Monday, December 29, 2014

Solstice Ashes

This morning on my walk I have a special mission:  to complete a winter solstice ritual.

I'm carrying a zip-lock bag of ashes in my pocket. These ashes are are all that remain of the obstacles to happiness that went up in flames on the longest night of the year.

We gathered that evening to celebrate the return of the light.  Although we still have a New England winter to navigate, at least the days are growing longer.  We welcome the gradual return of the light after the darkest days of the year.

According to ancient wisdom, when the sun appears to stand still on the winter solstice -- that pause when one cycle ends and another begins -- our choices are more potent than at any other point in the cycle.  So we made some  deliberate choices.

First: What to release?

We looked back at the year, assessing what hadn't worked for us.  This could be personal or professional, like a troubling relationship at home or work.   Anyone dealing with an impossible teenager, co-worker or boss?  Yes, heads nod.   Are we holding onto old grievances?  We looked at frustrating circumstances and asked ourselves: What, in me, is contributing to the problem?  Long silence. Can I let that go? Am I holding onto an inherited belief like, Good things happen to other people, not me?  Because really, is that true?  Or maybe I neglected to draw up a strategic plan, to ask for assistance or to follow through.  Did I procrastinate, make excuses, or rationalize? Uh, maybe, smile.  

Quietly, in the candlelight of our solstice altar, we wrote what we were willing to release on slips of paper.  Then we went outside and each one struck a match, igniting her intention to let these things go. The darkness of the longest night of the year was interrupted by the dancing flames of our willingness to shift, the same way the earth shifted, in that very hour, to winter.

Our next deliberate choice?  What to embrace in the new cycle.

We left the papery ashes in the bin on the deck, went back inside and settled ourselves around the candle-lit room -- sitting cross-legged on cushions, lying down on blankets, in chairs or against the wall with pillows supporting the lower back -- and went into deep meditation. 

Soothing music weaved around the room as I led the group in releasing tension from soles to scalp. Then we traveled within, divine light illuminating the way, to the deepest level of our being, where the light of our core essence resides. Emerging from this space of inner light, we articulated our intentions for the upcoming cycle.  

To encourage daring and expansion I read: 


The Self is not a known territory
But a wilderness
Too often we forget that.
Too often we reach the boundaries of what we know 
About ourselves and turn back.  Now is a time to push past those boundaries,
And begin a quest for the unknown genius
That lives within you.*

We wrote out big dreams and down-to-earth practical steps necessary to bring them to fruition.  We noted that not just the solstice but the lunar and solar alignments of this night support new beginnings.  The new moon in Capricorn and the sun moving into Capricorn are decidedly not airy-fairy.  These energies are ambitious, responsible, efficient, disciplined and practical.  

Then we planted literal seeds, a quiet ritual, to ground our intentions.  Gently embedding the seeds in the fragrant potting soil, fingers in the loamy earth, reflect the creation tenderly taking root within each of us.

This morning I released the powdery ashes into a sunlit stream, completing the ritual as promised. Some of them went with the rushing current; some got caught in a small spiraling eddy, a branch and some leaves, but I watched until every last fine particle joined the larger flow, bobbing over rocks and around delicate crisps of ice. 

These ashes, I thought, represent something troubling, limiting or sabotaging that had once been an active, perhaps even destructive energy.  Maybe it was judgment wreaking havoc in relationships. Maybe it was procrastination, causing one missed opportunity after another.  Maybe it was chronic people-pleasing, undermining self-worth. Perhaps one of us in the solstice circle determined to pry loose the grip of an addiction, to take back her power over her own choices.  Perhaps someone decided to seek help in overcoming her fear of intimacy, committing to self-awareness around why she mistakenly defends against the very thing she wants.  I honored all the unknown choices made by our circle. These negative patterns that had been active in each of our lives had been transmuted in the fire, reduced to ash, dormant like the earth. Now they're washing downstream to fertilize the earth, enabling buds to burst forth along this stream bed in the spring. Releasing the old makes room for new dynamism to flow in.

Our willingness to uproot these, and to supplant with our aspirations, grounded in practical action, were the potent choices we made on solstice night.  It's not too late for you to do so too!  On the solstice, the new moon was dark.  As it waxes, join in -- releasing what you're so tired of struggling with and embracing your dreams and desires. As the moon swells toward full, feel your own fullness.  

What will arise from your ashes?

*The Vision Quest by Paul Ferrini.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Please Leave a Comment: