Whilst our Southern Hemisphere readers are celebrating Summer Solstice, our Sun ends its waning cycle in the Northern Hemisphere today, the shortest day of the year. Winter Solstice heralding the return of lengthening days, falls tomorrow on Thursday 22nd December. From then on, the days will grow longer and brighter until the height of next year's Summer.
Since Stone-Age times (at least), evidence suggests that humans have marked the winter and summer solstice as significant times of the year, the longest and shortest days. For our ancestors, these days were a vital indication of the food growing seasons and the changing of darker days to lighter periods and vice versa.
Today, many of us have lost touch with seasonal changes as our lives seem entrenched in artificial environments immersed in technologies and thought patterns that seem to negate the need for nature. Even where the Earth's provisions are relatively direct, such as for food, clothing and warmth, we tend to either ignore the source of these sustaining goods or take them for granted. How many of us or our children, for example, think and act as though our food and clothes emanate from the supermarket or the high street, rather than from the Earth! Our lifestyles allow us to forget that cotton and food are grown in the soil beneath our feet.
Reversing this conception is easy. It is simply a matter of making time to appreciate what we have. So, when sourcing new clothes, or throwing on a favourite sweater, for example, we can look at the fabric and label, think about where the materials were grown and all the people and elements that played a part in getting the items from soil to us - the sowing, caring, harvesting, designing, producing, transporting, selling and so on. And we can feel grateful. When we eat a meal, we can take a moment to think about how it was grown, who was involved in putting the ingredients together and appreciate all the efforts made by people and elements involved in the sowing, caring, harvesting, storage, transporting, selling, washing, preparing, cooking... Two simple words can change our whole outlook on Life - "Thank You"!
When asked to recall our happiest times, we tend to envision and remember people and places rather than technologies and material things. Breathtaking landscapes, fresh air, open fires, endless oceans, loved ones. These are the things that make us feel alive. Re-Membering our connection to nature and taking time out to acknowledge that we are part of the natural world, gives us the opportunity to grow, to accept the nurturing gifts provided in abundance by the Earth and use them to enhance our well-being.
When we acknowledge the influence of Nature and her seasons on our physical and spiritual well-being, we become aware of the profound links that exist between us, each other and our world. Our connection with the Earth, all its inhabitants, the skies, stars, galaxy and universe beyond run deeper than we can ever wholly know.
The return from dark days into lighter at the Winter Solstice is a chance to look back over the year and see how we have grown, the lessons learned, those we continue to learn, the changes made, what worked well, what worked out differently from how we had imagined at the start of 2011, what made us frustrated, angry and sad, what made us smile, glow and weep with laughter. It is an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings received and the hard lessons learned. It is a chance to look forward to all that we want to be in the coming year and let go of all the things, thoughts, relationships, attitudes, feelings and habits that are holding us back from being who we truly want to be. We can bid farewell to that which no longer serves us.