Lately, I've been feeling like I've lost my spark.
How grateful I was, then, for a dear friend's reminder that this time of year is a time of hibernation, of retreat. I haven't lost my spark; rather, the fact that my inner light is dim reflects a synchronicity with the natural flow of life. Now, when the days are short (and recently quite gray here in Lugano) we are meant to live like our animal friends: sleep more, eat less, and turn inwards.
But, as a culture, we have so lost touch with the rhythms of nature that, instead of slowing down during the darkest time of year, we kick it into high gear. Shopping lists send us into a spending frenzy, work deadlines loom large resulting in late nights at the office, holiday parties offer ample opportunities to over-indulge in drinking and eating, and for many of us who live away from family, celebrating together requires traveling halfway around the globe. Instead of feeling refreshed and ready after the holidays, many of us can barely drag our bums out of bed on January 1st and instead spend the first day of the new year on the couch nursing a hangover or a flu or both, and resolving to do better the other 364 days. Believe me I know, I've been there.
For the last couple of years, in anticipation of the post-holiday blues, I've made it a practice to ask myself: How do I want to feel on January 1? And the answer that arises tends to shape my actions during the holidays from what and how much I eat and drink to gifts I give and how I celebrate; it also serves as my intention for the year. It's a simple yet powerful question, and one that I invite you to consider as you make your plans for the holidays and craft your intentions for the new year.
One way to enjoy this self-inquiry is to link it with a celebration of the Winter Solstice on December 21. The longest night of the year marks both a shift towards light and an honoring of the the darkness. We remember, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her wonderful book (thank you mom for the recommendation!) Learning to Walk in the Dark that "new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark." By spending quiet time alone and with loved ones, reflecting on the past year, setting our intentions for the holidays and the new year, we honor the true spirit of the season which is about connection, not consumption. There's no particular way to honor the solstice; part of the fun is making it up as you go! In the past, we've spent the evening by candlelight and had a simple meal prepared ahead of time. This year, when the solstice falls on an (almost) new moon, we'll be with my parents and brothers in the mountains. I'm looking forward to sharing this new tradition with them and seeing what they wish to bring forth. Wouldn't it be amazing if everyone in our kula, wherever we are, took this one evening to commune in sweet darkness?
by David Whyte
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except
the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the
sweet confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
This season, on January 1 and on the 364 days that follow, I want to feel alive. To me, being alive doesn't mean being bright and shiny all the time. Rather, it means being fully present with whatever is arising now. It means letting go of whatever is too small for me--the foods, habits, thought and emotional patterns, and relationships that dull rather than enliven my inner radiance. Of course, this is easier said than done. Change requires more than intention; willful, skillful action is necessary, as is support. Fortunately, I've learned some really effective practices for shifting habits, upleveling my own and my family's health, and connecting to an abundant energy that is aligned with earth-based rhythms. I am eager to share all this goodness with you next year.
For now, I am relishing these quiet, shortened days with my little guy--napping next to me as I write to you--and will look forward to seeing many of you in class when I resume teaching a limited schedule in February, starting with Yoga for Real Life on Wednesday mornings at Yoga Amrita. Registration will start soon, let me know if you want to be put on the early notification list.
Until then, I hope you'll take good care of yourself. And if your inner fire does need a little igniting--as mine did this morning, feeling itchy in the throat and heavy in the heart-- Here's a great "beat-the-cold-and-flu blues" smoothie from a favorite cookbook, The Blender Girl (I got my copy from Yoga Roof and use it all the time with our Vitamix--it's a game changer!). I've been sipping it all day and feeling (almost) 100%.
Here's the recipe:
1.5 cups water
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 small green apple, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
5 drops liquid stevia ** I used 1 teaspoon honey instead**
What a gift to know that you are, as Jack Kornfeld says at the end of this wonderful talk on Transforming Darkness: "the architect of your life." As you design your holidays, may you allow your inner light to illuminate the sweetness of the dark.
The light in me honors the light in you, Namaste!