Maia Toll
There’s something about the dark that lets us find our deepest truths.

As the nights get longer, I find myself whispering dreams and knowings, letting them surface in the gentle dark. Things which can’t yet bear the light of day, can find their way to the surface of my being where I can begin the tentative work of exploring and holding and breathing them in.

I’ve always loved and celebrated these darkest nights.

When I lived in Beacon, NY, just a short walk from the Hudson River, I would hold a solstice vigil every year.

There were fairy lights on the porch, holly adorning the doorways, and the mingled scents of soup and baking bread wafting from the kitchen. I lived on a quiet street with few lights, so the house became a twinkling and magical space, a boat we boarded to carry us from one sun cycle into the next.

It was always an unusual gathering, quiet and contemplative. We spoke in hushed tones and somehow, together, drew into our deepest hearts.

Inside the house there was only candlelight and, in the center of the living room, a huge slab of bluestone dragged in from the garden. Once that massive slab settled on the living room floor it became both altar and fireplace, the center we gathered around. Perched on pillows and wrapped in blankets, we’d share our stories from the year past; each lighting a candle and sticking it to the huge stone as our turn came to speak.

In ancient times it was believed that the year died as the sun set before the longest night. The new year was born when the sun arose the next day. In between was a void, an interstitial time.

So as the old year unwound and we entered the dark cave of the night, we would write down what we wanted to release from the year past. These papers were burned, sending the things written on them to ash and dust.

We sat up all night, awaiting the dawn, awaiting the birth of the new year, which we greeted with ruckus cheers and kitchen-drums made from pots and wooden spoons. Then it was the 84 Diner for breakfast, where we set our intentions for the year to come.

The Winter Solstice season is a time to do our inner-work. Click To Tweet

And it is a season: while the astronomical solstice happens at a specific time, there’s about a ten day period, five days on either side of the moment on the solstice, when we are in the energetic stillness of the solstice.

For the past two weeks (if you did homework from step #3 of the darkest nights guide post) you’ve been noticing things that don’t serve you, friendships that don’t work, thoughts that bring you down. You’ve noticed the piles on your desk, the laundry stacked on your dresser, the dead flowers in the garden that need to be cut-back.

What comes after the noticing?

Setting the energy for the year to come!

Step #1:  Do the physical work. Spend some time cleaning, straightening, and organizing. As you clean your bathroom, clean thoughts from your mind that don’t serve. As you straighten your living room, nudge your thoughts into clarity and alignment. As you organize your office, put structure on your life so that in the year to come you have space and time for dreaming and creating.

Step #2:  Write down everything you don’t want to take into the new year. You don’t need to over think this. Just get it down on paper and out of your body. You can let it burn now or save it for Solstice night.

Burning Tips:  A fire pit or grill is great for this. I’ve also used a kitchen skillet (not one with non-stick coating) set on the pavers of my back porch. An abalone shell is a magical choice because the inside stays pearly and soot-free when you burn in it.

The plant world can lend assistance to your burning ritual:

White Sage or Garden Sage for cleansing and clearing old patterns.

Frankincense and Myrrh for peaceful death of all that doesn’t serve our highest good and the highest good of the planet.

Work through the whole Guide to the Darkest Nights here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.