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Finding Rest in the Darkness of Winter

I watched the sunrise this morning. I try to do this most winter mornings, even if it’s only a couple minutes pause, standing by my front window, noticing the particular colours or patterns emerging in the sky as the darkness gives way to light. Often, I will call my kids to come see too, to help instill that delight and awe in these momentary moments of wonder. The darkness of winter is a hard season for many. The absence of light in these shortened days, and our hurried schedules often result in an increase in feelings of sadness and fatigue. Coupled with the push in the new year to set goals, increase healthy habits, and push for more, can cause a feeling of burnout and disappointment that’s hard to put a finger on or label.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a good goal setting session and putting routine of growth in place, but there is something to learn from the rest that this season calls us to.  

Less not More

The beauty of the sunrise, a little earlier every morning until the summer solstice, brings hope in the midst of the dark days. The darkness is also a reminder to slow our pace, find rest in this season, and embrace the way of winter.  Honor the darkness that will give way to the light in the coming months. These seasonal shifts are wonderful opportunities to pause and evaluate patterns and things in our lives that often operate on autopilot. It can be a time to take inspiration from the natural world, where all turns inward: trees have long shed their leaves, and growth has paused, small and large insects and animals take the cue to hibernate and find warmth within dark spaces. What would it look like to also take this darkness as an opportunity to do less and find deep rest? To replenish our internal world through practices of silence, renewal, and rest.

In our world of frenetic production and fast paced living, this means a turning away from the compulsion to do more, produce more, achieve more, and control more. It means slowing down, taking time for reflection, and being open to receiving the gift of stillness and rest. It means setting aside our desire for more, and instead embrace the concept of less

What to do with less

Embracing less can often bring with it an unease at first, the stillness seems deafening, the tasks that are left undone pulling at the corners of your mind. It’s good to acknowledge these feelings and can even be helpful to write them down. But remember the purpose of the stillness: a re-centering and re-set for your soul. Entering the stillness and embracing the concept of less can bring a different sense of purpose; not the frenetic one that the new year and its resolutions often bring, but a deeper sense of knowledge of your place in this dark season. Day Schildkret in his book Hello Goodbye, encourages making a ritual of the seasons’ solstice. Using the cycle of the seasons to engage in a renewal of the body and mind. As you seek to embrace the concept of doing less this winter season, a ritual that might help is to meet the darkness in the morning by finding a quiet space in your home, lighting a candle, then asking questions such as:

What needs replenishment within me?

What does the darkness of winter teach about trust in uncertainty?

Why is it important to let things (and you) rest?

Use a journal to jot down your thoughts and ponderings, to be able to revisit in the coming weeks as you continue to journey in the darkness of winter, giving way to the light. 

Finally, use a series of deep breaths in and out to re-center yourself and your body in the rest and stillness, using phrases like “Finding rest…. for my soul” or “ I release ….. _________”, “ I embrace… __________”. 

And take the final moments to watch the beauty of the sunrise slowly bringing back the light. 


Schildkret, D.(2023). Hello, goodbye: 75 rituals for times of loss, celebration, and change. Simon Element. 

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