I love noticing seasonal changes and what those changes suggest about the rhythms of our lives. After all, the teachings of yoga stress finding balance in our lives, harmony with the world around us. Awareness of the seasons, the energies they possess, their influence on our lives, and the lessons they teach can lead us to live more healthfully and harmoniously with our environment.
The winter solstice is the day of both greatest darkness and the promise of returning and growing light. In this way, it also offers us a metaphor for our own energies. Within each one of us there is both energy that is quiet and reflective as well as energy that is light and uplifting. In our yoga practice, we always seek a balance of these two energies, remembering that the seasons and our environment will influence these energies uniquely within each one of us.
As we move toward the winter solstice this week, we can bring our awareness to the messages of this season. We look around and see the skeletons of deciduous trees as they husband their life-sustaining resources. Most plants have entered a time of dormancy so they may bloom in the spring. Ground hogs, rabbits, and chipmunks hibernate or reduce their activity so as to conserve their food, water, and heat. Even in the midst of a winter storm, there is a sense of quiet as we watch snowflakes fall and cover the ground.
If we were to honor the quiet energy of winter, we would rest more and view this season as an opportunity to restore ourselves so we have the energy to blossom with our activities in the spring. Winter can be a fallow time, but not necessarily a time when nothing happens. It can be a time of reflection; we can begin to ask ourselves what projects we want to undertake when the energy of spring rises to nurture us. Remembering that in winter we plan our gardens, we don’t plant them, can help remind us of winter’s rhythm.
The winter solstice teaches us about living with faith. It is the day of greatest darkness. It announces the coldest months of the year. Yet, at some moment, probably in January, we will notice that dawn arrives a bit earlier, and the sun sets a bit later. In the face of the cold, cloudy days, and winter weather, the lengthening hours of daylight will raise our faith that spring will come. In December 21, Clear and five degrees, Ted Kooser reminds us of the hopefulness of this season.
“Perfectly still this solstice morning, / in bone-cracking cold…/…as I walk the road, /the wind held in the heart of every tree / flows to the end of each twig and forms a bud…”