Our Real Work: Jess Ryan, MS

Coaching and consulting. Something's calling. It's your life.

What Happens If You Sit in the Dark


It’s time to slow down. To get still. To get quiet.

This time of year society, our communities, our families often ask us to do more. Shopping, holiday parties, end of the year wrap up. There is a place for all that, but I suggest we need space for, well, space. We need to listen to that internal urge to slow down.

What would happen if you stopped for just a minute to sink into your physical body, to feel your response to your current situation or of what’s being asked of you?

What if, instead of doing more, you did less?

What do you feel when I ask that question? Not how, but what do you feel? Our bodies have so much to tell us, but we need to learn to listen. So think about doing less. Is there an easing of the shoulders, a loosening of the jaw, a sinking in to your seat? Or does your breath get shallow, your foot twitchy, your face warm? If doing less makes you feel anxious or tense, explore that for a minute. Wonder about why.

The solstice gives us a sacred, healing space. I invite you to welcome that healing into your life. I encourage you to make space to get still and quiet. Shut off your shiny devices for a little while. Get out into nature. Set aside time for yourself and this practice.

In a safe space, sit or stand comfortably. Feel your feet or your sitting bones on the ground. Take a deep breath through the nose, down to the belly and up through the chest. Let it out through the mouth with a big sigh. (Do it. I’m not kidding.) Repeat a few times, and then settle into just noticing your breath. In the quiet space you create, you can:

Think back on the year: What was wonderful? What was hard? What changes did you create or face? What are you still beating yourself up about? As part of your reflection, continue to make space for celebration, for grieving, and for forgiveness. Yikes, that’s a lot of big stuff. The solstice is a time to open to those big feelings and changes.

  • If you accomplished something you are proud of, if you made a change that you’re excited about, if you made a hard decision, honor that. Celebrating doesn’t have to mean a party and popping champagne bottles. Choose your own ritual to honor what you have done.
  • Allow space to grieve. Remember loved ones who have died. Allow yourself to feel what is really happening when you think of them, even if it’s sad or angry or complicated. Give yourself permission to grieve things that didn’t work out—the dream that ended, the missed opportunity. Feel it. Let it pass.
  • Take time for forgiveness. Extend your forgiveness to other people and open to self-forgiveness. Sit in this space and show yourself compassion instead of self-shaming.

Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is a way of looking at the world. Gratitude is a mindset that we can all cultivate. Finding gratitude, living gratitude doesn’t mean glossing over what’s hard, but it is finding the good. I tore a tendon in my ankle (what the what?!). For Christmas, I get a sexy leg brace to wear for the next 4 months in an attempt to avoid surgery. On the one hand, it’s hard to get around, and I’m worried about surgery. But I’m actually really grateful, because I should be able to snowshoe and walk at the park once I get my brace. And I hear the Universe loud and clear. I need to slow down.

If you don’t have a gratitude practice, start by noticing what you have, the beauty in the world, small acts of kindness. Say “Thank you.” Write a note. Pay it forward. Little acts—a word, a smile, a hug—spread a lot of light. If you practice gratitude daily, open to gratitude for the year, for this space you’ve created, for what is to come.

Look Forward

Reflecting and looking forward sit hand in hand, as light and darkness do. As you reflect on what has been, it is natural to look ahead to what will or could be. What will you do with intention in the coming year? What isn’t working that you want to change? What transformation are you feeling your energy flowing toward? Sit with these questions. Be willing to live these questions.

Take a deep breath and let yourself sink into this space of here and now. Let yourself sit with the darkness, knowing the sun will shine again – and that the darkness has something to offer too.

Join me for Winter SOULstice, a world-wide healing meditation event Wed, December, 21, 7pm MT/9pmET

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