The Liminal Joy of Deep Winter: Nestling Into “Not Yet”


The Liminal Joy of Deep Winter: Nestling Into “Not Yet”

Bogdan Kurylo/Getty

Resting, reflecting, conceiving, and gestating are keys to the “not yet” liminal joy of deep winter.

January is a tough season for a lot of us. All the celebrating of the winter solstice season has passed us by, and it’s time to get back to work and into our mundane daily routines. As we make our intentions for the new year, setting our plans and resolutions, we know that the sun has begun its slow return to peak at the summer solstice, but we really can’t feel it yet. The days feel as dark and cold as they did at the end of the year, and there’s no new energy to use to approach those New Year’s intentions.

And that’s okay. It makes sense.

Nestling Into “Not Yet”

In the weeks after the winter solstice, something has shifted. The sun is no longer waning but waxing, slowly building up energy and intensity in the Northern Hemisphere (the cycle is, of course, reversed in the Southern Hemisphere). But it is as deep underground as a seed nestled deep into the earth, growing and reaching toward the surface, but not quite visible yet. We are in a liminal phase, an in-between moment where we are no longer in the waning of the year but not yet feeling the warmth of the returning sun. It’s the interminable waiting room of the seasons.

[Read: “Don’t Know What To Do? 5 Ways to Navigate Liminal Space.”]

This period parallels a time of conception, when a seed is planted deep in the darkness of a womb. It will be a while before that seed becomes visible, and it is a delicate time of growth and change that is nearly invisible, especially from a distance.

What Is the Liminal Joy of Deep Winter?

When we can tap into the energies of the deep winter, we can connect with the urges of this season: we can rest, dream, hope, think, intend, and, for some of us, work on conceiving a baby (the most popular month for babies to be born is in September, about nine months from now).

It is a time to reconnect to our creativity and whatever projects we are gestating. The book won’t be published yet—perhaps it’s not even quite getting written. But the ideas and the intentions are there and something will fruit when the sun returns in full force.

This dark winter season is truly a time of “not yet.” We know change is coming. The energy will shift and move back into the rhythms of everyday life. But we take a moment to slow down, to feel, to process what’s been happening over the last year. As much as we might want to jump forward into the next stage of our lives and our work, it isn’t quite time for that yet. We must learn to sit in the “not yet” and be okay with the slowness and quiet here.

Combating Depression With Liminal Joy

January is a common time for depression. It can feel like we are stuck and stagnating. Humans have a tendency to assume that however they are feeling in the moment is how they are always going to feel. So, we must remember that the light will return. That the energy will shift. We won’t be here forever.

[Read: “12 Ways to Beat Winter Blues.”]

At the same time, it’s important to honor that there is a purpose to this long, slow, dark winter phase. To see the value and the joy of gestation. To give ourselves permission to rest, to grieve if we need to, to hope and dream and look forward without needing to take any action right away. To let ourselves sit in this liminal place—not quite one thing, not yet the other—and let ourselves be here, drinking in the medicine of the dark winter season.

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