Before the lightbulb, what did we do when darkness set in?
We made fire. For cooking, for warmth, for protection, for gathering. The fire and the moon became our source, our moon-lit sanctuary helping us to enter the darkness with comfort and safety.
One hundred and fifty years ago the invention of artificial light changed our relationship with nature’s light. The availability of artificial light has made it far too difficult for us to rest in darkness. When the sun was our only light source, night helped us go into our needed rest and recovery state.
And then, the sunlight became a precious time that fueled our motivation to become productive.
We would drink in the light with deep appreciation as we worked. Circadian rhythms synched us with the sun. As the darkness seeped into the day, our bodies slowed down.
Energy was preserved.
Restoration was honored.
Fires were burned and we readily connected to the comfort of its lilting movement, setting the pace for winter’s process.
We lived in a state of slowing down.
So let’s slow down and observe.
Watch as the feelings--the memories--arise. Our pains, our joys, our memories begin to seep out of our hearts, tummies, hips, thoughts...and rejoin with consciousness. Fear sometimes manifests here, and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leaving us to fight the discomfort by tightening our cells. We tend to run by attending gatherings, turning on the artificial lights...seeking distractions.
But we must remember, these are simply memories needing to be processed. And if we look to the outside, as we feel these feelings, and experience the darkness and the cold that is so needed to prepare for spring and growth, our biological self is reminded of what we need to do.
Take shelter. Get quiet.
Be comforted by the fact that this weather can hold such an emotional space with ease. It’s a time needed for our biology to clean house, making us stronger and more ready for the spring to come. The buzzing of spring makes too much noise for us to process such important memories. In fall, the slow down begins, and we have the opportunity to begin to digest all that was consumed in summer...we are busy shedding, and letting go of what is easy for us to process and complete, and learn from.
Winter, however, is quiet, and allows the memories to come to the surface even though they felt too heavy to rise during fall. Winter carves out longer periods of darkness. There’s no rushing in this dark, glacial pace. It teaches us patience if we allow it to do so.
And how do we allow it to do so?
We listen in.
We observe mother earth presenting us with the practice of hibernation:
Take a moment to drink in darkness as the animals do. Think of the turtle finding moist soil where it can burrow; the bear, belly full, slowing down into sleep. Be reminded by winter to conserve your energy, to go inward and take care. Allow your parasympathetic nervous system to take the lead. It is a nervous system designed for digestion and replenishment, where biology creates nourishment and newness. The parasympathetic feeds resiliency, which becomes your protective shield allowing you to be grounded and intuitive in your caretaking. Did you know that replenishment is built into our nervous system? Take advantage of its gifts.
Old ways of experiencing winter may make us feel chaotic in the darkness. We tend to lose hope in that old belief system- but we don’t have to.
We can make a choice. A choice to listen to the darkness rather than fight it. When we truly listen to the essence of darkness, our primal instinct whispers, hibernate. We suddenly have more room to melt into shelter, into the protection of the snow blanket, to appreciate the night, the moon. To be creative in making our emotions. To honor our crafts. To honor our favorite authors, our favorite artists in their ability to communicate their experiences in similar spaces.
With darkness + hibernation, we can surrender to the crisp air and the pacing of the glaciers. Such serenity only happens when we surrender, receiving the gifts put forth by the universe. Our bodies can handle, in fact, our bodies need, such times in order to thrive. This surrender means, match your feeling and the cool atmosphere and the snow blanket with song, color, texture, food. We are nourished by matching our sensual experiences with the internal and external landscapes at play.
Then...you trust that the sun will rise again, the seasons will change, the trees will begin to bud and so will you, when mother earth and you are ready.
Writing by Victoria Sterkin, PhD a part of Mindstream Collective
Photography by Peter Crosby
Model is Taylor Foster and she is wearing: