Holding a Tender Heart: Summer Solstice Waning Moon Reflections
The summer solstice will occur on June 20th 2017 at around 9:30pm PST (Northern Hemisphere), and marks one of the four major stations on the Earth’s yearly pilgrimage around the sun. The term solstice means “sun standing still”, from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere or sisto (to stand still or to stop). The name refers to the way in which the sun will reach its northernmost direction, as we experience it from the Earth, coming to stand still directly over the Tropic of Cancer before “reversing” its direction and moving south again. The summer solstice often marks the beginning of the summer season on our calendar, though it is traditionally referred to as midsummer. The idea of it being the midpoint makes more sense to me as we have now reached the peak of light for the season yet the warmest days of summer are still before us.
This juxtaposition of waning light and waxing warmth is what I like to pause and consider on the day of the solstice. I love the way in which the darkness of winter to come is held within the festivities of this bright summer day. It will be a few months before we feel the turn towards autumn in our bones, and yet we know it will come. I have always experienced a sweet sense of impermanence around the summer solstice celebrations. It feels like a call from the heart of the earth. A reminder to savor each precious moment of summer, knowing that it will not last forever and cannot be fixed in time.
This year the solstice occurs during a waning moon, just a few days prior to a new moon in Cancer. This may be why I am feeling more reflective than celebratory this year. Perhaps you have been feeling this too?
Rather than a desire to plan a community event to honor midsummer, I feel drawn to personal practice and quiet ritual this year. As we reach the midpoint of the calendar year I am reflecting on what has come to light since the winter solstice, six months ago, while also making space for that which is wanting to come through me, but which will likely not become clear until the harvest season. I am in a transition space at this time and it is clear that some of the pathways I have been walking are coming to an end, while new ones are opening up. Though my rational mind wants to know what is next, wants to be able to see the path ahead clearly- my heart is reminding me that summer is a season for cultivating a present moment experience and not for rushing forward. It is perhaps a moment in which to allow my own inner sun to stand still and to allow my heart to rest in that pregnant fullness.
My summer sadhana looks very different than my mid-winter sadhana, and so rather than taking refuge in candlelit meditation I find peace and insight through communion with the natural world. Weeding my new garden, gathering wildflowers and medicinal herbs, making kitchen medicines and flower essences, or walking the woods with my dogs- these are the practices that nourish me at this time and allow me to feel at ease with unknowing. I will most likely spend a good portion of my summer solstice day in this way, while also creating space for journal work and self-care. I also made a luxurious Rose & Cardamom Milk Math that I will use on solstice night to soothe my tender heart because tender is how I feel at this time. (you can find the recipe below if you want to make it too)
Many of you who know me have reached out of late with questions about my teaching work and what sort of projects I will be focusing on in the next year, and so I will let you know what I know at this time. I will share what I do have clarity on, knowing that more will come clear in the months to come.
I will be teaching less live events in the next couple years, but the ones I do teach will be very intentional. This means some very specific seasonal offerings, and fewer workshops overall. I will continue to do freelance work as a teacher trainer in select teacher training programs, and I will continue to offer my own Advanced Teaching Intensive twice per year, but I will no longer offer private mentoring to new teachers that I have not worked with before. I will always leave space in my calendar to mentor teachers who have trained with me in the past, as offering support is important to me. But these spaces will be limited. I will also be doing less international travel. To be specific I will travel to India this November, and likely one more time in 2018, but that is all. I want to stay closer to home and foster a more regular routine in my life again. I have been traveling and commuting for the past five years, averaging 60-80 nights per year spent in hotel rooms and hundreds of hours driving, flying or riding ferries. I’ve enjoyed many aspects of this, but overall it is quite tiring and makes it harder for me to focus my energy towards the creative work I most want to be doing. I want to devote more time to writing and creating high-quality content for my live and online offerings. I have a number of creative visions I want to bring into reality and in order to do that, I must pull my energy back in other areas. Every year it becomes more and more clear to me that I need a lot of quiet time in order to be creative. Silence is generative for me. As is good company, rich conversation, and working in collaboration with people who inspire me. So when I do offer live events you can expect them to be intimate, and to always place a high value on connection, inspiration and personal experience.
When I teach I want it to feel as if I am sitting in a circle with my students, and that we are all learning from each other. I want my offerings to support others in finding their own way and deepening their own relationship to practice. I don’t have a system or a method or a mission I am trying to promote. I simply want to share in conversation with others of like mind.
I will continue to share all that I have learned to be of value in my own life. The teachings I have received from my teachers and the practices I have made my own through personal experience. I also want to learn from others who are doing the same. In other words, I am interested in fostering communities of learning and sharing, and my offerings will be built around that focus.
As I align myself with this ongoing intention you will see a shift in my work over the next year. Some of you will resonate with this work, and some of you may not. I understand that completely. That is the way it is when your work is creative in nature and deeply bound up in your own personal journey. I have witnessed many of my own teachers go through sea changes in their work, and some of them have continued to have a strong influence in my life, while others have taken different journeys and our pathways have diverged.
I am reminded that there is always a certain tenderness present when moving through transitional periods like this. Some of this may be a grieving for what is passing away, some of it may simply be a rawness that occurs when everything seems new again. I have found that there is great potency in this tenderness. If you too are moving through a transitional space in your life I urge you to stay with the tenderness and lean into it. Life stages, personal relationships, creativity, and learning are rhythmic. They abide by their own cycles and seasons and are governed by their own sense of timing. I have come to understand that wisdom is found in learning how to work with these cycles rather than resist them. How to open our hands and let things fall away when it is time, just as we learn how to make space for new inspiration to arise or harness the creative focus that will bring insight into action. Each season brings its own teachings, and they are all held within each other. In the middle of summer, the promise of winter is encoded within the ripening fruit. In the depth of winter, the light of summer can be felt as a warm ember deep within our own hearts. Remembering this we continue to grow.
I offer you blessings that hold within them the bright beauty of this summer solstice and the quiet peace of this waning moon. I hope that you may find much to celebrate as the sun stands still in its zenith. I pray that you will continue to delight in all that summer has yet to bring forth even as the warm nights begin to shorten. May you remember that change is the only truth there is, and may that remembrance support you in waking up to the beauty of this moment. As it arises, and as it passes away.
Summer Solstice Milk Bath
This luxurious milk bath uses rose oil, which is one of the more precious essential oils. I use precious oils when I want my practice of self-care to include more of a ritual element. This recipe also includes the heady scent of ylang-ylang, the uplifting note of cardamom and the bright note of lime essential oil. If you do not have rose oil (as it is rather expensive) then feel free to substitute with rose geranium, clary sage or your favourite flower oil of choice.
- 2 cups skim milk powder
- 2 cups baking soda
- 1 cup coarse pink Himalayan salt
- 1/4 cup dried rose petals
- 30 drops cardamom essential oil
- 25 drops ylang-ylang essential oil
- 40 drops rose essential oil
- 15-20 drops lime essential oil
Stir the dry powders and salts together and add essential oils, using a fork to break the oils up and mix well into the solids. I recommend adding the lime oil last and adjusting the amount depending on the effect you want. Finally, add your rose petals ( I like to leave some whole and break others up for more color). Store in a glass jar and use for special occasions. Add 1/2 – 3/4 of a cup to a warm bath. Light candles, add rose quartz to the bath, play some music or do anything else that feels good and promotes a sense of sacred self-care. Stay as long as desired and enjoy. This is a perfect practice to enjoy before doing your personal sadhana or after a longer session of journalling. It is also the perfect way to end a full day and drift off to a peaceful sleep.