The Winter Solstice is a beautiful time of duality—at once the darkest day of the year, and also the return of the light. As such, it is liminal space—a threshold between the past and the future—pregnant with potentiality.
Today, I will share with you one of my Earth-centering practices for the Solstice—which serves to ground us in the Earth’s cycles and wisdom.
In the next few days, I’ll outline how I use this to prepare for subsequent, potent reflection on my life and regenerative livelihood.
Years ago, when I was searching for Solstice rituals, I learned about the “Threshold Walk—Nature as Mirror” and I have modified it to do on my own as part of my Solstice practice. It arises from Deep Ecology and Nature Mentoring practices, and surely rooted in Indigenous Wisdom.
I go outdoors, to a place that feels nurturing, and I walk meditatively to ground myself, asking “To what am I called during this cycle? What types of action are appropriate for this phase of my life and livelihood?”
Then I pause and set intention. The intention-setting consists of two parts.
First, I consciously choose a threshold beyond which the Solstice ritual begins—for example, a fork in the path, the beginning of a wooded area; or, in an urban area, it could be the entrance to a park, or simply after three cleansing breaths…
The second aspect is cultivating this mindset: “Once I pass that threshold, I will be looking into mirrors.” I usually do this by walking slowly and mindfully, and when something catches my eye, or my ear, or I smell a scent; I pause and behold that fallen tree, that bird call, that gently moving stream under the ice, or waft of skunk. Without thinking too much, I attune myself to ki*. Then I consciously start to shift my mind to seeing this natural element as a mirror. What does this cluster of black berries reflect to me? What answers to my questions does ki offer? I had the great pleasure of watching a murmuration of raucous crows—what message do kin bring for me? (Please read to the end to learn more about the revolutionary act of using “ki” and “kin” instead of “it” to refer to our Earthly relatives.)
These questions can feel both new and awkward—since they are so uncommon in the industrial growth society, and I often have to take the time to wrestle with those feelings. Sometimes I start thinking too much, trying to “do it right,” and then need to remind myself to return to being receptive. This often takes time, longer that I would like. So it’s important to schedule ample time so that you can settle in. And for the Winter Solstice, dress warmly.
If I don’t receive an insight, I get to practice not being attached to outcomes.
When I am able to receive answers to my questions, I’m flooded with a deep sense of gratitude and kinship, and a feeling of reunion with a Beloved mentor.
During my threshold walks, I learn so much about myself. I return to the Earth and her lessons. I reunite with my living Earth family. I’m always struck by how often thorny or complicated issues that I’ve been grappling for seemingly forever dissolve into clarity.
It is upon this higher wisdom of interconnection that I build my life.
A deep knowing of interconnectedness is the foundation for regenerative right livelihoods.
I’d love to hear about your Solstice practices that nourish your connectedness to our Earth and help you evolve your work. You are invited to share in the comments box below.
*Ki is a pronoun and concept that I learned from Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author of Braiding Sweetgrass. I heard her explain “ki” this interview on my favorite podcast (the link shows the transcript but please do listen to the interview, as her way of speaking will nourish you deeply) and I quote her from this article:
Imagine your grandmother standing at the stove in her apron and someone says, “Look, it is making soup. It has gray hair.” We might snicker at such a mistake; at the same time we recoil. In English, we never refer to a person as “it.” Such a grammatical error would be a profound act of disrespect. “It” robs a person of selfhood and kinship, reducing a person to a thing.
And yet in English, we speak of our beloved Grandmother Earth in exactly that way: as “it.” The language allows no form of respect for the more-than-human beings with whom we share the Earth. In English, a being is either a human or an “it.”…
…But in Anishinaabe and many other indigenous languages, it’s impossible to speak of Sugar Maple as “it.” We use the same words to address all living beings as we do our family. Because they are our family.
Robin goes on to outline that the Anishinaabe word for “beings of the living Earth” would be Bemaadiziiaaki, and that we can use the pronoun from this end of this word.
…“Ki” to signify a being of the living Earth. Not “he” or “she,” but “ki.” So that when we speak of Sugar Maple, we say, “Oh that beautiful tree, ki is giving us sap again this spring.” And we’ll need a plural pronoun, too, for those Earth beings. Let’s make that new pronoun “kin.”