As we approach the nadir of the winter solstice, our days in the Northwest are overcast, rainy and gray. It’s dark by 4 in the afternoon. Trees are bare of leaves, the garden plants are hoarding their nutrients underground. My old shamanic teacher taught that winter is the time for retrospection and deep quiet when life has withdrawn down into itself.
We are now in the midst of holiday gatherings; a challenging time for many. We may turn to thoughts and memories of our families, our childhoods, our past. For many of us this can bring up painful stories of disappointment and sorrow. And we may be thrust into family situations we choose to avoid the rest of the year.
When we avoid the difficulties in our lives, they don’t disappear. Instead we carry them from day to day as they get bigger and heavier. We may have spent a lifetime ignoring our pain or pretending it doesn’t exist. The practice of meditation may soothe our jangled nervous systems, a very helpful outcome. However it can be a support to begin the more difficult work of unearthing our deepest despair. Kathleen Norris, in her book, Cloister Walk, describes her spiritual journey as …”working the earth of the heart.” The Divine Abodes are particularly helpful when faced with our feelings of worthlessness, self judgment and doubt. We can begin to heal the wounds from childhood that seem to possess us as adults. The simple practice of sending kindness to our most self destructive thoughts can begin to transform the darkness we find within ourselves.
Instead of seeing this season as gloomy, we might even begin to see it as a time for renewal, reflection and rest. We can draw from the natural world the strength and creativity she exhibits during the winter, when she waits for the return of light and warmth.