Every year my good friend David has a party on the Winter Solstice. Friends gather at his place, sit around a bunch of lit candles, eat and drink delicious things, and take turns sharing about their year. Some of us opt not to share, and participate just by bearing witness to the others, which is also completely acceptable. As David says: “Sharing is optional. Reflection is mandatory.”
Solstice is my favorite (not actually recognized as such) holiday.
As a person who finds Small Talk difficult at best and painful at worst, I relish Solstice. An opportunity to hear the real thoughts and feelings of the people around me (outside of my role as a clinician) is rare and golden. I often wish that more get-togethers could be this way – intentional, respectful, earnest, and true – without the fluffy stuff that usually takes hours to cut through (or never gets cut through at all).
It’s also an opportunity for me to go inward and see what’s happening inside, which can sometimes be a surprising exercise. Tears happen when I didn’t expect them, or I find myself deep in gratitude about something that I hadn’t even been cognizant of…things come up, in a beautiful way.
Here’s some lessons I’ve learned from Solstice and have since applied to daily life:
It’s essential to take time for self-reflection.
This can be done a million ways; it’s not one-size-fits-all. Different things work for different people: some people do guided meditations, others sit quietly with themselves. Writing or journaling can provide clarity and purpose for many. Some people need to reflect on top of a mountain bike or on a walk on the beach, others prefer stillness. Any of these are viable options; the point is to take the time and intention to reflect.
Give specific moments the consideration they merit.
At David’s Solstice event, we typically identify the “best” parts (the most joyful or life-giving moments) and that “worst” parts (the most challenging or emotionally difficult moments) of our respective years. All these moments have significant value, and taking the time to name them, flesh them out, and focus on them for awhile allows us to make meaning that we might have missed otherwise. This is a gift. Focus on something that resonates for you, and give it the attention it deserves.
Share. (Or don’t share if you aren’t ready. Whatever works for you).
Sharing with trusted others can be incredibly empowering, and serve as a reminder that we are not isolated or alone in the world, or in our feelings and thoughts. Since we spend so much time in our day-to-day lives feeling disconnected from others, deliberate and vulnerable sharing in this way can feel odd at first, but is ultimately incredibly restorative.
The cold is important; the dark is precious.
The cold and the dark – the elements that coax us into hibernation and inactivity, which can be so difficult for Do-ers like myself – hold value and should be recognized as valuable. Chilly, short, dark days give us permission to stop Doing and just Be, and that’s essential to wellness. And a reminder that we are human, and need breaks and relaxation to function.
The act of gathering in one space with people you love and trust matters, and we should all do it as much as possible. It’s awesome to spend intentional reflective time with yourself, but it can be downright magical to have your reflections received, mirrored, and heard by your people.
I encourage everyone to add Winter Solstice to their holiday lineup (or replace a winter holiday with Solstice, if you really want to get radical). Whether spending an intentional day solo or with your people, take the time for yourself. Sharing is optional. Reflection is mandatory.