Night! Does the word fill you dread? Wonder? Anxiety? Peace? Our lives are balanced between light times and dark times — the days, the seasons and our lifetimes. Day is the time of doing, taking action, meeting and greeting – the stuff of living. Yet, night is the time of being, dreaming, resting and recovering — it is also the stuff of living.
But sometimes we feel anxiety in the still darkness of night. It is not unknown to us — we experience it every turn of the sun. It hasn’t hurt us — we awake in the morning from our dreams. Why then do we fear the dark anymore than fearing the light of day? Rather if we embrace the evening and welcome the night, we can relish the shift — the downturn of activity into the upswelling of rest.
Taking time to honour night’s calm can help us appreciate the day’s busy-ness. It can put us better in balance with ourselves — both sides for we need both action and rest for health and happiness. So … at this time of year when we can experience both in balance, take some time to embrace the night!
Another sense that we often overlook is sound. Our world is so full of sounds that it can become noise. By focusing on singular sounds, we can encourage a sense of calm and freedom. For example, find a place where you can hear birdsong … then stop walking, close your eyes, breathe, and listen carefully. Allow this natural music to fill your mind and take you to a still place.
In our everyday, we hear a lot of music. We tend to pick the same radio station or music tracks over and over again. Try something different this month. January is a great time to do something new. So why not choose a music genre that you don’t usually hear. And really listen. Stop, close your eyes, breathe, and listen. Allow your brain to engage with the new combinations of notes and tones. This is like exercise for your sense of hearing.
Sound can also play an important role in meditation. The resonance of tones are associated with centres in our bodies. By creating the tone or even just listening to it, we experience a connecting and soothing affect. The word AUM is made up of four tones ahhh-oooh-mmmm – then silence. The first tone resonates in the lower body, the second in the centre body and the third in the head. These are followed by a moment of silence allowing the resonance to flow over your whole self. Usually this is repeated three times. Give it a go!
Colour is not the only thing that can brighten your senses this month. Your sense of smell is a wonderful tool for bringing memories and feelings. It’s really simple – If you are sitting at the breakfast table just stop for a moment, close your eyes and breathe in. What aromas come your way? Perhaps it is coffee with its enlivening scent. Perhaps it is maple syrup that reminds us of warmth. Take moments throughout the day to stop and breathe in. You will be amazed at what comes your way.
To be a bit more deliberate about the scents around you, aromatherapy is a wonderful practice of using natural essential oils to support your mind and emotions. As it is often in bath products, we are familiar with lavender as an oil that brings relaxation. Yet, at this time of year, we may rather need something to brighten us or lift our spirits. Oils that are used to stimulate and increase your energy include orange, lemon and rose. For a quick hit of relief, just open a bottle and breathe deeply. To get a longer lasting effect, consider putting some oils in the bath or using a diffuser.
We can take our sense of smell for granted, but it serves to stimulate our digestive system, arouse us sexually, and warn us of danger. It is strongly linked to our emotional body and memories can be awakened simply by getting a whiff of something we associate with the past. Clear the air in your home to be sure that you are able to take advantage of this sense to support your health and well-being in this month of January!
The weeks between the Winter Solstice and the celebration of Imbolc at Groundhog Day can seem cold, dreary and tiring. Some of us are in debt from the gifting season, some need to lose the 10 lbs brought on by holiday cheer and hibernation from the dark, and others are missing families left back home on the return to regular life. Yet, the Wheel of the Year must turn and we with it.
Bring some Sunshine into your daily life by celebrating the gentle contemplation that this season offers. One of the easiest ways to change your outlook is to change the colours around you. Colours differ because of the interaction with different wavelengths of rays from the sun. Take advantage of this subtle shift to bring some feelings of new energy into your life at this time of year.
Put away the reds and greens of Yule! Replace them with bright blues like the sky, oranges and yellows of citrus fruits, or pinks and purples found in beautiful cloth or flowers. Select a colour spectrum that brings you joy and create a special place for contemplation, meditation or prayer. Close your eyes, breathe in the uplifting air around you and slowly exhale allowing your mind to focus on the colour of your choice. Fill yourself with the colour over several breaths. Then open your eyes and smile. Now … get on with your January day. Bright Blessings.
Yule is the celebration of the return of the sun as it rounds the corner from the solstice of the longest night of the year. Of course, we have much winter yet to endure but the lengthening of the days ensures us that spring will return. So think of this as a season of new light and clarity. In the northern hemisphere, this is the middle of the dark season – a time when a community celebration is much needed; whether in ancient times or modern, the Yule season is a very welcome event.
Create your own seasonal altar to remind you of the coming light. Many candles, sparkling ornaments and twinkling lights serve to let your friends and family know that the dark times will pass. Your decor can include the evergreen plants such as pine, holly, and ivy. The greens are accented with the red of the holly berry and the white of the mistletoe berry … often seen together as the mistletoe is a parasite plant to the holly tree. These had symbolized the blood of the Goddess and the sperm of the God for at this holy-day they come together again in the primordial sense.
The Earth Goddess is in hibernation at this time, and so this is the season of the God. The joy at the rebirth of the sun is a pagan model that has transformed into a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The God is the holly king, the Ghost of Christmas Past from the Dicken’s tale, or Santa Claus – joyful, robust and laughing. The Goddess is beyond ancient, the wraith, the Ghost of Christmas Future – diaphanous, pale, and fragile.
Yule is a time to count your blessings – the sun is returning and with it hope for renewed clarity and fresh beginnings – mentally and spiritually. Blessed be to you and yours.
The late fall is a season of slowing down … reflecting … preparing. We can all use a break from the daily grind. Take time to just sit with yourself. If you have “busy mind”, try some deep belly breaths making your exhales twice as long as your inhales.
Do you remember nodding off at an event that went just a bit too long for you as a child — but you really, really wanted to stay awake and not miss anything. Try now to close your eyes but pull them slightly open. This allows your tears to soothe the eye and gives you a moment to just rest in the day.
Make some hot apple cider by steeping apple juice with cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves and cardamom. The lovely brew is soothing on the throat. The scent is calming to the mind. And the taste is sweet but spicy.
Take care of yourself as the season changes from fall to winter. The winds are harsher; the temperature is colder. Let yourself be filled with breath, scent and peace. Bright Blessing this Samhain season. Namaste.
Oranges — so lovely at this time of year. And they have so many uses — besides just eating them. You can poke an orange with cloves and place it in a beautiful bowl to let the scents of the two mingle for a natural freshener. You can slice one and let the pieces dry in the oven to make a citrus potpourri. Even the peels can add a wonderful zest to your cooking. Just replace lemon zest with orange zest and give it a try.
Here is a great Halloween craft with oranges … instead of using pumpkins. Just cut the top off and scoop out the fruit. Then cut the eyes and mouth from the rind. Place in a tea light and you have a cute mini jack-o-lantern that smells amazing. As always, be safe with the candles.
Oranges … full of vitamin C and healthful phytochemicals. It’s a good fruit for avoiding exposure to toxins because of the thick peel. Naturally sweet and tasty, oranges are like candy from nature. And the smell of an orange is uplifting and cheerful — in aromatherapy, orange is known as an antidepressant and anti-inflammatory essential oil. Enjoy!
Samhain is all about respect for those who have passed. The fall day’s are beautiful right now and it is a wonderful time to visit a cemetery. As you wander among the stones, ponder the remembrances of all the people that piece of land has affected or influenced.
If you find a family plot or mausoleum, consider the stories of that family. Remember the war dead or tiny children who have left this earth too early. Notice that some graves are well tended; others less so. To honour the season, perhaps take care of a scraggly plot? And certainly, pick up any litter you find.
This is also a good time of year to answer the questions of children about death and other mysteries. In the bright sunshine, pass on your joy of life and respect for death.
In northern Europe, not so long ago, understanding the cycles of the earth was critical to the survival of the village. This was especially so during the winter months for the village had to survive on their autumn harvest until the new shoots arrived and animals birthed in the spring.
The harvest season, from August through October, was celebrated in villages as a thank you to the earth for providing once again. Hence, we have Thanksgiving Day today. By the time late October arrived, the harvest was in. So now it was a time for remembering those who had passed on during the year … for life was hard in these northern villages. It was at this time that the folk finally had the time to honour their departed and send them properly on their way. And today we celebrate this time of transition between the harvest and the dark as Halloween.
For those who practice Earth-based spirituality today, this is the beginning of a new cycle of the Wheel of the Year. It is Auld Lang Syne. These words translate from Gaelic into “times gone by” in remembrance of lost friends and family. And so I invite you to share a meal of harvest abundance with your family, remember the ancestors you have known and not known … and celebrate the start of the new year.