The holiday season is so busy, so non-stop, it’s hard to find a moment of peace. Whether you’re behind on your shopping list, dreading a work party or gearing up to host the big holiday dinner, stressful thoughts are always lurking the shadows. Which is why it’s about time people started embracing the Winter Solstice.
What is the Winter Solstice?
The Winter Solstice is, to put it simply, the darkest day of the year. To be more specific, and scientific, the Winter Solstice is the moment when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. This year the award for Least Amount of Daylight goes to December 21. It’s a dubious honor, but it does at least mark a turning point: every day after gains just a little more daylight.
What’s in a Day?
Interesting science factoids aside, you may still be wondering why you should pay attention to the Winter Solstice. For one, you wouldn’t be the first person to consider the day special. Many cultures have Solstice celebrations dating back to ancient times. They share numerous similarities with our modern celebrations: feasts, gift giving and a break from duties. Some rituals and celebrations are less physical and more spiritual, like the celebration of light’s victory over darkness. Some mark the end of a season and others focused on ideas of purification and blessing. You don’t have to add another round of gifts or elaborate feast to your December schedule to get something out of the Winter Solstice. In fact, you may find it more meaningful to use the day as inspiration for personal reflection.
The Solstice and Mindfulness
The poetically minded say that when the Sun it directly above Capricorn, time seems to stand still. For all of you striving to practice mindfulness, that poetic notion should strike a chord. Mindfulness is all about living in the moment, appreciating and fully experiencing the here and now. There’s no better day to realign and reinvigorate your commitment to mindfulness than the day when time stands still. Use your knowledge of the day’s limited amount of daylight to make sure you treasure and enjoy every bit of sunlight. Take time to notice the sunset and appreciate your warm shelter — be that work, your car or your home — as darkness descends. If you can, use the short day as an excuse to keep a light schedule. A packed, stressful schedule doesn’t tend to lend itself to mindful reflection. Leave yourself room to sink into mindful behavior, whether that’s through a walk, focused breathing or meditation.
Darkness and Meditation
While some people curse the short winter days, there’s a lot to be said for darkness. For those looking to go deeper with their meditations, the darkest day of the year may be just the inspiration you’re looking for. In part, darkness meditation helps you confront your fear of the unknown and encourage you to focus on life and creation. Meditating in darkness isn’t for everyone, but some find that the lack of visual distractions helps them achieve better focus. This isn’t a technique you can master in one try. The steps to darkness meditation are relatively simple, but it will take practice to achieve the stillness and introspection you seek.
Hope and Renewal
The Winter Solstice marks a turning point in the sun’s travels. In much the same way, you can use the Solstice to mark a turning point in your personal or professional life. Whether it’s New Year’s Day or the Winter Solstice, having a special day you can use to regroup and reset is a useful motivator. It’s a clear, memorable and celebratory starting point. The day gives a sense of ceremony and importance to the introduction or renewal of goals, priorities and dreams. If you feel the rush of the holiday season has thrown your goals out of alignment — or if you’re just looking for the right starting line for a new goal — you can use the Winter Solstice to mark a turning point. Encourage yourself to be mindful, and meditate as a way to push aside distractions and bring you back to what’s really important to you. If you’re a night owl, stay up until the exact moment of the solstice and linger in that moment of change and renewal. Your Solstice plans don’t have to be elaborate, public or even resemble anything discussed above. What’s important is to find a way to recenter yourself and make a fresh start tackling the goals most important to you.