Tomorrow is the powerful time of Winter Solstice, when the darkest day of the year wraps itself around our hemisphere. I have myself often missed the Winter Solstice, busy with preparations for the holidays, or travel, or just busy. At this time in our history we can turn on lights when we want them and ignore this annual change, whether they are Christmas lights or computer screens.
This year I was hit with a pretty powerful response to this powerful time. I took a real, but fortunately short trip to the dark side.
For the last few days I have felt caught in a spiral, a matrix, really, of what simply felt like craziness, set off by exhaustion from an exceptionally full week followed by my 11-year-old’s birthday sleepover. I felt disconnected to my body, to practice, to reality. I didn’t want to meditate, or even do downward facing dog pose, and considered that it was actually time to quit yoga altogether, that I was done with that chapter.
I know enough now about my mind to know that it doesn’t always speak truth, that it can sabotage and misdirect me, especially when I am disconnected to my practice. So I sent out SOS messages to a few friends and mentors, scheduled a yoga class I knew would include restorative poses, and I carried on. Talking helped some, but it didn’t get at the crux of it. Someone mentioned to me that we were approaching Solstice, and that this can be a strong time for people. I thought that made sense, for those other people, and tucked that away in my mind.
I sat up this morning in bed at 1:40am wide awake, mind racing. Somehow guided by my inner wisdom, I got up and onto my mat. I sat and practiced Chandra Bhedana, a pranayama practice that focuses on lunar energy and loops from an inhale through the left nostril to an exhale on the right, over and over. Then I sat. Then I wrote. An hour later, I finally discovered what was lurking under the surface and needed to be seen. I had forgotten, completely, that this is the time of year that my family experienced a great loss several years ago. It took coming back to practice, both the practice of yoga and the practice of writing, to do a reverse spiral back to the source of this “pain body”, as Eckart Tolle calls it.
Once I acknowledged what was there, and let the tears come, I finally came home to myself and was able to go back to sleep and return to the life I am used to living, connected to my heart, to my body, and to the world around me. It was a dance with darkness that I helped me to acknowledge the fragility of sanity and reminded me of the power of these practices to help us to access and move through whatever we are served. I also know that I am fortunate and that it is not always that easy to find one’s way through a tough spot.
If you are ever struggling with darkness, know that there is support for you in the world. There are people who have been there and can be guides on the journey. There are professionals who can grab your ankles if you are falling, if you let them know you need help. Sometimes a yoga teacher you connect to can be a lifeline. It’s not just asana, of course, and for many of us yoga teachings have held the keys to sanity for thousands of years. Reach out, ask for help. Learn about Pranayama and Meditation with an experienced teacher.* There are many at 8 Limbs, in Seattle, and the world beyond to support you on your journey.
May your Solstice be filled with truth and the light of wisdom.
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer
*Jenny has two more of her special Meditation practices at 8 Limbs Capitol Hill on Wednesdays at 8am (through January 4) and will offer a Pranayama Workshop January 7 & 8 followed by Pranayama Series.