I get the whole ‘start the new year with a bang’ motivation and ‘let’s achieve, achieve and succeed’ mentality, but after some trial and error and strong consideration, my opinion is that right now might not be the time! In the world we live, there is so much energy focused on always doing and succeeding and striving. Where is the balancing states of reflection and stillness?
It’s winter where I am and it is generally cold. In northern Europe particularly, it is usually dark and rarely sunny. It snows, the wind is cold, the air is dry and other times dense with fog. And thus the wild world has withdrawn, slowed down and is hibernating around us - the trees, the insects, the birds. The stillness in winter is the opposite of the heated, fast-paced qualities of summer and with that, nature invites us to take a breath and be still as well.
We have come out of summer with all our heightened energy, where we probably felt more motivated and awake to strive and get things done. So now that’s done and the long days of summer have been,, let’s explore the possibilities of stopping for a moment. My suggestion for this time of year is to balance ourselves with the stillness of winter as nature doesn’t allow us to always be in drive. Winter instead invites us inward – it’s cold out, so we must retreat in; the snow, ice and rain slippery, so we must go slow and take our time. We may feel exposed by the wind so it is the time to be gentle and reinvest in some extra self-care. And then we can reflect, take stock and re-balance ourselves; just imagine having a wonderfully deep sleep in darkness and wake up the next day feeling so much more awake. Awake in time for summer.
Striving towards our dreams and achieving our goals is definitely a great and positive state of mind to have and taking a step back to find space and be instead of do isn’t necessarily holding us back. Summer is yang- it is hot, fast and outward. Winter is turning inwards, feeling a slower pace and finding space. Winter is yin and just as we should channel the positive energies of the summer, season we should also embrace the positive energies of winter that call us to be still.
I do have big dreams and goals that I want to achieve, I am passionate and motivated to strive for that which feeds the world as well as myself. But from my many attempts to fight the realities of this life - to resist the natural ups and downs, ebbs and flows, the weather and seasons of our own worlds - I have learnt that rigidity in approach is far more damaging to wellbeing and counterproductive to endeavours. It means that denial of nature’s forces in winter time is like running up a mountain that keeps growing: you’re not getting anywhere and your obstacles are huge. From my experience in the past few weeks of surrendering to my feelings of sleepiness and wanting to turn inwards more than out, I have found that my productivity and motivation has naturally increased. I am going with the flow, more that forcing the energy out when it doesn’t feel right.
With its colder days that drive you indoors, winter is down time and it’s time to be okay with that. It is time to surrender to our innate nature which involves accepting the yin with the yang, embracing the slow with the fast. And then shit will get done.
Embrace winter with these daily habits: my recommendations
We may feel the need to sleep more than we do in other times of the year, but we don’t want to over sleep and get into a tired rut. I have been getting to bed at 9-10pm and then waking up between 6-7 (generally!). I don’t consider myself a ‘morning person’ even thought I have a daily early morning yoga practice, but the more hours I sleep before 12am make waking up so much easier. I feel so much more awake. When I keep snoozing, this makes it harder and harder to wake up and then I feel a lot more sluggish and heavy.
I have been practicing a 15minute meditation almost each morning, before my ashtanga yoga practice. Sometimes I forget, other times I snooze too long and then rush out of the house and then forget again. The more I include this meditation when I wake up, the more it becomes apart of my routine. And the more I practice it, the more I feel in tune with my body, emotions and how I am in that moment. I can deal with difficult situations easier and I find myself getting less effected when things go wrong. It makes me so much more aware of my current state of mind – am I feeling energy and motivation, am I sleepy and heavy, am I anxious or stressed? I can tune in and let those feelings release, heal and just be.
Drinking warm water (first thing in the morning)
A great way to wake up the body and mind is to drink some warm water, so I do this with a quarter of a lemon. This is gentle on your stomach so it is helpful to cleanse the liver and kick-start your digestive system.
People enjoy different ways of moving for their mind and body wellness. I have morning ashtanga yoga practice, which works as my moving meditation. The regularity releases physical tension and strengthens not only my muscles but also my self-discipline! I get a chance to see how I am today and practice discipline and self-observation to only work with what I’ve got (strength, mindset, flexibility – it changes all the time!). The dynamic style warms me up, which preps me for the cold outside. I generally look forward to my first step outside to cool down after my practice!
Hot food over cold
It's clear that when we are cold, we want to be warmed up. So it makes sense that eating warm food can balance out the cold and will be easier to digest.