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How to experience a spiritual December (even if you're not religious)

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The last days of the year are the perfect time to focus on what's going on inside of you. These are the days to look for depth, inspiration and new things. But how to do that if you’re not religious?

The last weeks of the year are a time of extremes. On the one hand, there’s the darkness that makes you yearn for silence, peace and slowing down. You become more and more aware that the year is ending. On the other hand, there’s the Christmas parties, the family get togethers and the to-do’s –at home and at the job- that we would like to tick before the new year starts.

Experience holy days

How tempting is it to be in ‘action mode’ all the time during the last weeks of the year? And how pleasant would that be? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being active, but by constantly doing things you risk missing the wealth of the period that’s lying in front of you. Originally, they are holy days, there’s a reason why we call them holidays.

The return of the light

Long before Christianity made its entrance, the time between December 24 to January 6 was regarded as magical. German and Celtic people celebrated midwinter, after the winter solstice on December 21. The celebration sometimes took eleven days and twelve nights. After the shortest day, they celebrated the victory of light on darkness. In a time without artificial light, people had no other option but wait faithfully for the return of the light and the lengthening of the days. 

The seasons appear through us

Nowadays, the natural elements hardly have an impact on our daily lives. The influence of the seasons, however, is tangible for many people, even if it is unconsciously. In his (Dutch) book about I Tjing, Jaap Voigt remembers readers about how we’re all part of nature. ‘There’s an ongoing life stream, that’s always existent; that can take hold of us and that we can choose to listen to,’ he writes. ‘The seasons appear, as it were, through us. (…) And our physical and mental state is an expression of the seasons.’

December 21: yin at its peak

Voigt uses an energetic division of seasons, based on the ancient wisdom of the I Tjing. By being aware of this natural rhythm, and living and working by it, you create more balance in your life. Winter, for instance, that starts on November 6 and ends on 4 February according to the energetic calendar, is the time of retiring and becoming silent. On December 21, it’s at its peak, and the influence of the yin energy is the most tangible. 

Exercise: reviewing your plans

Take some time, before Christmas starts, to reflect on your diary for the next two weeks. Oftentimes, we tend to plan lots of dates, fun activities and chores in the days between Christmas and New Year’s. It turns out that in reality, it’s hard to do all of that. That’s no wonder, if you realize that the energy of this time asks for silence, rest and reflection. If you need to, cancel a few appointments or postpone them into the new year. It will only enable you to enjoy the activities you will do this week more.

Text: Janita Naaijer - Photo: Josh Boot