The winter solstice, December 21, is one of my favorite times of year. I see it as a meaningful moment to pause, reflect, and restart.
I love the quiet, inward focus that winter invites in this period of literal and metaphoric hibernation. I relish the turning point of the solstice (literally “sun stands still”) when I can recognize (again) that within stillness is also a time of shifting and beginning. I enjoy the idea of celebrating the life-giving energy of the sun as I welcome longer days in the coming weeks and months. I like looking back and looking forward on the winter solstice.
Wherever you are in the world, however you see this time of year, whenever you mark a new year - the idea of “beginning with intention” can be a way to mindfully connect with yourself. In fact, I encourage and practice this many times throughout the year year because I see time as cyclic rather than linear, and I want to give myself frequent opportunities to regroup, refresh, and renew.
Here are three tips for “beginning with intention” that you can reference any time you want to pause, reflect, and begin (again) - at this upcoming winter solstice or whenever it feels like the right moment for you.
Let yourself BE in the “between space”
Beginnings are really transitions, and like the solstice day when the “sun stands still” (literal meaning of “solstice”), there’s a point between movement that can be a luscious place to pause, even if only briefly. Recognizing and honoring this between space can help reduce stress that may come with ending something and starting something new.
Before you jump into the next thing (year, activity, task, whatever…), give yourself permission to stand still and be right where you are. Maybe you’ll want to try it literally: actually stand still, take a few breaths, and see what it feels like to do that. What does it feel like to be in between? Not ending or starting, not moving or doing. Even if it feels uncomfortable or unpleasant - as long as you don’t feel unsafe - what would it be like to give yourself a moment (you decide how long that is) to simply be in that between moment?
Honor what came before
You may be familiar with the phrase, “when one door closes, another opens.” You can see this as a way to bring a positive outlook to an ending (which often carries grief with it). I think this saying also illuminates that beginnings and endings are closely connected, even intertwined.
As you get ready to start something new, reflect on the past, on what or who you are leaving behind, on something in your life that is closing.
How might you honor what came before?
If you enjoy writing, carve out some time to write your reflections. Or draw, design, create something that represents your reflections. Perhaps you’d prefer to move your body, reflecting as you practice yoga, dance, or even run. Whatever method or medium you choice, building a pause to be in this moment. Notice where you experience shifts in your body as you honor what’s ending. Notice how your body feels preparing for what’s ahead.
See if you can make this activity part of your journey of moving forward, part of a practice of transition. Remember to be kind to yourself as you do this, since here may be sadness and pain associated with the ending, or possibly with the beginning.
Be clear about your values
I like to consider intentions as values - what matters most to me - rather than than actions. When you set an intention, I think you are aligning with what’s important to you. I prefer this to seeing an intention or resolution as a task, goal, or something I need to accomplish.
When you can carve out a few moments of quiet (and you can set aside a few moments, even if you don’t think you can), ask yourself, “What’s most important to me RIGHT NOW?” You don’t need to make a long list. It might even be more powerful to you to just pick one. Whatever bubbles up first is probably what you should take note of anyway, so jot that down and let it be your answer. (Remember, when you do this again, whatever bubbles up that time is your answer that time.)
Knowing what matters most allows you to head into a new beginning with clarity and focus, which enables you to be more intentional about beginning.
How do you celebrate the winter solstice? We’d love to hear other ideas and perspectives. Send an email to hello@opentobeing or share on social and tag @opentobeing.