While I love celebrating Christmas as a season of light and time of spiritual renewal, sometimes the days before and after this sacred holiday can be a bit dark for me. Between the cold, grey weather, honoring my deceased mother’s Dec. 20th birthday and the Dec. 21st Winter Solstice (the longest night of the year), I find myself taking a deep dive into the well of my soul. Often, worries or fears that may have been buried over the past year, slowly begin to surface like ghosts from the past.
I used to cringe with discomfort when these feelings arose. I am an optimist and am blessed with a high “happiness set point” the majority of the time.
But I’ve learned there are many benefits to having tea with my dark side or shadow (a psychological term introduced by Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung that encompasses everything in us that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped and denied; the dark rejected aspects of our being). I could easily justify my melancholy with a long list of socially acceptable woes, but now I don’t even try.
Some of the gifts that have come from dancing with my shadow, include:
• The opportunity to go inward and reflect on where I’ve been; balancing a rich “inner world” with our robust “outer world” is essential to emotional well-being.
• The chance to ask for help; to be reminded we’re interdependent and support is all around us if we just reach out and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
• The gift of contrast: when we experience the opposite of happiness and joy, we are reminded how fleeting all of our emotions are.
• The understanding that contemplation is essential internal housecleaning—we need to clean out the closets and clear away the cobwebs to make space for what’s next.
• A chance to practice mindfulness: surrendering, trusting and knowing that “this too shall pass.”
• The opportunity to ask, “What am I de-pressing that is trying to surface?” My wise brother who navigates a wide spectrum of moods believes feelings of depression arise when we’re de-pressing something that is trying to come to light.
• A ticket to the most unpopular vacation destination known to humanity—“the unknown”—and a chance to realize that’s it not as bad as the brochures lead us to believe.
• An invitation to revisit old stuck patterns and thoughts—repetitive worries or fears—and to ask if we’re ready to let these friends move on and find a new home.
• The realization that if my thinking, perspective or relationships are off-course, I have the choice to re-set my GPS and go a different route. Thank God.
Growing up, I loved attending Christmas Eve midnight mass with my large family. Silently and sleepily, we’d enter the dimly lit sanctuary, inhaling the smell of frankincense.
After communion, we’d wordlessly turn to our neighbors and light one another’s small tapered hand-held candles while quietly singing Silent Night. I loved the symbolism of this act, seeing the dramatic sea of flickering lights and knowing that from the darkness, we would all, eventually, return to the light.
FOUR OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP YOU PRIORITIZE YOUR SELF-CARE:
- Wed. Dec. 21st (Winter Solstice) 6:30-9 p.m. ET (Virtual/live) ~ Still, Dark & Quiet: A Winter Solstice Retreat. Sink in to deep rest on the longest night of the year. Enjoy deep rest Yoga Nidra and more. $49. Learn more/register.
- *NEW* Live in Western NC? Jan. – March ~ Sovereignty: A Women’s Mastermind Group (in-person) for women leaders, teachers, healers, creatives and small business owners. Six Thursday evenings. Brevard, NC. Learn more. Email info at reneetrudeau dot com to receive a pre-invite.
- Jan. 27 – 29th ~ **Filling quickly!** Awakening Your Wild Soul: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, the largest retreat center in North America and my fav (don’t delay; this deeply replenishing, meditative winter retreat always sells out). And, I’ll be back at Kripalu leading this retreat April 14-16 and Oct. 13-15! Learn more.
- Wild Souls Nature Adventures (based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC): authentic movement classes, community song circles, full moon hikes, meditation workshops and more. New offerings are listed each week; have me design a custom experience for your team or friends. Read more and sign up to get notices!
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, Renee has been facilitating high-impact interactive workshops for Fortune 500 companies, national nonprofits/conferences and organizations worldwide for 25 years. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Fast Company, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Yoga Journal, AARP Magazine, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 450 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups based on her pioneering self-care curriculum. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. She and her husband live in Western North Carolina and Austin, Texas; her latest venture is Wild Souls Nature Adventures. More on Renee here.