Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Darkest Night of the Year

December 21 was the winter solstice. In the northern hemisphere, it was the longest night of the year, while in the southern hemisphere, it was the longest day of the year. This means that two weeks ago I was going to sleep in daylight, and this week I’m eating early-bird specials in darkness. (For the record, yes I go to bed early, and no, I do not really eat early-bird specials.)

This is a roundabout way of saying that being back in the northern hemisphere has been difficult. I have had jet lag like never before, and I have had significant trouble sleeping. I also have not been doing a lot of yoga, of any variety.

Instead, I have been living out of suitcases, driving from northern California to Arizona, trying to find things I left behind a year ago, trying to catch up with friends, preparing for presentations, finishing the final bits of my thesis, and preparing to start a job on Tuesday. And even then I will be living with other people until I can move into my own place in early January.

And yes, I can feel that I have not been doing yoga. Prior to coming back to the United States, I had started and maintained a daily meditation practice for nearly three months. I took at least ten minutes per day just to sit and meditate. Somehow the northern hemisphere took it out of me. I still do a bit of mediation each day, and I attempt to meditate while standing in lines, sitting at red lights, etc. Those moments become precious. But somehow the daily practice at the same time each day faded with the daylight.

But what does the solstice have to do with any of this? It explains perfectly the body-mind connection and what happens when it gets disconnected, at least in me. My mind may be back to “normal.” It is, after all, normal to me that December is winter and the days are short. But my body is utterly confused. Although my mind never quite got used to the frost in June, the snow in August, or the spring leaves next to a Christmas tree, my body was very used to the sunlight, and ripping it out of that was not easy.

Christmas Tree in Wellington with new tree growth. 

The body being off completely threw the mind for a loop, and here I am over a week later, finally having gone to a yoga class, and finally having slept through the night. And now each day is going to get longer again. 

There is beauty in the solstice. It is a reminder that seasons change, and it reflects our own changes. But it is also a struggle. It is when the Earth is at its most extreme, and that takes a toll on each and every one of us. We are not disconnected from the Earth, and its changes affect us a great deal. Recognizing those changes is, sometimes, half the battle. For about a week, I could not figure out why I was so tired, but then I realized it was the abrupt change in seasons.

The good news is that the darkest night of the year reminds us of something else – the next day is the day when the light starts shining more each and every day. Happy Solstice, and happy holidays!


© Rebecca Stahl 2011, all rights reserved.