The winter solstice of 2017 falls on Thursday Dec. 21, marking the first official day of winter. That sucks, right? It's already four degrees out, and it's not even winter yet. This is cruel and horrible. You may not be aware of this, but the first day of winter is a symbol of more than just renewing your vows with Netflix. It's more than just the return of The Affair on Showtime. It's more than just a return to your insane in-laws and family members for the holiday season. The spiritual meaning of the winter solstice is actually pretty deep, and it's not as far removed from your relationship to Netflix as you might think, which is also a spiritual bond. Basically, the day is considered a sacred one, and marks an important milestone in the year for a lot of cultures around the world.
More than anyone perhaps, the day is important to those who practice Paganism, as the winter solstice is referred to as the day of "Yule," marking the birth of the new solar year. It's the shortest day of the year, and the longest night, and this is where most of it's spiritual significance lies.
Winter isn't exactly a time of crazy celebration, wild nights out with friends, or intense socializing, barring the holiday season of course. The inherently private nature of the winter requires a level of introversion that can be troubling to those who are naturally more extroverted. The winter solstice asks us to be patient, to be silent, to wait. Nature itself is asking us all to slow down, to rest, to enjoy the warmth in the sheltered comfort of our homes, laying under piles of blankets while enjoying Netflix, or conversation with our friends or significant others. Even animals know this, as they go into hibernation for the winter.
The winter is a time of darkness, and one way to honor the equinox is to lean into that darkness by enjoying the silence it brings, and by going within yourself to find your own unique light. Since the days grow shorter and the night grows longer, the winter solstice isn't about having more light, but it's about carrying it within yourself, whatever that means to you.
It might mean the visions you have for yourself in the future, it might mean the hope you have for the spring, or on a more tangible level, a project you've had in the works through the winter that you plan to finish by spring. Sit with your imagination and your thoughts; you may not be able to go outside for a walk, but you can enjoy the wide open space within yourself, which is limitless.
You might hate the idea of being silent as much as me, but it's actually pretty amazing what can happen for your concentration and your clarity of thought. You start to realize how many of your thoughts are actually useless, and the more you do it, the more you're able to weed through those thoughts and throw out the ones you don't need. When the spring comes, we clean house, but during the winter, we clear our minds.
Not only does this stave off the restlessness that comes from sitting in stillness, but it allows us to be productive in our state of rest, because we no longer have to continually worry about what's next. When we focus on the here and now, on the task at hand, we create a foundation for ourselves; and it's from that place of grounded mindfulness that we create our best work.