A Winter Solstice Retreat
It’s December: the Energy of Forest and Garden is low in the roots and receding. Days are short in the northern hemisphere, and getting shorter, as Sun approaches its nadir. The air is cold: Maple and Alder bare; grey light replacing leaves—Cedar, Hemlock and Fir are Winter’s green. As we approach Winter Solstice.
This darkest time of year is why we have the tradition of lighting things up for the Holidays … an innate celebration of the ‘rebirthing of the Light’ … religiously and naturally …
The Ways of Winter
Winter Solstice … the seasonal equivalent of ‘… the darkest hour … before the dawn’ is the perfect time to become more aware of the aspects of oneself—stillness, quiet, reflection, insight—that are very low on the list on a bright, warm, summer day.
Summer is the time for going out, Winter for going in. And while we need and want to live and enjoy our lives in both dimensions, it’s important to understand the wisdom that tells us: There’s “… a time to rend, and a time to sow; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak …”
Winter Solstice Retreat at BIOM
Every year at BIOM we do a Winter Solstice retreat. We take a day off from work, chores and Internet-ing and spend the day slowing down. We walk in the woods and listen to ‘the sounds of silence’; meditate and practice Chi Kung and Tai Chi; read and write; cook and eat slowly; talk and imagine …
It’s a day to retreat from the hustle-n-bustle of the 21st century lifestyle. An opportunity to rest and reconnect with the quiet side of ourselves—the part that gets ignored and pushed aside in the hurly-burly of earning a living and going after the next thing on the list.
Planning A Winter Solstice Retreat
If you’re interested in a Winter Solstice retreat experience, here are some ideas for getting started:
• Imagine what a successful retreat experience would be for you. Take some notes. Set aside some books. Restring your guitar. Start to gather the ‘kindling’ that will ignite the experience you want to have.
• If you hear yourself saying, “I can’t do this at my house.”; ask yourself: “What can I do to get as close as I can to creating a space at home to retreat into?” Then think of a few things you would like to do if you had a quiet day, or several hours all to yourself. Write those ideas down and look at them for a minute or two each day. Add new ideas as they emerge.
• Ask yourself: “What do I need to do to create the space—in my house, in my schedule, in my mind—so that I can have an enjoyable and beneficial one-day or half-day retreat with myself.
• Remind yourself that whatever effort you make to gain some quiet time for yourself will be worthwhile. Your mental ‘chitter-chatter’ may be envisioning a made-for-reality-TV retreat, and if it does, tell that ‘voice’ to be quiet; a good practice for when your Winter (Solstice) Retreat begins ...
Tweets for a Winter Solstice Retreat
• Winter is a natural time to retreat; the energy in the northern hemisphere is at maximum Yin—a time of dark, cold, stillness and quiet.
• Winter Solstice is Nature in full retreat ... at the same time we’re going full-speed-ahead for the Holidays—tap the retreat reset button…
• To ‘retreat’ doesn’t have to mean doing something ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious.’ Retreat to do something you enjoy.
• A personal retreat: An opportunity to become aware of & feel the quiet place inside yourself ... where everything feels in order.
• Why retreat? ... Because we are so busy most of the time it’s easy to miss Life’s central experience: our capability to feel peace and joy.
• There are all kinds of things going on that affect mental & physical health and well-being. A personal retreat can bring clarity & focus.
• A Winter Solstice Retreat: ‘Stepping back’ makes room for something beneficial to come forward.
• A little bit of retreat preparation will get everything in place for you to have the experience you want.
• The moment you start planning your retreat, visualizing what the experience could be like ... that’s the moment your retreat begins.
• A feeling of gratitude arises when you retreat: It’s you thanking you for taking care of yourself.
• Once you begin a retreat it may feel a bit uncomfortable at first. The momentum of today’s lifestyle takes a while to slow down and unwind.
• A personal retreat is worthwhile. When the chitter-chatter voice tells you there are better things to do—ignore it: A good skill to develop.
• It’s the shortest day of the year—Winter Solstice: Dark, Quiet & Still are the qualities of the energy that surrounds us.
• Winter Solstice is a time to become aware of and feel the dark, still aspects of your Self that come into focus at the beginning of Winter.
• Bear hibernates; Tree gathers energy in roots. Get in sync with Winter energy by ‘sinking’ into the deeper parts of yourself.
• “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it ... Being alive is the meaning.”– Joseph Campbell
5 Element Theory & Oriental Medicine
When your energy is balanced and flows unimpeded through your body, you feel invigorated … by Chi Dancing ...
People have always been looking for ways to understand what’s happening with their health. Ancient Chinese philosophers called Taoists, put together a framework for doing this that’s still used today in Oriental Medicine. It’s called Five Element Theory.
The logic of Five Element Theory becomes clear as you begin to use it as a filter for processing your observations regarding things like: how you feel after eating, the types of emotions you’re prone too, and the kinds of food you crave.
Working with the Five Element chart, is a fun and informative way to understand how to navigate your way toward health and well-being.
What Is Five Element Theory
Five Element Theory helps you understand how natural changes within your body and outside environment affect your health. To predict and understand these dynamic changes, ancient doctors studied nature to determine what universal principles existed that could be applied to health and well-being. Five Element Theory is what they came up with.
The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. They were selected based on the observations of ancient oriental philosophers who theorized that the natural world embodied these elemental characteristics. Oriental Medicine uses this time-tested, diagnostic model to analyze how the various parts of a person’s body and mind interact to affect health. These relationships are illustrated in the 5 Element Chart which shows how each element is related to specific aspects of your body and mind.
Thanksgiving Interview With Jackie O’ Lantern
Jack and Jackie O’ Lantern, renowned and loved master jack-o-lanterns, stopped by BIOM to rest up a bit after their busy Halloween tour of the Northwest, where they inspired people with their bright smiles, and luminous lore about the benefits of quiet reflection, and ways to nourish yourself during this dark time ... until the light returns.
Kitty: So, Jackie, you and Jack attended many ceremonies celebrating another successful HARVEST. What were some of the highlights for you?
Jackie O’ Lantern: Before I tell you, I just want to say how nice it is to see you again Kitty. It’s been wonderful cooking with you and sharing health tips. The synergy between people and pumpkins always amazes me, and makes me glow in a very special way ... so ... the highlights of our trip ...
There was one particular Halloween celebration we attended that was quite unique. The people who brought us over were celebrating a Celtic ceremony they called “Sowen.” It was a crisp, clear, star-filled Autumn night, with a simple, bright bonfire, lit and maintained by a Chippewa/Ojibwa Road Chief. The ceremony was led by Druids, bagpipes were played, and a Buddhist monk added his chant.
Also this year we’ve heard lots of talk about the Economy, which looked to Jack and me like people meant ‘having trouble paying their bills : / so the CELEBRATIONS are a bit more low-key this year ... which is how Jack and I generally like it ... don’t get me wrong though ... Jack likes to sip the Wild Turkey a bit on the HOLIDAYS ... if you know what I mean.
So when the gatherings we attended allowed for it, we inspired the storyteller to speak of what people can do to take care of themselves to stay calm, balanced, and healthy while the ENERGY of this time works itself through us.
Kitty: Would you share with us some of what was said?
Jackie O’ Lantern: Mostly, people were reminded to take care of themselves; that’s the thing people do least well and least of all. The stories told of how Winter is a time that puts a lot of stress on the body, a stress that’s more severe than what’s felt during the other seasons, so it’s very important to be mindful of how you’re feeling, and to do those things that build and maintain strength.
Kitty: What are some examples?
Jackie O’ Lantern: Very simple things, like:
By doing these kinds of things, a person’s body will balance, strengthen, and stay healthy.
Kitty: Adding to the seasonal stress people experience as we approach, and during, Winter, are the fear and anxiety you mentioned arising from the economy and climate change. What do you suggest for managing so much stress?
Jackie O’ Lantern: Rest more. In simpler times, people adapted their lifestyles to the rhythm of the seasons. Winter brings less light, and more darkness, so traditionally people rested more during Winter. But today, people have so much more control over the environment, and tend to overdo it. So this Winter, people should try to rest more; especially if you have any existing weaknesses in your health, because if you get too tired out in Winter, that affects your constitution at a foundational level, making it harder to regain that vitality in Spring.
Kitty: Great advice ...
Jackie O’ Lantern: People just need to slow down, and be kinder to themselves, and each other.
Kitty: I can think of an easy way to do that! Why don’t you tell the readers how to make the delicious and nutritious Peaceful Pumpkin Soup you made for us this afternoon.
Jackie O’ Lantern: I’d be happy too! People should always try to eat foods in the season they’re harvested, and as close to where they grew as possible. This way you get fresh nutrients tailored to the time of year you’re living in. Also, try to eat as much organic food as you can: pesticides aren’t too good for your health.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Peaceful Pumpkin Soup is a very nourishing seasonal dish, that’s high in nutrients. It helps bring the body into balance, and a balanced body is a healthy body.
You should always try to eat foods that are “in season” because they provide what you need during the season they’re harvested.