In the northern hemisphere, the longest night and shortest day of the year occurs around December 21st. This is the Winter Solstice, a powerful time on many levels. Paying attention to your own experience of these planetary shifts can help deepen your personal well-being and creativity. Let’s take a look at the energetic and creative forces of Winter Solstice.
The Light in the Dark
The height of the solstice lasts only a few moments. After the earth reaches maximum darkness, the cycle continues and the days begin to grow longer, culminating in the longest day of the year at the Summer Solstice on June 20.
Our agriculture-based ancestors knew this cycle intimately. During the darkest days of the year, they celebrated the Winter Solstice as the Festival of Light. It seems ironic to be celebrating the return of light on the darkest day of the year, but isn’t that the way our story goes on Earth—both literally and metaphorically?
Dark and light are a duality: two sides of the same coin, two halves of a whole. Reaching into our darkest parts brings us back to the light, and reaching our highest awareness of light reveals to us our darkest nature. Neither one is better than the other, and neither one can be eliminated on the path toward wholeness.
Of course, we may have preferences about dark and light—as well as resistance and judgement. The arrival of winter has an undeniable effect on our experience of life. The shorter days and colder weather naturally push us inward. We spend less time outdoors. We cover up in thick clothing. We may sleep more (if we’re lucky). Our awareness naturally pulls into the deeper parts of ourselves.
In a society that values action, productivity, and assertiveness, feeling the emotions and stirrings of our inner world can be unsettling. When we keep this experience at a surface level, we may label it as depression or winter blues, judge it as bad, and try to make it go away. However, when we connect to the depth of what the season is offering and embrace it, we can transform the experience to one of purpose, deeper self-connection, and creative promise.
Yin/Yang and the Creative Cycle
The cycle of personal growth and change is mirrored in nature. Consider the plants and trees. In the fall they drop their leaves, fruit, and seeds. The seeds of the next generation of plants, while under the soil during the winter, rest and conserve through the winter. These seeds sprout into new life in the spring, grow to maturity in the summer, and bring forth fruit again in the fall.
One way to understand this process is through the Taoist concept of Yin/Yang, which is a way of explaining how the dualities and dichotomies in our world form the whole. Yang represents qualities such as active, hot, male, expansive, hard, day, and light. The yin represents qualities such as still, cool, female, contracting, soft, night, and darkness. As the seasons flow from winter to summer they pass through the qualities of yin and yang in a cyclical pattern.
The personal creation cycle has a similar flow from yin to yang and back again. We go inward and make decisions, drawing on our inner guidance. Then we go outward, take action, see our decisions manifest in the world. Then we step back to receive the outcome and turn inward again, reflecting on all that happened and making new decisions.
Nothing is exclusively yin or yang, this is why a dot of the opposite color appears within each side of the yin/yang symbol. There is always some yin in the yang, and vice versa. That said, wintertime has inherent yin qualities: stillness, cold, inwardness. The winter months provide an opportunity to consider all we’ve learned from the past and go within to birth the seeds of what we will create in the coming year. It’s a time of inner work, the deepest work we will do all year. The self-reflection work you do during the winter months, sets the foundation for what you will put forth in the spring and bring to fruition in the light of summer and fall.
Winter Solstice: What To Do Now
December 21st is not only the shortest day of the year, but also the first day of winter. Winter begins in in the darkest moment. What do we find in the deepest dark? Mystery, the unknown, and the vastness of possibility. If you’re feeling “in the dark” about the next steps on your path or if your inner roadmap seems shrouded or cloudy, this is normal and natural for late December.
For now you can relax and let go into the feeling of not knowing. The innermost, mysterious processes of our subconscious are at work. This is not the time to figure it all out.
In a few weeks, as the light starts to slowly return in the beginning of January, new insights about the coming year will begin to bubble up from within you and continue throughout the winter months. Intuition will be very useful throughout this time.
At Winter Solstice, you can surrender to the unknown while having faith that the light will soon return. Rest when you need to, invite stillness, feel your feelings without judgment, slow down, exercise gently, and open your heart to yourself.