Hello darkness my old friend
Christmas. A time for giving, receiving, over-eating and watching obscene amounts of TV (surely not just me?). The run up to Christmas can be so full on, that when Christmas finally arrives it's not surprising most of us spend it in a fog like slump, and then are surprised when somehow Christmas is suddenly over.
That descent to the shortest day, 21st December, is what partly what can make Christmas feel exhausting. The move towards darkness and stillness is, well, not something we really do pre-Christmas. After all there are bright flashing lights, presents to be bought, food to be stocked up on, and Christmas parties to be had. Let me make it clear that I'm not hear to bah-humbug Christmas parties; but I do acknowledge the affect it has on my body and mind if I keep trying to be in summer energy when all around me nature is slowing right down. By the time Christmas day arrives many of us are shattered. Ideally now we'd rest but there's the aftermath, the diets to be started, the new hobbies to be explored, the big career changes we want to make. Is it any wonder that January can arrive carrying feelings of dread, anxiety and depression?
Although we are now moving to the the time of light, this is a slow journey my friend. It's still dark in the morning, and still getting dark at 5pm. The bright sparkly lights have been taken down. It's really positive to want to take responsibility over your life and make the changes you want - but to do so with awareness that we are still in the dark. And the dark means stillness. Contemplation. Reflection. To consider with real meaning what changes need to be made, the long term impact of these changes, and to let the heart find its voice and lead the way.
Yoga is so often about the light. Transcending the material and physical to higher realms - with love and light is a sentiment I see often. But if we refuse to acknowledge the dark, if we're unable to be still, then we are shutting out a vital part to our being. The ego, the shadow side, call it what you will, but the parts of us we are often so desperate to change or the parts of others we despise, are often the parts that want to connect with us in dark winter time.
Practices like meditation and yoga nidra can be a great way to connect more with our whole self, but equally so can just slowing it down and allowing ourselves space to just be. Trying not to rinse every minute out of the day and giving yourself more time to move at a slower pace can be just as much a spiritual practice as anything else. If the thought of going into the dark terrifies you I get it. It's dark, right? It's probably unexplored, and unwanted by you and society. But I also suggest that it's not as bad as you think - that you aren't as bad as you think, that perhaps by welcoming in the feelings of unworthiness and finding a way to 'speak' to them (maybe through journalling, drawing or counselling) they might not seem so scary.
I don't say this lightly; if you feel like your mental health is really taking a battering, then I suggest working with someone one to one. I offer yoga one to ones, if yoga is the thing that works for you, but you might find a talking therapy is what you need, or perhaps seeing a doctor. But if you're interested in simply exploring a different dimension of your being, perhaps a different dimension of yoga, rather than just seeking the bright dazzling light all year round, then these three steps may help you:
1. Slow it down
If you're feeling exhausted and 2017 hasn't even become, start to notice what habits you have that may no longer be serving you. Perhaps you always fill your diary to the max, and say yes to everything you're asked to do out of a sense of obligation. Whatever it is make allowances for the change in light, and let yourself stay in hibernation perhaps a little longer.
2. Find stillness
I'm not suggesting we all turn into slugs. Winter is often the time when we need to work up a sweat, do something vigorous and get the blood pumping. This is all vital. But we may also find that we could turn the TV in favour of allowing some stillness into our homes. That maybe we start to include meditation or yoga nidra into our yoga practice. That we let ourselves sit with a cup of coffee without feeling the need to get out our phones. Stillness can come in many shapes and forms. Welcome it into your life however suits you best.
I love writing, but your reflection could come through drawing, music, meditation or talking to your pet (I find they listen pretty well). Do whatever comes naturally, whatever feels easy to do regularly, and then do it, often, with no expectation of results.
Being in the darkness doesn't need to be an experience we wish away. With acceptance and surrender and the willingness to change, we can explore what it means to be still and quiet with all aspects of our being present. Rather than be a time we dread, we can look forward to this time as the change for introspection and growth, so long as we remember to nurture our energy, which is likely to be a little bit lower. Gong against the cultural grain in this way offers the change to be exhilarating, radical and transformative, so are you ready to say hello the darkness?