The weeks before Christmas leave me breathless. Perhaps like me, you have a clamorous inbox of shoulds and ought-tos. An avalanche of choices, decisions to be made. Deadlines to complete before the holidays. For many of us, uncomfortable emotions pop like Christmas crackers at family gatherings. We toss, turn and fret over problems that are still-born. How do we soothe the seeping hurt that curls cold fingers around this season of exuberance and joy? If this is the first, or one in many year ends that swirl around the carousel of loss, we may be still mourning the presence of the one we have loved.Our heart may ache inexplicably as the old year ends with such finality. As families gather together we may feel unspeakably alone amidst the tinsel and the gaudy lights. How do we draw up festive ebullience within ourselves when our well is dry? When what we really want to do is close the door, turn out the light, stay home tonight – and tomorrow night?
Ancient traditions and spiritual wisdom are underpinned by the knowledge of the silent circuit of the great wheel of the year. As the seasonal energies realign with the solstice, our body rhythms realign with the seasonal shifts. Western medicine is largely ignorant of what shamans, Chinese and Indian healers have known for centuries. Our minds, our bodies, our psyches have cycles. The calendar year may be coming to an end now, but we may still be in the midst of a long winter cycle of intensely private grieving. The lyrics of a song played on New Year’s Eve may draw us back to a different time and another place, to a small unmarked grave where a piece of our heart is buried. We may be gestating a new greening. Or we may heroically be at the zenith of our own personal summer where we resolve to bring our Best Self to the silent spaces in relationships that speak eloquently of pain and disappointment, loss and longing.
The calendar year is a man-made construct. In the cyclical nature of our own lives, let us take time to pause in these weeks before the holidays. Perhaps to tenderly anoint the scars of painful losses. Perhaps to finally relinquish all our hopes or expectations of things being different. Perhaps to find the Grace to accept those things we cannot change. Endings can be stock taking times. Times to acknowledge that if we were ready to make those changes in our life, taken that different road, we would have. Times of knowing that we did the best we could at the time.
So let’s go gently as the weeks gather momentum for the crescendo of the solstice on December 21st. Amidst the Christmas carols that loop repetitively from sound systems in shopping malls and supermarkets, the frenetic hurrying to buy what we think our loved ones want, the strenuous exertion, the anticipation in the planning, the doing, as this calendar year draws to a close, let us be kind to our weary bodies. In the flurry to buy food, gifts, stocking fillers, ask yourself today what is it I truly need now? Amidst the bright babble of the office party, the fairy lights of the crowded malls, amidst the heated rush of hurry, re-claim a few moments of sumptuous silence in the gap between the in-breath and the out-breath. What do I truly need now? The answer may come as one of those delicious surprises we find behind the tiny windows of the advent calendar. Our needs may be quite simple really. More sleep. This might mean loving our self enough to get into bed earlier. A sudden craving for rice pudding and custard that brings comfort reminiscent of a childhood when it snowed and all the word was white? This might mean buying pearl rice and switching on the oven to pre-heat. The strength to forgive the one who has hurt us so deeply. The willingness to forgive ourselves for hurting them too. This will certainly require humility and Grace.
What we need may be priceless. The simplicity of being in the presence of those we love with all our human hearts. A pause in the busyness. Time to think. The strength to say no. In a voice that speaks as authentically now as it did in the 12th Century, the mystic Hildegard of Bingen invites us to “glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings. Now, think. “
Know that our soulfulness ebbs and flows. Know that it has seasons of joy and of sorrow. So as the gyre of this year comes full circle, take time to harvest the abundant treasures of your heart. Tell yourself how well you have done, how far you have travelled, how very brave you have been. Cultivate a garden of gratitude. Pause and smell new fragrances. Stop and really see the moon and the stars. Savour the flavours of this season, and know that this too shall pass.
Art by Julianna Bright.
The Byrds sixties classic – Turn! Turn! Turn!