“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”~ Mahatama Gandhi
Winter. The days are short and night begins early, lasting long before dawn. There is stillness, space for solitude, withdrawal from activity. We watch for flurries and snowflakes, enjoy the awe evoked by softness, so quiet. There is mystery in beholding one dancing amongst hundreds of others, a hypnotic rhythm in which the one merges into the many arousing a trance state to lose and find one spinning starry snowflake. Winter wonder, land at rest. Ice bejewels bare limbs, encases twigs, encapsulates apples in crystal globes where they remain leftover from season past. There’s not a whole lot to feast the eyes on, no sensory overload in color, scent, or sound, less to perceive outside while still, plenty. At this time of year there is space to be inside, inward with all that came before, incubating toward renewal.
Winter. Wind. Rain. Snow. Beating down outside on the crust, within which the earth gestates in darkness. Dissolution. The year begins brightly, bursting open full of hopeful energy, innocence and trust, wheeling round and culminating where Winter waits: the domain of Baba Yaga, Kronos, Old Man Winter, Mother Holle. They sit ready with cauldron and spoon, mortar and pestle, prepared to do the work of bringing out essence by means of obstacle, challenge, and determination; how we chose to respond becomes the source of how we’ll change as the wheel continues turning.
Winter Solstice. Convergence heralding the Sun’s imminent return, celebrated cross culturally for centuries in numerous ways that are interesting to explore. Long nights offer dark space to discover what waits hiding; our shining light illuminates it. Deep nights give room to seeing in the dark, to converse with shadow; redirecting ourselves toward amplification of what shines true from within us. Shaking ourselves free, we awaken to dream and restory, dancing into the next cycle with grace, guidance, and inspiration after gathering in revelry and conversing with gratitude.
“May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.”
What you need:: Imagination, magazines, notebook, pen, and art supplies (read about them here). Candles, music, tea, and company, as well as any other additions you dream up for your space to be creatively in are optional.
Questions to ruminate and respond to in your notebook by way of jotting down what comes up . . .
Imagine::walking through piles of snow at night, basket of goodies in hand, you’re going to visit Granny for a ceremony by fire light. You’ve been preparing for a while, excitement fueling your sojourn. Only, when you arrive, there’s a wolf awaiting wearing Granny’s face though it’s leaner and longer and fiercer and stronger, snapping at you and ripping away your expectant anticipations. She crooks a claw and smiles a savage smile, and you realize there’s no woodcutter coming to your rescue! You also realize, there’s no wolf wearing Granny’s face::the wolf is Granny, and Granny is the wolf . . . .
What is that thing in the darkness, hidden behind the veil, which you fear? The one that you don’t know whether you or anyone else can rescue you from? The thing that follows you around, lurking behind trees, dogging your steps? When you are attentive to the things that generate a constricted, tight feeling inside you, can you identify them clearly? Are they within the scope of your focus and ability to change, or outside your control? Are you able to surrender and accept that there are certain things that make you uncomfortable yet they coexist in the universe with you or do you resist and fight them, striving to axe them down in order to be with sweet loving Granny minus her Wolf?
What does your inner Wolf look like? What triggers it into showing itself? How has it been of use to you? Have you faced situations where your inner Wolf leaped out in order to protect and honor your boundaries? What necessary boundaries to you have that serve and support your well-being? Are you able to walk with others while remembering what you need to honor your own wellness?
When was the last time you were kind? When was the last time you judged another, judged yourself? Review how you felt, when judging others, and when judging yourself. Did your energy levels increase? Did you feel enabled, empowered, ennobled by it? What did it lead to? How and what have you served others this year?
“A tree with a bitter seed
Fed with butter and sugar
Will still bear a fruit.
From it, you will taste no sweetness.”
~ Abu Shukur of Balkh
Imagine::you desire to catch fish and set out fishing. You cast your line with baited hook and sit and sit and sit waiting for a bite. You do this for days, weeks, months, the desire to catch fish strong, yet with every passing attempt you return home empty handed and disappointed. While sitting, do you reel in your line and check to see whether the hook still has a worm on it? Do you adjust where you cast the line? Do you move to a different spot and fish there, or do you just continue doing the same thing repeatedly hoping that you’ll catch fish without adjusting yourself at all?
Are you able to hold a clear vision of what you desire ahead of you while simultaneously being unattached to the process or the result? When you have awkward experiences what attitude do you hold? Do you find anything useful in the awkwardness? When one door closes what comes through the other door that opens? What are you persistent about and give your all to? When things don’t go how you want them to, do you keep going with the same approach or do you reset your aim, ask different questions, rebait your hook, move downstream a little?
Imagine::shaking out all your stuff, the good the bad the nonsense . . . now that it’s all out there in the open, what will you recycle? Release? What lessons have you learned that may need recycling now? Have there been instances that were blessings in disguise even when they didn’t feel that way in the experience? Jot down 3 cases of being shaken up and shaken out that had an unexpected result.
What resolutions are you willing to make as commitments to yourself that reset your intent in order to live creatively, engaged, inspired, and with gratitude despite or even due to the challenges and obstacles that you may face, that may be what shape your face? What gifts and blessings do you have that enable and empower you?
Tired of Speaking Sweetly
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
~From ‘The Gift’ by Daniel Ladinsky
When possible, begin the creative process around Winter Solstice or a new winter moon and play with it ending at full moon. Should you pause and let it rest a spell, return to it on another new moon, attuning with the waxing moon to illuminate and arouse clarity with what showed up for you before proceeding.
Imagine:: pristine freshly fallen snow outside, a feeling of timeless wonder, glittering stars from a white downy blanket covering the earth below in darkness, above a place for angels to spread their wings and play, rosy cheeks flushed, sparkles in the eyes and air, inside a crackling fire and steaming mugs of coffee . . .
now flip through the magazines and pull out images that hold the energy of the darkness below; representing the shaken moments, the uncomfortable ones, the submerged ones, the fearful ones, the triggers, the wolves lurking in nooks and crannies, wearing the face of kindly grannies. Simultaneously pull out images that represent the wonder, the blessings, the gifts, the resolutions, the redirection and rectification, the enabling transformations that all coexist with, possibly because of, their opposing counterparts.
Carry on, or go for a brisk walk, move, resume after a day or longer. Remember this is your creative process; engage at a pace that feels right to you.
With a few colors prepare your wintery environment. While it’s drying, bring images gathered that represent all those scary, frightening, and disturbing elements to where winter waits and arrange them until they show a visual story that faces you facing it. Use as many or as few as you feel like. Glue them down.
Listen and observe for a theme or elements in the collage that present themselves. Is there opportunity showing itself in what holds difficulty? In what appears discordant, do you hear harmonic notes? You may want to leave the collage as it is, and give time to contemplating with it, exploring the content it contains via poetry or jotting down ideas and thoughts that show up, or continue working creatively with it. There are a couple of suggestions below to choose from for continuing to play with Winter or wait, listen for what your picture has to say, observe where it’s leading, and create your own unique follow through in paint . . .
One way is to glue the other pictures, the antidote ones, over top of this collage as a visualization of what came out of and was transformed by the below.
Another way is to create an entirely oppositional collage with the other images, two separate entities to contemplate.
And a third way is fill the cracks with images so they change the collage by their addition side by side.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” ~C.G. Jung
Below is a slideshow if my process.