• Jane Kenington

Rituals, Darkness and other stuff

I have been reflecting on life of late. Something I feel we should all do from time to time but certainly when a life change knocks on the door, steps in and unpacks its bags; whether it was invited or not! This year has certainly given us some huge life changes; totally uninvited, so some big-time reflection going on here!

I was talking to a client about ‘self-care’ over the holiday period. ‘Self-care’ is such an abstract concept for so many of us. What is ‘self-care’? What does it even look like when all we have seen is harshness and neglect? We talked about the little things that bring joy – like watching the birds on the feeder, walking around the park, reading a good book and having a pot of tea – and how hugely important these little things are when living with fear and chaos. These ‘little things’ ground us in the moment and show us the beauty in life even when we really don’t feel there is any.

This got me thinking about Ritual.

A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a set place in a set order. They are usually associated with religious groups but, actually, as long as we bring our mindful attention to what we are doing, we can create ritual out of our daily actions.

One of my most favourite things to do is to sit, wrapped in a blanket, with a good book and a pot of tea. I have an amazing tea cosy from Denmark. It has a clip fastener like a handbag; carry handles and a solid base so I can fill up my tea pot and then carry it into the living room, unclip it, pour my tea and then put it back into its warm cosy nest, where it waits, patiently, until I am ready for my next cup. This has become a ritual for me. It is a sequence of actions in a set order. I am mindful when I do it; I move slowly and with intent and I relish the comfort that giving time and attention to myself brings. I do this now every Sunday afternoon. It is my Sunday afternoon ritual and it helps me feel restored and loved.

It occurred to me that in order to care for ourselves; give ourselves love and attention, we can purposefully create ritual from the things that bring us joy – walking in the park each day, drinking morning coffee in the garden, listening to a podcast, watching a favourite tv programme – as long as we do it mindfully and with intent, we can comfort ourselves with these actions. And whilst comfort is very much needed just now; it is also something we need to give ourselves every day. More so if we never received it before.

Today is the Winter Solstice. The day in the Northern Hemisphere where the daylight is shortest, and the dark night is longest. It is a day of ritual. If we should so desire.

I love the winter solstice. For me, it is the day I can celebrate the return of the light. It is the shortest day, so for all days thereafter, the light gets longer and longer. It is the point where I go within for the winter. I sit with the darkness, safe in the knowledge that the light is coming back. It is the time when we are called to go within, rest, sleep, reflect. Many find this calling a scary thing, fearing the emotions and memories stored in the dark caves within us; fearing the small child who is curled up inside us. But we need to go within in order to find the light. And the light is there. It does come. Winter is a gift. We resist it and shop and party and work but this winter, especially, is a reminder to do what our bodies naturally need and rest.

I celebrate this time by lighting candles and leaving them burning all day. I light a fire if I can. It is my symbolic welcoming of the light. I try to witness either the sunrise or the sunset (usually the sunset!) and I write reflections of what I am laying to rest in this dark winter part of the year, before I prepare to welcome in the new year with all its hope and possibility. I do this every year. It has become my ritual. I look back over the year at what I have learned and experienced and I set intentions for the year ahead. With compassion for myself. This year, 2020, I had all sorts of exciting intentions which were halted by the pandemic. Even so, my overall intention was for a love filled year and I feel, on reflection, there have been so many incidences of love. Maybe not the way I imagined or wanted, but nevertheless, they’ve been there.

And so, this is my invitation to you on this, the shortest day; the longest night - what ritual can you create for yourself in order to show yourself just that little bit of love and affection? What brings you joy; no matter how small? Can you allow yourself to have that moment and hold it closely and treasure it? Can you see the light from within the darkness? Can you rest and sit with the darkness; safely held as the light returns? Let me know how you get on.

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