Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tools for Winter

So, you’ve done your year-end rituals. You’ve done your Winter Solstice exercises--acknowledged your accomplishments and burned your list of what you want to get rid of in your life. You’ve done your Annual Review. You’re even willing to Hug the Dark.

Now what?

Skeleton Crew

I’m not talking about Halloween or Day of the Dead. I’m suggesting that your winter have a skeleton or backbone of regular activities that anchor you in your cave months of self-reflection. These three months are about being rather than doing. Even if you work full-time, coming and going to these rituals will help you stay in sync with the Season of Slowing Down.

Rituals are vital. They give rhythm and music to our days. They are signposts of where we are in our 24-hour journey. They offer us the familiarity and comfort of sameness that the rest of life rarely holds.

While I am talking about ritual as any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner (, most of the other definitions have religious overtones and refer to repetitive spiritual ceremony. When our rituals become praying without ceasing, they evolve into something more than touchstones in a world with constantly ticking clocks. You don’t have to be serious or work at making them so. It just happens through conscious repetition.

Ritual also allows us to  make the rite itself a mantra.  We let go of ourselves in the repetition, so that inspiration and spirit can break through to us.

The following are some tools for winter that will enrich your “down time.” Don’t try to do them all, any more than you’d fix a loose faucet with the entire toolbox. Choose which tools work best for your season of introspection and reunion with your Inner You.

Start Your Day Off Rite

Open your day with a reading that inspires you. Whether it’s Daily Word, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance, or any one in a million sites you can access online for your morning spiritual communion, this practice will change the course of your day. It gears your mind in a positive, healing, holistic direction as early as possible after your feet hit the floor. One of my favorite winter practices is to read Love Is Letting Go of Fear by Jerry Jampolsky. This is tantamount to the Cliff’s Notes version of A Course in Miracles. It will absolutely change the way you see your world and open a window to let love in. It’s especially a good choice for anyone who is grieving, angry, or is otherwise hurting.

Some of my favorite online stops for a morning cup of positive thinking include:

Inspire Me Today
Quote Garden
Spirited Woman Blog
Inspiration on Beliefnet
Daily Affirmations with Dr. Wayne Dyer

Keep a Dream Journal

I’ve written so much about dreams on my Writer Joyce Mason website, I’m referring you there for everything you’ll need to know to explore the free guidance you have available daily in your night movies. No subscription or rental fees!

Take a Short Walk in the Fresh Air

Even when it’s frosty, there’s nothing like contact with the outside world. You might not want to take a mile hike in a snowstorm, but contact with the elements has an invigorating and grounding effect. It reminds us we’re part of the changing weather and basic substances that make up life itself. (Read the
Four Element series for more on this subject.) While it’s boosting your circulation, that short walk will stretch your legs if you’re computer-bound and allow you to let step out of any mental ruts you’ve been digging. A walk freshens your thinking, as long as you allow each step to be a journey back into your body and out of your mind. It’s good to be out of our minds for awhile each day!


It doesn’t matter what form or how you do it. Meditation has major benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. If you’re like me, you probably know that down to your toes but still have a hard time doing it on a regular basis. We complicate things. All you have to do is sit for 10-20 minutes, let go of your mind chatter as much as possible, and let inspiration—spirit—come in. This practice boosts creativity and your ability to handle life’s ups-and-downs in a centered, easygoing way. Yet we still struggle with it. Meditation is a bit of winter all 365 days a year. Is 2010 the year you’ll commit to it?

My first spiritual teacher always said that praying is talking to God; meditation is listening to what God has to say. However you perceive a Higher Power, hone your listening skills! Imagine: We have this inner guidance at our fingertips, but we just won’t make time to open our palms and let it in. If you “go within” during winter, by the time the natural New Year occurs at Spring Equinox, you’ll know your goals and have the sap-rising energy to achieve them.


People talk about summer beach reading, but reflective winter is the perfect time to drink in some of those more thoughtful reads like self-help or spiritual books. Just for fun, I thought I’d look at the top five books on Amazon in both of those categories for you to consider as possible winter reading picks:

Self-Help. (1) The Power of Self-Coaching by Joseph J. Luciani, (2) When Am I Going to Be Happy? by Penelope Russianoff, (3) Get Out of Your Own Way by Mark Goulston and Phlilip Goldberg, (4) Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing: The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need by Gloria Arenson, and (5) 50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life by Tom Butler-Bowdon.

Inspirational. (1) Everyday Blessings: 365 Days of Inspirational Thoughts by Max Lucado, (2) Daily OM by Madisyn Taylor, (3) Remember Who You Are: Life Stories That Inspire the Heart and Mind by Daisy Wademan, Kim Clark, and Rosabeth Moss Kanter, (4) I Am With You Always: A Treasury of Inspirational Quotations, Poems and Prayers by Douglas Bloch, and (5) How to Succeed in the Game of Life: 34 Interviews with the World's Greatest Coaches by Christian Klemash.

Listen to the Quiet

If you’re not accustomed to a house where the TV, music, or chattering people aren't a constant blare, try it. You might like it! I feel blessed to be married to someone who also likes the beauty of silence. I can hear myself think and hear Spirit whispering directions. Do not underestimate the importance of alone time and silence.  They are essential to cool insights all year long!


Walnut—and Other Flower Essences

Maybe you wondered about the illustration for this post. Is winter a “tough nut to crack?” Maybe in some ways, yes--but this is really a visual pun on why we might need a nutcracker to carry over from the Christmas ballet.

When I trained as a
flower essence practitioner, one of the enduring things I learned about the flower remedy, Walnut, is how the anatomy of a Walnut itself explains how these particular drops work to free us from limiting influences and encourage us to make healthy transitions and follow our own path. What a wonderful remedy for the New Year!

Now, onto the anatomy of a walnut. Crack one, and you’ll notice it has two lobes in separate chambers divided by a membrane—just like the human brain. A cracked walnut may as well be a miniature human brain model. This flower remedy helps us integrate both sides of our brain and break mental patterns that hold us back from the radical changes sometimes needed to move forward.

If you resonate to this idea, visit your local health food store for a bottle of Walnut or wherever flower remedies are sold locally. The primary brands are Bach Remedies or Healing Herbs. Buy an empty dosage bottle, too. Fill the dosage bottle with approximately one-fourth preservative (brandy or apple cider vinegar), three-fourths spring water, and 2-4 drops of Walnut. (Let your intuition guide you on dosage.) Take this mixture, 4 drops, 4 times a day under your tongue, especially at the threshold times of sleeping and waking. Take it for 3-4 weeks. You’ll know when it’s time to stop. You’ll consistently forget to take it-- a tap on the shoulder from your intuition that you’re ready to move on. Review your relationship to change over those few weeks. Comment, if you will, and share with us how it went!

In fact, let us know how you fare with any of these tools and share any faves not mentioned. Happy Inner Journey!

Affirmation: New Year, New Decade, new me becoming all that I am!


Note: Information about flower essences is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment. Readers need to decide for themselves on the quality and effectiveness of flower remedies.

Celebrate Epiphany, Jan. 6th! Epiphany is this blog’s feast day. Revisit the post Epiphanies—and follow your star!


Eileen Williams said...

I always tell you, Joyce, that you get me to thinking in new ways. That belief is no exaggeration and this post is no exception! I love your ideas on connecting with the seasons at the deepest level and aligning our body's biorhythms with those of our Mother Earth. What a way to honor both our SELVES and our natural connection with all of nature.
I'm taking your list and using it as a template for my own winter cave dwelling. Reflection and renewal are a necessary part of life and now is the time to turn inward. We are conserving our energy so that it can burst forth, full force, in a rainbow of spring blossoms.

Joyce Mason said...

As ever, Eileen, I am so grateful for your beautiful feedback--especially your poetic conclusion!