The Hope of Imbolc: Celebrating the Halfway Point of Winter and the Return of the Sun
“…as Imbolc rises, the energy changes. The snowdrops are flowering, the crocuses elbowing their way through the soil. Though the nights are still long and the air is even colder, we know the tides of the year have turned. The sun is rising nearer to the east, there are lambs in the fields on wobbly legs, shaking their tails. If not yet inspired to clean out the kitchen cupboards and repaint the skirting, we are starting to formulate, to create from those plans that have been greatly cooking deep inside. It’s time to consider making tentative first steps.” — Emma Restall Orr
About two weeks ago, I suddenly had this incredible urge to declutter my home. I was sitting on the couch, looking at my surroundings, and thinking about the million-and-a-half things I had to do, when I realized: “I can’t get anything done until I get my house in order.” Now, it wasn’t that my house was particularly messy or disorganized — there was just TOO MUCH STUFF. How did I accumulate so much? Where did it come from? And why now?
Have you ever wanted to take a class or read about something or study for a test, but you couldn’t do it until you got the right binder, the best planner, new pens, a tidy work space, a new computer, etc.? There is something deeply ingrained in the human mind that needs to create a sense of order and space before we can tackle new projects. This behavior repeats itself in the natural flow of the seasons. In wintertime, when the days shorten and the sun remains low, we are not creating space for anything except rest. If we don’t rest, turn inside, and follow these natural rhythms, we become too exhausted, mentally and physically, to tackle anything new when spring comes. And as the Wheel of the Year turns, the days become longer, and the work starts to formulate — that desire to create space emerges.
This time of the year — the midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox — was a time when families and friends would gather together in front of a warm hearth and begin the planning process for the planting season. It was an important and celebrated time. It was and is a HOPEFUL time. Winter is difficult. It’s dark and punishing and seems to go on forever. When people lived off the land, it was also a stressful time, because they worried about having enough food, enough firewood, or enough supplies for the animals. I would argue that these anxieties remain today, but manifest in different forms. We may worry about whether we can make it to work in the snow, if we will have enough money to pay for heat, if we will ever get around to accomplishing our goals.
That is why Imbolc (Feb. 1) is so beautiful. That inner fire starts to reemerge as the sun returns and lingers. We can see the end of the season, and we begin to plan for what’s to come. Wishes, ideas, creative projects, and opportunities all seem to arise out of nowhere. We look around and suddenly get that kick to make space, to plan, to prepare, to HOPE. Our yoga practice also begins to change. It’s not quite time to increase our activity too much, but we can start to create new space in our bodies and hearts. We can clean out the clutter and stagnant energy lingering in our muscles and joints. It’s a great time to work on the lymphatic system, stretch, and salute the sun.
If you’re wondering, I did get my house in order, and soon after, I read about four books, enrolled in new training programs, bought concert tickets, planned a trip, started my tax planning, wrote this blog, and made other work-related commitments for 2017. I’m still in the resting phase, but I know the work is about to begin. And I feel ready.
I also think Feb. 1 is the perfect time to launch a yoga series related to the Wheel of the Year. The work begins on Imbolc. I hope you will join me. 🙂 – Mandi