Winter has arrived. The vivid reds, oranges and yellows of autumn have faded into shades of black, brown, grey, and blinding white. I can only reminisce as my gaze lingers on a photo, taken from the last Autumn evenings as I harvested the fallen leaves nature left behind. Last morning as I watched my partner scraping the ice formed overnight on the windows of his car, I was visited, again, by a rising melancholy.
As the end of the year and winter approaches she comes to see me often, sometimes staying for days.
We sit together quietly, sometimes she watches me as I write, three pages each day, as I mull over how the year went, my successes and failures, the lessons I learnt and the ones I thought I knew but on hindsight did not and need to learn again; I mourn over who and what I have gained and lost, and how the world and I have inevitably changed. Sometimes I feel myself sliding deeper in her embrace – her touch is like the first winter’s frost – it chills me to the bone, and like the surface of trodden-on pavements I contract, drawing deeper inward into myself.
In the framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine, each of the seasons (五行) is driven by a specific element, a moving force and energy that has a distinct quality and manifests in the world externally, and in you internally, in different ways. The transition of Autumn to Winter is marked by the shift from Metal to Water, from the dominance of your lungs, large intestine to your kidneys, urinary bladder meridians and your adrenals, from exhalation to the liminal space of suspension (holding your breath on empty), from the cutting, contracting, withdrawing energy (收) to a deep, dark hiding, holding and hibernation (藏).
In the darkness often I feel I am only a step away from becoming darkness herself. But always, when it is almost just about to happen, from within my heart waters I see the glimmer of a small joy, veiled with the melancholy of memories, loss, and the passage of time, faint but firm. Because at the peak of the darkness, the suspension after the end of the exhale, turning around the corner, what meets you is the glimmer of light, the beginning of your next inhale, the promise of hope. In the darkness one finds light, and vice versa – this is the principle of Yin Yang (阴阳), Siva-Shakti, of balance that permeates all cycles of the Tao (道), life itself.
Throughout history and across cultures, the Winter Solstice (21 December) 冬至, has been a time of ritual, reflection, and rebirth. This day, where the sun stands still, we celebrate the emergence of light from the dark. After the long dark night of the solstice, the days grow longer and the nights get shorter. With the return of the sun comes the hope and promise of the new year.
In these last days of 2021 how have you been in the darkness?
Have you had time for yourself?
Shed the unnecessary layers, let go of old ideas, beliefs, relationships and actions which no longer empower you, draw within so you can reside in the small but vital essence of who it is that you really are, what you truly care about and what you want to create and share with the world.
Tend to the soil of your heart, prepare your seeds and plant them in the darkness so these buds of transformation may germinate and slowly unfold within you. Change often begins in the dark, beneath the surface of the soil, so be patient with yourself.
冬至快乐 Happy Winter Solstice,
from my heart to yours