Even the Sun Stands Still: A Winter Solstice Reminder On Restorative Rest

We’ve made it through the darkest day of the year.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice is the one day with the least amount of sunlight and the longest night. It’s a time that calls for going inside. As the colder weather settles in, so does the opportunity for reflecting on a year gone by, for gathering with family and community, for hearty meals that nourish and warm us during these colder, darker days.

Like me, you probably enjoy some modern conveniences – basic things like electricity and running water that I try not to take for granted. But if you’ve ever spent any time off grid, you know you can experience seasonal changes a bit differently than we do in our modern society. In the past, I’ve been able to spend a few months in the wild Amazon jungle. I’ve also spent some time in the countrysides of Thailand with no electricity and water that is pumped by hand from a well. But even a weekend camping can reveal the magical thing that happens when you align yourself with nature’s cues for day and night, summer and winter, for productive action and restorative rest.

When you rely solely on your effort and nature’s offerings for your daily survival, seasonal changes affect everything from how long we sleep to when and what we eat. But one that I find the most interested is what happens when we build our lives around darkness and light. Without light pollution or a basic light switch to create the illusion of extended daytime, evenings bring some surprising behaviors in people. Have you ever noticed?

After dark, we tend to speak more softly. We move more slowly, intentionally. We pay attention. We pause. And this is no accident. Maybe it’s a protective instinct like moving slowly through a dark field to avoid snakes or ditches. Maybe it’s an evolutionary trait from having to listen for signs of predators in the distance. However we’ve come to adapt this way of behaving, it’s clear that the December solstice is meant to be a slow, reflective time.

As if to counter this natural tendency in ourselves, we seem to approach December in a frenzy. Classic first-world problems revolve around holiday shopping: how much to buy, for whom, and managing the debt we’ll inevitably accumulate to keep up. There are decorations and parties and events and gadget launches and the greatest, year-end, must have deals in the world. It’s like we’re running away from nature’s call to rest.

The buzz of WiFi everywhere drowns out the faint sounds of winter. Over-indulgence masks the soft aching in our hearts asking us to slow down. But that longing is still there if we take a breath and listen closely. Our body, mind and soul wants to pause. In these days, even the sun stands still.

 In fact, the word solstice come from the Latin solstitium, meaning the Sun stands still. As it changes direction across your sky, the sun pauses just slightly. And we are more connected to earth’s changes than we care to admit. So, whether we acknowledge it or not, we all feel that shift. We can choose to embrace it, or to run like hell.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of running. I don’t want summer in the middle of winter. I don’t want florescent lights when even the plants are returning to the ground. I want to walk slowly through this darkness. I will try to listen closely. I will reflect. I will accept whatever shadows I encounter because I know the sun will rise again. That’s just the nature of things.

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