and disrupt our energy flow. Overworking and not giving ourselves enough Yin (receptive, quiet and passive) time will also deplete the kidneys.
Just as you wear suitable clothing during winter, certain foods are more suitable for the body to support the immune system. Avoid eating raw, cooling foods and instead focus on warming and grounding foods such as soups and stews, root veg, lentils and beans. Increasing bitter and salty foods can be beneficial as they promote a descending, grounding quality. Bitter flavours can help disperse damp in the body and remove mucous. Bitter foods include celery, asparagus, alfafa, grapefruit and vinegar. A moderate amount of salt can help cool the exterior of the body and bring the heat deeper into the body. Salty foods include miso, soy sauce, seaweeds, millet and barley. However, use salty foods sparingly as excess salt can tighten the water organs, causing coldness and overconsumption of water.
Emotionally, the TCM water element is associated with fear, especially of the unknown. Sometimes the prospect of sitting quietly with ourselves and our emotions can trigger many fears. This fear can use up energy reserves in an attempt to control, manage or run away from these feelings. When our minds take over, we can no longer hear our intuitive wisdom. The lesson of the water element is to listen to and follow our intuition – go beyond our limiting beliefs and be guided by our higher consciousness.
Don’t be afraid of the dark
Sometimes we avoid the dark within ourselves – our fears, our shadow side, our less favourable qualities. But once you realise that it’s these fears that can be your greatest gifts of learning, then you realise they make you perfectly whole. They keep you searching for new growth and understanding about your place in the world. Now is the perfect time to tune into your inner truth, become clear on what you want, and how to strengthen and grow that part of you. Don’t be afraid to hear what your heart desires and be ready to take action to bring it to life.
As the days become longer, pay enthusiastic attention to what you aspire and keep moving in that direction. By becoming clear about your goals and intentions you will stay focused and motivated, making those dreams become a reality.
- What do you need to let go of to reach full potential?
- What resources and support are you grateful for in your life?
- What strengths can you draw on and bring to life with the increasing light?
- Use the stillness of winter to rest and recharge
- Gentle exercise such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Yoga can help support the body and mind
- Make time for meditation to listen to your inner instincts
- Appreciate the cycle of life, recognising that death is an important aspect of new growth
- Increase bitter and salty foods (but avoid excess salt)
- Create a vision board to represent what you want your life to be like and keep you on track to the success you have always dreamed of
Take this time to rest, recharge and let go of what no longer serves you, ready to begin the new cycle ahead. Enjoy the winter for the stillness and awareness it offers. Don’t be afraid to hear your inner truth. It may mean making changes, however the rewards will be worth it. You can live the life you’ve always dreamed of.
‘Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams’ – Anonymous
Michelle Teunon. Working with the elements to create harmony in body, mind and spirit, Michelle Teunon is a Melbourne-based kinesiologist, bodyworker and Qi Gong facilitator passionate about supporting people to release limiting behaviours and step into their true potential. email: firstname.lastname@example.org