Remembrance & Inquiry: A Meditation For the Winter Solstice Season

“I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.”
~Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, a time of great darkness and short days in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also the beginning of a Mercury Retrograde period. Both these events offer us an opportunity to slow down, and in a way to move backwards in time, before the waxing cycle of the New Year begins. I have always found the dark season of the year to be wonderfully suited to personal reflection & practices of remembrance, and this year making space for this ritual seems even more important.
As the astrologer Chani Nicholas says of Mercury Retrograde and this year end period- ” Mercury’s frequent retrogrades, or underworld journeys, are alchemical in nature. Mercury is the Messenger. Its retrograde journeys ask us to re-think certain aspects of our lives. A life well- lived is one that is frequently reviewed, scoured over and gleaned for the veins of gold that run through it. We have a lot to retrieve. A lot to review. A lot to sort through. 2016 has been a year that has taken much, leaving us with no choice but to muster the courage and soul we need to face the future in front of us.”
One of the practices that has always helped me to “muster the courage and soul” needed to face the great mystery of the future has been to regularly cast my mind back over the cycle that has passed. I do this as a way of re-collecting the lessons and teachings that have been of value in the last year so that they may help me to make sense of the path I am currently treading. Because our path is constantly shifting. Constantly changing, evolving, circling back on itself. When I take the time to pause and gather to me the tools and insights I have received then I am less likely to act in ways that take me away further away from my own centre-point, my own locus.
This is less a practice of gathering information in order to set goals or intentions- practices that can be very helpful when it comes to worldly affairs – but more a practice of clarifying what is most true, or most sacred, in this present moment. In other words I remember in order to better align myself with who I am now, as all my actions and choices going forward will stem from who I am in the present. And of course who I am now is always a reflection of what I have experienced in the days that have passed before. As Kierkegard most famously said ““Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards,”  and so I remember in order to understand my past and more fully inhabit the present moment that is continually unfolding into the forward movement of my life.
A Year End Inquiry Practice
There are many ways in which we can attend to the practice of remembrance in support of clarifying where we are now. I am a huge fan of journalling, and have written about this in the past. If this is your chosen way to reflect here are some inquiry questions that I am currently working with that may spark your own process-

  • Who have my teachers been in this last year?
  • What have been my greatest challenges in the last year?
  • What have been my greatest delights in the last year?
  • What have I lost in the last year? Who or what has passed away from me?
  • What have I received in the last year? What has been been offered to me? 
  • What have been my greatest moments of confusion or suffering?
  • What have been my greatest moments of insight or understanding? 

I recommend taking your time with these questions and allowing yourself to free write, without censorship, before pausing for a few moments of silence and stillness. Allow yourself to sit with it all. Then open up your journal again and ask yourself-

  • What is true now? What do I consider sacred now? What do I value now? 

Write down what comes up in response to this final question and circle the words and phrases that seem most potent to you, that leap off the page. Pay attention to these. For myself these words/phrases often become a sort of mantra, something I can remind myself to continually align with as I move forward, but how you choose to work with any of the insights gleaned from this process is up to you.
Guided Inquiry Meditation Practice
For those of you who would like to explore bringing this into a guided meditation practice I have created one that you can download or stream here. This audio practice can be used to support your journalling practice, or done on its own.

I hope the quiet days of deep winter offer you some measure of peace and joy, and may you walk courageously into the future, and all that it holds for you.