Tag Archives: Winter Solstice

Embracing The Longest Night

Embracing The Longest Night

Visoka va jyotismati – Sutra 1.36

Today is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the year.

This year the Solstice also coincides the end of the Mayan calendar (cue a slew of gags about the end of the world – like this one…) I like to think that what this really signifies is a move into a new, more conscious age.
The Winter Solstice is a time that provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months and set intentions for the coming year.

When I think about where I was this time last year so much has happened. 2012 has had its high points but I know that for many of us it has been a tumultuous year with its fair share of darkness. One of my lessons this year has been around learning to embrace those times, to understand that darkness itself isn’t bad or a thing to fight against. As a place where lots of good things emerge from, it’s necessary. Things are ever changing, but when we’re in the midst of those darker times it can feel as though we’re trapped. And it can be easy to forget the light within – the light each of us possesses.

Visoka va Jyotismati

Visoka – blissful
va – or
jyotismati – the supreme light

I’ve been thinking about this sutra recently and it feels very apt at this time of year. It speaks about the light that resides within each of us – within the heart centre – and reminds us to concentrate on that inner light which is beyond all fear and worry.

On this shortest day, why not take a little time to acknowledge where you’ve been this year, looking upon yourself with compassion? If you decide you’d like to set an intention for the next twelve months then this is a great time to look inward and ask yourself what it is you really want. And beyond today, as we move through the Christmas season – possibly being confronted with the odd bit of seasonal stress here and there – you could try this simple meditation. In the spirit of sutra 1.36, I’ve started doing this in the run up to Christmas and have found it helpful (especially on packed rush hour tube trains!). Maybe you will too. Give this a try whenever you feel stressed, anxious or unsettled:

– Take your awareness to your heart centre. Visualise a light there, glowing radiantly.

– Stay here, focusing on this inner light for as long as you can, even if it’s just a minute. Feel that light expanding, radiating throughout your body, until you are filled up with this light. Then feel your light expanding further, outwards into the space around you.

– Don’t be surprised to notice that your breathing has become slower and more steady – a good sign!

And, if by chance the short winter days are still getting you down, then take heart that after today we’ll start to notice the days gradually getting longer again. So, there are brighter days ahead – in more ways than one!

Namaste x

How a Panda and a Tortoise helped me to put things in perspective

How a Panda and a Tortoise helped me to put things in perspective
Not Master Oogway, but a v old tortoise I met in Morocco :)

Not Master Oogway, but a v old tortoise I met in Morocco


December has been quite a contemplative month.  Despite it being a very yin time, it’s felt very eventful internally.  Mixed emotions. Darkness and light.  Among a number of things, during December:

–   I got my official teaching certificates, registered with Yoga Alliance and got insured

–   I got confirmation of my spondy and scoliosis

Both are interlinked and, for me, both take a bit of processing, for differing reasons. Consequently, the 25 Day Yogathon has been the backbone (no pun intended) running through the month, helping me to do just that.  I’ll admit I struggled with the refined sugar thing, especially in the run-up to Christmas week, but the biggest revelation for me was meditation – something I always found difficult before.  I’ve continued beyond the 25 days – currently I’m spending 20 minutes a day in seated meditation.

My 25 Day Yogathon was completed on Christmas Day, which I spent with my family. After breakfast, having been banished from the kitchen I noticed that Kung Fu Panda was on TV.  (For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s the sweet tale of a panda called Po who becomes an unlikely kung fu hero after being chosen as the Dragon Warrior.) I’d never seen the movie before and seeing as I am at heart a kid masquerading in the body of a 30something year old woman, I decided to check it out.  As I watched, I related to Po – a square peg that doesn’t look like it will fit the round hole of their dream.  I’m not suggesting I resemble a cute, furry giant Panda maybe aside from carrying a little more junk in the trunk post-Christmas. Though like Po, I know what it’s like to be seen as the underdog, and who hasn’t ever eaten when they’ve been upset?  (Never? Are your pants a little bit on fire…?  Ok, I’ll take your word for it, but I know Po and I aren’t the only ones who’ve been passengers on the emotional eating bus at some stage.) But I digress…

There’s a bit (well, more than one bit) in the film where the Oogway, the wise old tortoise kung fu master says in response to protests that Po cannot possibly be the Dragon Warrior:

“There are no accidents”.

I attended a Winter Solstice ceremony just a few days before Christmas where there was much reflection on the past year, acknowledgement of what had passed, gratitude expressed and the setting of intentions for the next twelve months.  That combined with my experience on the Yogathon, reminded me of all the things over the past year which have brought me to this point.  This time last year I was in a very different place.  It’s been one of the most transformational years of my life so far.

Maybe there are no accidents…

Via a bit of serendipity, I started having sessions with a brilliant yoga therapist this month. After my initial assessment, I quickly realised that this is going to take more work and time than I’d initially thought.  I admit, in that moment I felt a bit ‘woe is me’.  I wanted to curse the timing of it all (WHY did this have to happen right after teacher training?!) and wondered if I could really do this.

My yoga therapist must have seen how dejected I looked and said, “I think that sometimes, these things are sent.  I’ve been doing this for a long time and you know – the wounded ones are always the best teachers”.

The kind of teacher I will grow into remains to be seen, but I really appreciated hearing something like that, especially from such an experienced teacher and teacher trainer.  I am just beginning but I know that already this situation has hugely impacted how I feel about teaching.  I didn’t embark on this route to look or sound cool when people ask me what I do, or to present the image of a ‘perfect’ yogi. Instead, it is a huge step in terms of being truthful about what’s important to me. And it’s made that desire to be a good teacher even stronger.

So that, contrary to my initial response, makes me feel that the timing is probably ideal.

While I am not big on new year’s resolutions, I did set one intention for next year at the Winter Solstice ceremony. Sharing it with everyone at the ceremony felt far more profound than I’d imagined it would be, so it somehow doesn’t feel right to announce it here.  But I (and about a dozen other people) know.  And that feels right.

As I move into 2012, I travel not just with a little more junk in the trunk (which I am not knocking by the way – it makes me more huggable after all ;) ), but with a little more faith and courage too.  If I can be anywhere near as courageous as Po the Panda then I’ll be getting somewhere :).

Whatever your intentions for 2012, I wish you a Wonderful year ahead.