In a recent session for the Winter’s Embrace course cohort, we were reminding ourselves our the animal self within us and I wanted to share that reminder here.
I believe that in Winter, more than at any other time of year, it is vital to give ourselves permission to listen to, and act upon the voice within us, within our bodies and minds, asking us to slow down and rest.
Within the dark heart of Winter, it is ironic and problematic that we are presented with Christmas as a small window of time when we are allowed to slow down, but with the expectation that this is a fleeting pause that comes sandwiched in between intense preparation for this period with extra planning, social engagements, purchases, expectations and pressures piled on top of our usual responsibilities.
The dreamy and cheery vision of a restful Yule is for many an illusion. So, how can we find more balance between heeding the call on us to respond to Winter as the rest of nature does, by slowing down, resting more of hibernation? Here’s a few thoughts…
Firstly, let’s get the difficult one out of the way – boundaries! If we are unhappy with either the amount of restful time or the expectations placed on us during Winter celebrations, the main way in which we can create change is to ask ourselves what needs to change, what causes us discomfort or unease, and set boundaries that honour our needs. Setting boundaries isn’t too hard, but it can get tricky when you need to communicate and maintain them in the face of friends, family or colleagues. But changing our behaviour and our expectations, not only benefits us, but also shows others that they have a choice in how they move through this time. For example, one boundary I’ve set around this time which has had such a big positive impact for me is releasing gift giving and receiving (for more on reconsidering gifts, making boundaries around Yule and more, get your free Reframing Christmas zine download here). I know this won’t be for everyone, but it’s a good example of big change that can help you feel more in alignment with yourself rather than acting out of pressure or guilt.
Something else that I recommend strongly is to really make rest a priority. That won’t happen automatically, believe me I know – there’s always more I know I could be doing. So until you block out a little time specifically to slow down and enjoy some restful time, alone or with others, it won’t land in your lap.
There’s a few different ways you can approach this. You might want to take advantage of the long nights to get a few extra hours rest in the evenings if that’s a possibility. Or you may want to consider a set time period where you will only do light activities and minimal chores and responsibilities. This year, for me this looked like clearing out jobs form my diary that can wait until next year and putting a message out on social media that I’m hibernating so would be less active online and in my business generally. I’ve been choosing to read and make dried orange and popcorn tree decorations instead of planning a new course for example. You can include taking some time off work maybe, or trying to find some extra childminding if that’s one of your needs.
If you want to go deeper into rest, I’d really recommend taking some Cauldron Time. This is my name for taking a set period of time (from a few hours to a few weeks, whatever is possible), to really set aside everyday pressures and slow right down. My Cauldron Times usually include walks, yoga, ritual, sleep, reading, journaling, detox and digital detox, but you will know what is right for you that is self-loving and deeply restful. If you want to know more about this, you can take the pre-recorded course, ‘Into the Cauldron’ here, or read more about it in this Instagram post.
I want to finish off by cycling back around to where we started, with our animal selves. Animals are wonderful at acting on their needs and they do so (presumably) free from guilt, unlike us human-animals. It’s so important to acknowledge that our natural state is to be impacted by the seasons and weather, but long gone are the day where we were free to respond to the needs of our bodies and minds as a collective, societally. Therefore when I say things like, ‘rest is radical’, ‘re-enchantment is resistance’, I really do mean that in heeding what our bodies and minds are asking us to do in response to, in this case, Winter, we are actively de-stabilising the extractive society that has raised us with deep productivity conditioning, and we are showing others this is possible too.
The expectations of social pressure are often so deeply ingrained in us that we don’t notice it, and Christmas and the Gregorian New Year are choc full of these pressures. I want you to hear me when I say that it is in no way selfish, it is a beautiful, radical, natural act to prioritise rest and slowing down. I know it’s not easy, and can be a tightrope walk to navigate these issues, but I want you to know that you have the power to give yourself permission to explore rest, and that whenever you do so, I am cheering you on, with great respect and with a vision for new ways of living burning quietly within me.
Blessings during this sacred pause of Solstice time, from my cocoon to yours