I love the equinoxes and solstices, the mystical markers of reflection, transition, and closing up one chapter to begin another. This year’s winter solstice takes place on December 21, signaling the passage from autumn’s abundant harvest into the sleepy stillness of winter, and it wasn’t always one of my favorite passages/transitions.
An aversion to stillness.
I was well into adulthood by the time I finally began to understand my inexplicable aversion to being still. For years, I had thought it was due to that all-too-common belief that if one wasn’t being productive, it meant you were lazy, avoidant, wasting time… you know, all things we tell ourselves, or have been told, about idle hands.
A surprisingly distressing invitation.
The first part of my epiphany came after I was invited by a friend to stop some sort of agitated activity I was engaged in and take a breather. My chest instantly tightened, squeezing the breath right out of me, provoking my heart into a spastic thudding against the inside of my hollowed-out ribcage. Take a breather? She might as well have suggested I dive headfirst off a cliff into the suffocating waters far below.
The insight snapped into place as seamlessly as a corner puzzle piece: As a child, stillness meant illness. Frequently bed-ridden, I would stay as still as I could lest the slightest movement—adjusting a pillow or reaching for a glass of water—would take the wind right out of me, leaving me gasping to reclaim my breath and flooded with the fear that this would be the time I wouldn’t recover. A severe lung vulnerability that would accompany me until age 30 had transmuted stillness into a fight for life.
Awareness: The gift that keeps on giving.
The puzzle pieces continued snapping into place, revealing a picture I’d never seen. No longer ill, and decidedly not lazy, could stillness mean something other than a sign of a health crisis or a bout of serious slacking? Mind blown, it took a moment for the confusion to clear and for a strange new reality to emerge.
Could stillness truly be experienced as calm or relaxing? Was it possible that stillness could it be enjoyed or feel safe? While my brain “got it,” it took time and patience to teach my doubting body this truth: Stillness didn’t need to be feared or serve as a signal of something seriously wrong. It could be restful, restorative, and peaceful. What a liberating idea. But then, what does one do in the stillness?
A solstice suggestion.
The solstice invites us to step into the dark of winter to rest and recover—a reward so to speak—from the hard work of harvesting autumn’s bounty. This is a time to cuddle up in front of a crackling fire, tucked tightly into the folds of your favorite blanket and, in the stillness of the season, let yourself slip comfortably into the world of dreams.
From the darkness, light emerges.
Once the winter solstice completes her December journey, the light begins to return. Each day after, the sun sticks around a tiny bit longer, ensuring our days grow brighter bit by bit on the journey toward another transition in the spring. What we dream up in the restoration of winter becomes the bounty of the following seasons.
Dreaming up seeds in the stillness.
It is in our internal dreamscape that the seeds of ideas are created, whether crafted deliberately or in the form of sparks that simply emerge from the quiet, unhurried space. In the warm hibernation of winter, what seeds of dreams, possibilities, aspirations, or intentions surface when we allow ourselves to be still?
Taking comfort in knowing that your winter dream seeds will be the kernels that breathe life into your upcoming chapters, I invite you to accept the invitation to enter the stillness and dream away.