“I pray this Winter be gentle and kind – a season of rest from the wheel of the mind”
– John Geddes
Standstill. Stand still.
In our Solstice article we referred to the concept of standstill at Midwinter. In the northern hemisphere in December, there is a sacred point at which the light is neither receding nor returning. It is an opportunity to pause and be still.
January continues to herald Midwinter. Even though we have celebrated and welcomed the returning of the light, we find ourselves in a place which appears barren. Nothing grows. The warm glow of Yule lights and the excitement of celebrations have faded, and family members and friends have drawn away from our hearth to return to work and those necessary tasks which, despite the cold, grey mornings, must be done. We feel the weight of obligation. Of aspiration towards new, healthier habits and better decision making. We often feel that the hearty food and partying must take a back seat and that we must pass up the ‘fun’ stuff in favour of getting back to normal. But this premise can feel soul-less and empty.
This is Standstill. It is OK.
It is no accident that we feel this way at a point where the Earth, to us, appears frozen and lifeless, in suspended animation. Our ancestors knew this. They took their cues from the Earth’s rhythms and the natural cycles that became evident at the turning of the Wheel. They knew when to dig deep into the soil. When to sow and when to harvest. When to play and when to rest. When to apply healing balm and when to let die. And all this without the scientific knowledge and reasoning that we are blessed with in modern times. Through millennia of passed-down knowledge, a deep connection to the Earth and inherent intuition - they just knew.
The concept of Standstill is an old one. There are countless modern writings describing pagan Solstice rituals for rest and renewal. There are twenty-two Winter verses in the Bible. We find reference to it in the poems of Thomas Hardy, Christina Rossetti and Emily Dickinson. We find it represented in symbolic practices such as rune casting and tarot reading.
When we stand at the edge of the frozen lake there are no ripples. There is no reflection. There is only complete stillness.
This is an intrinsic and totally necessary part of the life/death/life cycle that is evident and essential to all of nature and life on Earth.
It will pass – Spring will come - but for now, like our ancestors, we too can foster that deep inner knowing for our highest good.
Set some time aside for your Self during this period of Standstill.
This point of the cycle is all about renewal and nurture.
It is about drawing inward but not about Self-analysis or introspection.
It is about support, kindness, and holding space.
It is about radical trust and acceptance.
It is about forgiveness and grace.
Contemplate your needs.
How do you nourish your mind, body, and Spirit?
Human ritual is essential for encouraging balance and promoting wellbeing.
Think about including the following and add your own ideas to create a bespoke Midwinter Ritual for your Self:
Make or bake comforting food.
Eat nourishing, colourful meals.
Drink warm beverages mindfully.
Rest in a nest of warm, soft blankets, cushions and woollen jumpers.
Light scented candles and incense.
Take gentle walks out within the frozen landscape.
Read beautiful prose.
Appreciate exquisite art.
Immerse yourself in stirring music.
Sit in silence.
Foster complete acceptance.
Embody radical trust.
Feed your soul.
Perform your ritual to some degree consistently, gently, and mindfully every day where possible but with ease, kindness, and grace.
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