Just a few days from now will be the shortest day of the year - winter solstice. My city is already getting less than 8.5 hours of daylight, and often the daylight that we do have is obscured by clouds and sometimes rain as well. I feel it in my bones, the season's call towards rest, slowing down, drawing inward. I feel the nudge to gather closer the people closest to me and to enjoy the darkness. My body and my soul need more sleep right now, more calm, more quiet, more simplicity.
And yet I find it curious that, as the rhythms of the seasons and our bodies are slowing down, we as a culture ramp up our activity to such a frantic pace that December ends up being the collective busiest - and perhaps the most stressful - month of the year. In my own family, we do our best to keep things simple, but the added layer of even simple Advent activities, a couple Christmas parties and services, and a few gifts to buy or make seems too much at times. When our natural rhythms are bidding us to slow down, to take a pause from our full lives and let some things go, adding even a little more can feel like a defiant neglect of our deepest needs.
If I take an honest look inward, I find what I truly need is more reading books on the couch with my family and less driving them around town, more moments enjoying the glittery ornaments lit by tiny white lights on our Christmas tree and less moments checking and re-checking my gift lists, more open space for joy and less hurrying through the present moment just to get to the next. The beauty of these needs is that when I attend to them, when I care deeply for myself by honoring them, I have so much more to give to the people around me, especially more of the gifts I truly want to give this season - love, kindness, peace, presence.
But when everything around us seems to have succumbed to frenzy, how can we possibly stay grounded? Or when we've inevitably gotten caught up in the swirling tide, how do we come back to ourselves?
I've thought about this for a while, and back in November when thankfulness was in the air, I wondered if gratitude might be a simple way to re-ground in this season. When the advertisements and messaging are all about what we're lacking - whether it's items we or someone on our gift lists "needs" or gift-giving obligations we're "required" to meet - perhaps a return to gratitude could bring a little clarity. Interestingly, I've noticed this underlying theme in several nooks and crannies here on the internet this December. Just today, gratitude was the theme in my Yoga with Adriene morning practice, and in my email was an invitation to a gratitude cleanse for the week after Christmas. I've personally decided to commit to a simple gratitude practice during the two weeks of my kids' winter break. I'll be noting three things I'm grateful for each day and sharing a few of my gratitudes over on social media (follow along or participate on Facebook or Instagram!).
What will you do to rest and reset in the midst of the remaining weeks of this year? Will you take a moment now to assess how you might kindly attend to your needs? Perhaps a simple practice, such as naming gratitudes, could be a way to nourish your soul and allow you to give your best self to those you'll be with this season.