On the shortest day of the year, I bring the growing crescendo of the end-of-the-year busyness to a halt. I unplug. I light a candle. I spend the day in retreat mode, reflecting on the past year, the present moment, and my hopes and intentions for the coming year. I settle into the darkness of midwinter a little bit more, get cozy with it. Because in that darkness, nascent dreams, unarticulated hopes, and moments of honesty dare to come to the surface in a way that often doesn’t happen in the glaring light and noise of the everyday. As the northern half of the planet begins to turn towards the sun, and we transition into another year, I want to embark on that journey from a place of clarity, honesty, groundedness, and open curiosity. Especially since — from what I can tell — the coming year is going to be a big one for me.
This is my fifth year of engaging in this process, this annual inventory, and it has become a personal tradition that I truly love — and fundamentally feel that I need. It really is very powerful. Each year, before beginning, I read my notes from the previous year’s reflections, and each time I’m astounded by how the insights and intentions and commitments from that time have unfolded and borne fruit, often in unexpected ways.
If you’re interested in exploring this process, I can’t recommend enough the solstice reflection by Christopher Kuntsch, freely available on his website. You may want to edit the guiding questions a little and make them your own, as I’ve done. But the most important thing, I would say, is to give this practice enough time, and a quiet space. Let it take the time it takes… and then re-join your loved ones in celebration. In the evening, my mother-in-law’s house will fill with people and good food and laughter and singing late into the night, and I will emerge from my solitude to join them in celebration of this time of darkness and light.