The season of stillness

Take a cue from nature, and let yourself sink into the season of stillness and hibernation, and see what emerges from the darkness

As we enter December we find ourselves at such potent and shifting time of year. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, this is a liminal season of change, the season of stillness, when autumn is ending, and winter is beginning. And at the same time, in the darkest part of the year, the winter solstice comes to celebrate the return of the light. A sage and timely reminder that it always darkest before dawn, always winter before spring, always light in the dark. 

“There’s a real shift happening at this time to this beautiful planet which shelters and homes us, and at that point when we hold our collective breath here in the northern hemisphere, and begin finally to believe in the slow return of the light, this for me is the moment to mark,” wrote Sharon Blackie recently in her weekly Substack newsletter. 

For those who celebrate the Winter Solstice – usually around 20-22 December – it is a magical time of trusting in nature, in the circling of the year, and the belief that in our darkest moments, there is always light up ahead.

“Whatever else you might celebrate during this season, do think of taking a moment to honour that pause in the long dance of the year. Here in the UK, solstice happens this year on Friday, 22 December, at 03.27. I’ll be there, lighting a candle in the morning dark; I’d love to think some of you were doing the same thing,” adds Blackie.

This is indeed the season of solitude, the season of stillness – when the weather forces many of us to stay inside and mark moments of importance in our own spaces. This can be a beautiful thing. The image of Sharon Blackie and thousands of other lighting a candle in the dark morning, a small flame in a window replicated in homes across the country, is incredibly beautiful, and speaks to a bonding that goes beyond location or common ground, and reaches back to something much more ancient. It conjures a stillness and a meditative quiet that is so needed after the busy year of growth and expansion. 

There are lots of ways to bring this element of the season into your soul. If you go outside at this time of year, it is still and quiet. The trees have sent their energy down through their roots and into the earth, animals hibernate, frost and snow covers the landscape, softening sounds and bringing a stillness unmatched by any other season. Allow yourself a silent walk in the woods, a quick garden grounding session in the morning frost, and meditate with the window open, feeling the cool air and the sounds of crackling frozen leaves outside. 

When it gets too cold, allow yourself to create a winter cocoon at home; cosy cushions and blankets, candlelight, reading by the fire, going to bed early, rising late. Welcome the season of stillness, the blackening night that turns your attention inwards, to home, and to the self. This can be a real-time for discovery and introspection. 

“Who is it that we are; what is it that we feel we are here to do? What do we imagine these final years of our lives are really for? I ask myself these questions every year at the time of the long dark, and the older I get, the more urgent the questions become,” writes Blackie. “Each year, what seem to be the same old questions somehow lead me, each time, down a different path. Nothing is new, but at the same time, everything is new. So that’s what I’ll be doing with myself over the festive season: the same thing I’ve done for years. Locking the door, lighting the stove, thinking about authenticity, and what it might look like to live fully and meaningfully in the year to come.”

This is also a time of deep nostalgia, conjuring memories and traditions from our childhood, reflecting on the years gone by, and of course those loved ones no longer here. In its stillness, winter brings loss with it, inextricably linked as nature gives itself up to the cycle of life, with a grace and acceptance we often find so hard to create for ourselves. 

It means we can feel deeply conflicted at this time of year, caught up in a pendulum of grief and loss alongside joy and festivity. It’s hard to reconcile both of these things, but it is entirely possible for them to exist together, if we can let the warmth of the season soothe loss and turn it into remembrance and a deeper relationship with death, and therefore, life. In small rituals and sacred acts of love and remembering you can more fully lean into the cycle of life, death and rebirth. 

“Through welcoming the winter and intentionally crossing the threshold into darkness, you can transform your relationship with fear and death,” writes Isla Macleod in Rituals for Life. “Through your willingness to meet the darkness, you are initiated into a life of fullness wherein everything is recognised and sacred. Death and grief are seen as the catalysts for opening your heart to more beauty and wonder, so that you experience your wholeness.”

And so this season of stillness, give yourself the grace, and space, to get comfortable with the shifting season, with letting the dark in and finding your inner light, with the balance of endings and beginnings. Learn that you can love while you grieve, thrive in the midst of change, carry loss along with you while you laugh and smile and celebrate. And in so doing, you can make space for what is ahead, for hopes and dreams to be realised, for possibility to be given the chance to become reality.

“In this crucible of transformation, you are listening to a deeper current, guided by an innate knowing, incubating your dreams and visions for the future,” finishes MacLeod.

a woman in winter, the season of stillness
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