A Winter Meditation

Updated: Dec 24, 2020



In the old days, winter solstice was a time of quietude, of firelight, of dreaming and storytelling. When trees lose their leaves, grasses turn brown and seeds germinate in the cold earth. All around us the season seems to reach a standstill — a point of repose. The energy of winter is that of going within. It's the fruitful darkness and silence out of which our soul's yearnings and new inspirations can eventually emerge. As we consciously link our awareness to nature's cycles, our understanding of our own personal growth cycles begin to deepen.

In centuries past our ancestors were a part of the natural world – there was little separation between the physical and the more than physical. Their seasonal rites – whether boisterous, solemn or both – were a chance to step into another reality, a sacred time radically different from the time of their daily routines. The sacred (or the more than physical) for them was a realm charged with power, a reality that transcended the merely human and one in which anything could happen.


Indigenous elders know the precise day of the winter solstice by a sun ray striking a certain mark on an east facing wall in the pueblo. Priests and chiefs then began secret rites in their underground ceremonial sites or kivas which often lasted as long as 16 days. Once ceremonialists were satisfied that they had successfully conducted the precise and elaborate rituals and they could assure the people that the pueblo and the world had been recreated, they emerged to initiate four days of public feasts and celebration.

In those times, people were afraid that the nights would grow longer and darker and the sun would never return. Today, we are still often afraid of the dark, reluctant to be still and quiet. I believe that we need to embrace and nurture these qualities. From the dark recess of our being, the wellspring of our authenticity and the many gifts that we are given to share in the world flow.


When we fear our own darkness, we cut ourselves off from an essential source of our own personal power. The key is not in letting darkness overwhelm our lives and our thoughts but in understanding that darkness can be one of the greatest catalysts for personal growth and transformation.


In the business of our daily life, and with all of the modern inventions that separate us from nature, we do not take time to enter – or even notice the changes in the natural world that signal a thinning of the veil that separates the physical from the more than physical.


The poet, David Whyte provides a lovely contemplation of winter and the blessing available to us during this season:



No one but me by the fire,

my hands burning

red in the palms while

the night wind carries

everything away outside.


All this petty worry

while the great cloak

of the sky grows dark

and intense

round every living thing.


What is precious

inside us does not

care to be known

by the mind

in ways that diminish

its presence.


What we strive for

in perfection

is not what turns us

into the lit angel

we desire,


what disturbs

and then nourishes

has everything

we need.


What we hate

in ourselves

is what we cannot know

in ourselves but

what is true to the pattern

does not need

to be explained.


Inside everyone

is a great shout of joy

waiting to be born.


Even with the summer

so far off

I feel it grown in me

now and ready

to arrive in the world.


All those years

listening to those

who had

nothing to say.


All those years

forgetting

how everything

has its own voice

to make

itself heard.


All those years

forgetting

how easily

you can belong

to everything

simply by listening.


And the slow

difficulty

of remembering

how everything

is born from

an opposite

and miraculous

otherness.

Silence and winter

has led me to that

otherness.


So let this winter

of listening

be enough

for the new life

I must call my own.


Let us be grateful for the wisdom winter brings in teaching us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal.


Blessings to you and yours this winter. May it be a time of discovery and self acceptance.




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