The tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions is a long and often frustrating one. This year, rather than depending on will power or the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy, it may be time to try something new. Shifting habits by opening to their fullest stories offers a gentle way to begin the process of desired change. Asking and listening to guidance regarding what positive contributions your habit is making to your life, no matter how technically destructive the habit may be, is one of the most effective ways to approach the possibility of positive change. When we can view even the most negative habit as a faithful servant to our well being, we begin the magical process of transformation.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, on the shortest day and longest night of the year, we are invited to the hearth to reflect on our lives and the larger context in which they unfurl. The Winter Solstice is a sight poem, one that marks the end of growing darkness and the beginning of growing light. On the largest scale we know, at least with our physical senses, this moment in time helps us to understand that all the rhythms of our lives conform to the greater rhythm of expansion and contraction we see in the seasonal changes on Earth.
Each of us alive on the planet today is experiencing change brought on by events over which we have little or no control. One ongoing event we all share, we call climate change. At a recent gathering called to strengthen and nourish a diverse community of elders in these parts, participants spoke of the perilous state of bees everywhere and of the diminishing populations of bats in the northeastern states. Fewer butterflies, bees, and bats, interrupted growing seasons, and extreme weather in the form of drought or deluge here and elsewhere signal that our world is changing and that we must respond intelligently to these changes rather than react out of fear.
As the days grow shorter and the weather colder up here in the Northeast King/Queendom of Vermont, the archetypal energies of Winter descend, bringing with them the hallowed space for reflecting on our lives. Some relationships feel absolutely right, some in flux, and some in need of Triage. Our dominant culture, what Clarissa Pinkola-Estes calls the Over-Culture, often encourages the pumped up “just do it” standard of change. Pushing through, sucking it up, and soldiering on manifest in news stories, documentaries, TV sitcoms, and real-life dramas. And yet, our wiser selves know the bullying approach to personal and social change seldom brings about the harmonious energies we long for in every aspect of our lives.