Winter is often a time of year that people dread. It’s filled with long nights, cold weather, and the pressure to feel connected to others during the holidays.
This combination can put many of us through the emotional ringer, especially if we feel that we lack enough meaningful relationships in our lives. But while wintertime may feature an abundance of physical darkness, it doesn’t have to necessarily be a source of emotional darkness as well.
A Time For Reflection
Consider the powerful, radiant energy of the sun. It creates not just warmth but energy. We have even begun to harness it to power our homes. The longer days of summer provide us with many opportunities to enjoy active experiences, like recreation and outdoor labor, for longer portions of the day.
But if solar energy fosters productivity, the dark energy surrounding the moon fosters its counterpart: reflection.
The reflective nature of this darker time of year is evident in the abundance of traditions that center on the winter solstice or days proximate to it. Everything from the Yuletide to the Persian tradition of Yalda takes place at this time of year, signifying a variety of commitments to living a life of purpose—one that favors living in light instead of in darkness.
But, given the abundance of darkness during the winter, we are presented with a daily reminder of how we stand to benefit from finding that light within.
On Finding Your Way Through Winter
So how do we make our way through this time of year?
The solution is simple: look at the coming winter as an opportunity to reflect on your purpose and set intentions.
Some examples of intentions are:
- to change jobs or otherwise transition in your professional life,
- to adopt a healthier lifestyle,
- to attract certain relationships,
- or embrace a hobby or other activity that you’ve been putting off.
Making changes in any of these ways will benefit from reflection—from acting from a centered place (“It may be time for a change in my career”) as opposed to an emotional one (“I can’t stand my job and I have to leave regardless of what happens next”).
This is why it’s important to cultivate the reflective powers of the months to come instead of waiting until the new year to make changes like so many of us often do. This reflective time is perhaps why so many traditions celebrate holidays in the dark days leading up to the new year, for that is when this special energy is the most powerful.
Given this, spend the remaining months of the year considering transitions you may be willing to embrace and resolve to act on at least one of them by the winter solstice.
Rather than dread the cold winter months, look at it as nature’s way of reminding you to consider your life and encouraging you to find what you deserve: to live a life of fulfillment and purpose.
Reflecting Through Meditation and Dreams
Meditating can be very useful to reflect back on your year as well as to identify your priorities in life and visualize what you want your future to look like.
Meditation can have several different purposes. Not only can it help you to focus better, but it can help you to relax, to sit still for longer periods of time, and to be mindful of what’s going on in your mind and around you in the world.
Meditation is something that must be practiced, and the more you do it, the better you’re able to focus.
The following steps are a combination of meditation styles. This is great for beginners who want to use meditation to help them be still and just be present for a little while.
- To start, find a quiet place, get into a comfortable sitting position, and close your eyes.
- Begin by focusing on different parts of your body, starting at your head and working your way to your feet, relaxing the muscles in each body part as you go.
- Next, focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly. Your abdomen should slowly expand. Now, slowly let your breathe out. This is very controlled. Not too fast and not too slow. You should not feel tired or dizzy from this either. And remember, these should be normal breaths, not deep breaths.
- Now, as you breathe regularly, let your mind wander from thought to thought. Don’t try to figure out or question what you’re thinking. Just let your thoughts flow.
- After 5 minutes or so, you can open your eyes.
Once you’re done meditating, think about how you felt and the thoughts that came and went. This is the time to reflect on those thoughts and to try to make sense of them. It can also help to write things down in a journal so you can track your progress or see correlations between thoughts and feelings.
Keep in mind that the more you practice meditation, the easier it becomes and the longer you can stay focused, the more mindful you will be of your thought patterns.
Another way to reflect on the past year is by paying attention to your dreams and trying to figure out if there is any meaning behind them.
Our dreams can tell us many things about ourselves so it can be a good idea to keep a dream journal by your bed. When you wake, write down anything you can remember about your dreams, and don’t forget the date. Later, once you’re fully awake, you can look up different meanings of dreams and see if it triggers anything for you. There are many resources that can help you figure out the meaning of your dreams, from books, to blogs, to psychologists who specialize in this area.
If you don’t dream, or you don’t remember your dreams, try making this Mugwort Dream Pillow adapted from herbalist Judith Berger’s Herbal Rituals book.
Mugwort is thought to enhance dreams, making them more vivid or lucid. Although there are no scientific studies of mugwort and its effects on dreams, it is a long-used folk remedy for this purpose.
Mugwort Dream Pillow
- 4 tablespoons mugwort leaves
- 1 tablespoons hops flowers
- 1 tablespoons lavender blossoms
- 1 teaspoon mint leaves
- 1-2 cups flax seeds
- muslin cloth
- Cut two rectangular pieces of muslin cloth (7 inches x 4 1/2 inches) and sew three sides together. Flip material right side out.
- Combine herbs and seeds. Mix well and fill bag 3/4 full.
- Close the open edges of the bag then fold the bag over 2-3 times (1/2 inch for each fold) to encase the raw edges. Sew this closed.
- Cover your eyes with the bag while you rest.
- Place the bag under your pillow when you sleep.
- Heat the bag lightly in the microwave and breath in the deep scents of the herbs before going to bed.
Where Will This Winter Take You?
So instead of dreading the long, cold, dark winter, why not think about this time of the year in a positive way.
Instead of feeling trapped and stuck, think of it as a time to look inward… to cozy up with yourself and reflect on the past year.
Instead of feeling cold and lonely, take some time to practice self-care and to connect with 1 or 2 people in a more meaningful way.
Instead of feeling impatient, tell yourself that this is a time of rest and rejuvenation… a time to center yourself for transitions to come.