As we pass the Solstice, the darkest night of the year, we are also entering into a New Moon cycle, which comes to a head on Christmas Day this Sunday.
It’s dark out there. We’ve got very little sun, and very little moon to work with. We are like plants–the sun is one of our food sources, and when we can’t access it, we get a little depleted. So we eat a lot of chocolate. Which, let’s be honest, is also good.
But it’s important to give darkness its due. Naturally during this time of year, our bodies are more tired; they want to sleep more and eat more and be alone (or alone cuddling). The pressure to socialize during this season is good for preventing isolation-induced depression, but it also can prevent us from the incredibly restorative experience of quiet, solitary reflection.
Now, the winter solstice, the nadir of the light, is the time to stop for a moment and reflect on the past year of our lives. As the sun slowly reemerges, we are also entering into a new cycle of our lives, and start to look forward. We want to make all these New Year’s Resolutions, but we must remember that for intentions for the future to be meaningful, we have to make sense of the past.
My intention before every practice lately has literally been the phrase “take out the trash.” A lot of sh*t went down in 2011 for me personally and it’s left me with some heavy suitcases. I’ve had some old ghosts appear, but it turns out I’m haunting myself: we learn from people in our pasts, but we also sometimes pack them up and carry them with us.
I like the simplicity of the phrase “take out the trash” and its implication of responsibility: it’s time to be accountable for the waste I’ve created this year, to look at the consequences of my decisions and experiences and figure out what goes in the dumpster and what gets recycled. I can’t build anything new with all this stuff weighing me down. My mind, my heart, my body, and my house are mine to care for, and there’s a time to clear out and throw out. That time is now.
It’s been shown that animals who experience trauma in their lives–like almost getting eaten by a bear–will get up after the danger has passed and literally shake their bodies, as if to complete their cycle of trauma: the part where they fight or flee. When we humankind experience big or small traumas like getting hit by a car or fighting with a lover, we don’t usually physically express that trauma. We get full of cortisol, our blood rushes to our limbs, and we do nothing. We just freeze, and then try to get on with our day like nothing ever happened. Yoga, running, biking, or just physically shaking are all great ways of physically moving the trauma hormones out so that there’s space for the feel-good dopamine and seratonin to come back in. We have to acknowledge the experience and work it through our bodies in some way. Otherwise it just gets stuck there.
So as we come to the last days of the year, the darkest days, it’s important to give ourselves time to rest, reflect, and digest (and yeah, maybe shake. Ever tried Kundalini?). Negative experiences, much like the darkness, have their place. We do get smarter as we figure life out, but we have to physically do the figuring out; we can’t just pretend certain things never happened. Look at what our digestion teaches us: whether we are eating chocolate or remembering a conflict, our job is to discern between what is nutritive (what did I learn? What can I take from that?) and what is waste (This I’m going to send down and out).
So if you are making a New Year’s resolution this year, take some time to look back. What was your resolution last year? How did it affect your life (whether you stuck to it or not)? What drives your desire to make changes in your life? What is it from your past that brought you here? Can you look back and remember without necessarily reliving or re-traumatizing yourself? Can you then let go of the garbage and create some space for freedom and light?
Anyway, time to take out the garbage. I’ll be back when I have a clean(er) house.
NOW IS THE TIME
Now is the time to know
That all you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider
a lasting truce with yourself and God.
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
to be laid aside
When you can finally live
Hafiz s a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.
My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?
Now is the time for the whole world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.
This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
that there is anything
Now is the season to know
that everything you do
Is sacred. ~Hafiz