I used to feel exhausted and low in the winter months in the UK and not understand why. I felt frustrated I wasn’t being more productive and wondered why I felt so resentful, pushing through long work days when it was dark and cold and miserable outside.
Why wasn’t I feeling better?
I had an idea that it was SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so did a load of research into infra red saunas, supplements and UV lamps. I went to workshops on resilience and if i'd had any spare cash, would have dropped a few hundred quid on some SAD glasses. I also considered asking my GP for some low level anti-depressants, even though i was aware i wasn't clinically depressed, I dreaded winter in this country so much.
At the same time - around 15 years ago - I started more actively honouring significant planetary rhythms via various earth rituals and ceremonies. I also started to listen to my own bodily cycles more. Still, i wasn't joining the dots, but looking back now, this time was providing early clues to my future healing.
Eventually, via various plant teachers and human teachers and recovering from a few of my very own, bespoke mini-'system collapses' (which were perhaps the greatest teachers of all), I was able to feel how intrinsically we are in and of the seasons and that a huge part of my struggle had been that I simply wasn't giving myself a proper winter.
I wasn’t allowing myself a hibernation.
Everything in my body and spirit was desperate for a withdrawal from doing... yearning for it... All the signs were there. I needed to draw myself inward back and down... to empty out and be simple and slow, but I was fighting against it.
Fighting with that need was making me ill and on top of that I was perfectly willing to pathologise my symptoms and medicalise my totally healthy desire to rest.
We do that a lot in western culture. Fight on when we're exhausted. Keep turning up, even when we are dying inside. And we attach it to some notion of being heroic or tough... maybe good and kind, or even worthy. We are very quick to celebrate an alert, problem solving form of consciousness* and productivity above all things. When we are not being that, we are failing somehow or letting the species down by being lazy, or not focusing hard enough.
What a huge swag of self defeating bullshit.
This strange cultural LIE goes against all of our natural biological intelligence and straight to the heart of a lot of what is making us ill with stress and exhaustion.
This work is foundational to how I have structured my year long mentoring program as I see it as fundamental to how we build sustainable relationships with what we are creating and with ourselves as creators.
It also forms the philosophical back-bone of what i teach in the Somatic Meditations for Soothing and Softening course which offers 6 different ways into a more settled sense of self. To prepare you for napping, sleeping, or even just feeling more at ease in your own skin.
I don't feel wary of the winter anymore.
In fact the Winter Solstice has become the most potent date of the year for me.
I look forward to this quiet, inward, still time.
I crave the emptying out.
I relish making space.
I nap a lot, do jigsaws, read and take my wonder for a wander... mostly, i just don't expect too much of myself.
It goes against all my upbringing, the formal education and dominant cultural, capitalist noise.
But it feels right.
Now, if you are reading this from the Northern Hemisphere, we are soon to emerge into Imbolc, (1st & 2nd Feb) where the first hint of Spring suggests itself. The first glimmer of the returning light.
Life begins to quietly stir under the surface of the soil.
If January was in the darkness, and alive with the metaphor of conception, then this emergent Imbolc part of the year is still more inward than outwards. Delicate and unformed. think snowdrops. think babies in first and second trimester. wriggling, coming to life, but still needing to be in. not ready to be birthed yet (that's all to come in Oestara / Easter / Vernal equinox but that's a while off yet) .
These seasonal markers and metaphors don't imply how you should be feeling, or how you should be acting. Rather they are reference points against which we can experience our living processes... conditions of living against which we can enquire into what is most resonant for us in this moment. If we can learn to be more awake to these shifts, and listen to ourselves, we can make more informed choices.
What is this part of the year suggesting to you now? How is it calling to you?
Not on a work level (of course we need to earn money to pay the rent), but on a more deep, body level - On an animal level... What does your soft animal want at this time?
I find simple rituals can be very effective ways of marking my moments in time. The symbolism of this time can be anything that represents life coming gently awake under the surface of things as the light begins to return.
The most elegant symbolism for this time could be, quite simply, planting a seed.
Below is a suggestion for how to ritualise it:
I wish you happy emergence from the darkest time.
Darkness by Rosie Fraser
Baby by Kelly Sikkema
Cat sleeping by Priscilla Du Preez
Late winter buds by Thomas Willmott
All from Unsplash.
Text adapted from several posts i created for my mentoring group.
The Mentoring Group recruits once a year in October / November and this year is sold out.
The next 6 week course of Somatic Meditations for Soothing & Softening begins on the 23rd Feb - 30th March 2021