How do we prepare for and engage with the upcoming winter solstice that will take place Monday, December 21 at 3:02am MST in the northern hemisphere? The winter solstice is a great pre Christmas excuse to celebrate, get present with the change of season, if we haven't already, and reflect on where we are and how we can preserve our energy during this cold dark time of year. It's meant to be a time of introspection and often gets neglected due to the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations.
We set ourselves up best when we are in tune with nature. So what exactly is the winter solstice and how do we best align and surrender ourselves to this season? The winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight in the whole year, making it the “shortest day” of the year. Although the winter solstice means the start of winter, the days actually begin to grow longer and get brighter from here until we reach the summer solstice - the first official day of summer and the longest day of the year.Shall we celebrate and acknowledge the days getting longer? What are the best ways to truly nourish ourselves in winter?
Here are 8 rituals to help ring in the solstice and care for yourself and those you love this winter.
1) Light a Candle and/or a Fire!
Let it be a reminder that there is always light within even the darkest times in our life. The yin yang symbol illustrates this beautifully. Make a commitment to light a candle and do something you love whenever you experience the winter blues. Also check out my blog on depression.2) Keep Warm!
May this light and fire also symbolize the importance of staying warm during this season. In particular, during this cold season, keep the low back, abdomen and ears warm. These areas are the most vulnerable this time of year.
I'll never forget when I went to the west coast on holiday one winter and while there wasn't snow on the ground, it was still damn windy and cold. Needless to say I didn't dress for this bone chilling cold weather and while on dreamy walks beside the ocean, mesmerized by the ocean beauty, the cold wind eventually crippled me with severe back pain to the point of a bladder infection that quickly turned into a kidney infection. All from too much cold on my low back!? Put away the crop tops and welcome the long warm cozy sweaters!
The organ systems associated with the winter season are the kidneys and urinary bladder and the ears are the sense organ related to the kidneys. Take note that the shape of the ear is much like the shape of the kidney. Protect your low back, kidneys and ears this season!Cook with more warming and kidney nourishing foods this winter such as ginger, cinnamon, garlic, onions and root vegetables to name a few. Foods that are blue and black such as blueberries, black berries, kidney and black beans, black rice, and black sesame seeds are all beneficial for the kidneys and urinary bladder. Perfect time of year for some yummy black bean soup!
Infuse your food with more heat by making more soups and using slow cooking, stewing, and roasting cooking methods. Refrain from eating an abundance of raw foods.
3) File Away!
Get out the trash can and carve some time out to begin letting go of all and anything that isn't serving you. Free yourself of the baggage you are lugging around. Winter is the time for bringing closure to loose ends that are using up your energy. Our Qi naturally moves inward this time of year so create space within for something new to take place. If we are busy with the unfinished business of the past, it will be easy to get overwhelmed and feel stuck. Slow down and listen to the silence...Pay attention to your busy mind and challenge yourself to calmly quiet the chatter in order to resonate more closely to the stillness of nature that surrounds you. Listen to your thoughts and emotions that arise. Hold space for them and don't stress to have them be anything other than they are. This is a season to build and replenish our energy and not needlessly stress over everything.
4) Rest and Sleep More!
These extra hours of darkness give us permission to do less and be more. This is a time to nurture ourselves surrendering to more rest, relaxation, and conservation of our qi and vitality. The winter solstice is truly a time to experience and honour the more reserved, calm, introspective, quiet, still, patient, receptive, accommodating, soft, more vulnerable, forgiving aspects of ourselves. It's fair to use the time of year for rebirth.
In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered to be the foundation and root of life as they hold the essential energy of the body known as Jing, essence, and are the root of the yin and yang energies in our body. They are considered the MOTHER and origin of strength and sustenance for all other organs and we are born with a finite amount of this essence that is preserved through adequate rest and self-cultivation. This essence is depleted through excessive sexual activity, over work, excessive sitting or standing, lack of rest and sleep, and dehydration. 5) Stay Hydrated!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter is associated with the Water element. It is the most Yin time of the year meaning we must care for all the fluid in our body, our blood and body fluids. Especially because of the integral filtration role of the kidney and the urinary bladders responsibility to excrete optimally, we must help them out by staying well hydrated this time of year and always. Unless you are craving cold fluids, enjoy many mugs of warm beverages.
The time that the kidneys and urinary bladder are at their peak carrying out their responsibilities is between 7 and 11pm so make sure you are well hydrated and resting or engaged in more passive activities during this time. Download this circadian rhythms chart to learn more about when your organs are conducting their functions.
Equanimity is the ability to have mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations. When we meditate we exercise our mind to cultivate equanimity. We don't get swept away with fear, anxiety, darkness and chaos. It is human nature to look for evidence to support our beliefs. With equanimity we are able to see things more clearly and with less bias. The emotion that can sneak in and weigh heavy on us this season is Fear. Don't resist it, hold a small space for it but don't let it sweep you away into the land of insecurity, helplessness, or panic. Fear often creeps in and becomes an issue when our mind is not grounded and we become weak and exhausted due to a lack of rest and self care.
7) Stay Active!
While this is a sedentary time of year, continue to exercise to boost your metabolism, circulation and mood, but not to the point of exhaustion and excessive sweating. Remember, this is the most Yin time of the year and we must preserve our body fluids. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, stretching, walking, skiing, and light to moderate weight lifting are all good exercises to stay active and balance our desire to be more still.Other activities to engage in this season that are restorative and we often don't have as much time for in the busier seasons are things like reading, writing, playing cards, board games, and puzzles.
8) Be Positive!
This doesn't mean that we see things through rose coloured glasses and expect that life is like sunshine and lollipops but it does mean that we choose to refrain from judgment, self-criticism, self-pity, self-doubt and negativity.
We accept that we are like nature and give ourselves permission to explore our dark side, our shadow, our innermost depths with love, compassion, acceptance, curiosity and openness. We choose to look on the bright side of life and give thanks, reverence and gratitude for all the wonderful blessings in our life.We live life as if the glass is half full rather than half empty. You think Santa wants a glass half full?? We feel safe and know that we need not resist the opportunity to quiet down, settle in and welcome all aspects of ourselves and others, the light, the dark and everything in between.
Happy Winter solstice my friend! I wish you and your friends and family a warm, cozy, candlelit, restful, connected, holiday season with delicious nourishing foods and enough space within to create new and beautiful memories filled with love, laughter, peace and happiness.