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The Healing Balm of Darkness

We are at the cusp of the longest night of year at Winter Solstice. A time to soak up the healing balms of winter darkness and harness the rites and rituals of mid-winter, the traditions of retreating to rest, reconnecting by candlelight and bringing our darkness into the light ready to clear out and make space for new beginnings.

The soft transition from the natural pause of autumn to the essential respite of winter is a call to reclaim the dormant cyclical wisdom lying deep in our wild bones of the importance of growth and abatement, emerging and retreating, darkness and light. But this can be a big ask in a society that requires consistency and proliferates a mind-set of perpetual growth. How might it be instead to arrive at the door of mid-winter feeling fully ready to step in with both feet, to buck the trend, drop the expectations and feel fully empowered to give full and explicit permission to yourself to harness this season for what it was intended. To say no, slow down, sleep more, eat more, to nap and rest, feel and heal, regroup and recalibrate. To remember the ancient cyclical wisdom of ebb and flow, wax and wane.

It is neither healthy nor sustainable to ignore the season’s change and continue to live as though we exist in a perpetual summer but it can be difficult to feel that it is possible to assert these needs in a society that prioritises performance and productivity over health and wellbeing. So we’ve come to live in a culture that feels it is normal to ignore and even dominate the body, to ignore and suppress sickness, to push through pain, to disregard tiredness, to look down on naps, to cage sleep from the wild rest it is intended to be to a contained constricted captive version, to view women’s cyclical nature as an inconvenience and disturbance, to view emotions as weakness and to keep on going until there is nothing left to give.

Many of us live lives that demand much more of us than we might consistently be able to manage and so often we turn to false stimulation and the inevitable stress burnout that follows. And it’s not just the pace of the world we’re trying to keep up with but also the sanitised and unrealistic emotional expectation of consistent happiness and enthusiasm. And in time we feel obligated to turn away from our unsupported deeper emotional realms and towards consistent activity, crazy busyness, constant adrenalisation, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, whatever it is… all in the name of pushing away our humanity that has come to be disregarded and undervalued.

How might it be instead to show up exactly as we are each day, to welcome ourselves and others in our raw form; all the way from magnificently beautiful joy to harrowingly horrible grief and everything in between. With full and explicit permission to shift and change as often or as infrequently, as quickly or as slowly as naturally arises in our bodies and minds. How might it be to release the expectation of consistency and infinite resource, letting ourselves be seen and held in the full spectrum of our emotions from joy to grief, ambivalence to overwhelm, anxiety to peace, fear to safety, acceptance to intolerance, kindness to rage.

How might it be to shift from this diminished monoculture of emotion to a thriving ecological wilderness? To return to living in cycles, to step closer to nature, to remember our animal nature. Rejecting the imposed rhythms of society, refusing the era of exhaustion and coming to reinstate the sacred sound of our inner rhythms. Choosing to thrive not just survive, choosing to swim downstream, dance in tune, sing in harmony with nature and ourselves.

Sending you love from my wintery cave to yours,

Carly x

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