Longest Night and the Shadow Self
I like to think of the winter solstice as the Earth's recognition of her own shadow self. A time when she tilts her axis away from the sun to allow the darkness to overcome the light, an astronomical sign that welcomes the season of being within. The winter solstice not only marks the official beginning to winter, but also the longest night. It has been recognized in many cultural mythologies and traditions, even dating back to Neolithic times. The Neolithic sights of Newgrange in Ireland and Stonehenge in England both have primary axes that point to the winter solstice sunrise and winter solstice sunset (respectively). The last feast was celebrated before the famine of deep winter set in. Themes of death and rebirth are interwoven into the tapestry of this time and it is no wonder that the start of the new year is not far away.
The dark night of winter solstice makes me reflect on the dark that is within. Most of us leave the dark side of ourselves alone, like a child fearing what's under the bed at night and not risking a peek. I mean it's in the dark for a reason right? Bringing it to light would mean acknowledging its presence and maybe even having to share it with others. Shadow is formed very early in our lives and I think can even be brought forward from other lives. It contains parts of ourselves denied by others or even by ourselves. Just brushing up against the shadow we may feel the shame, fear, hurt or anger that swirls within. But often times light work and shadow work go hand in hand on the authentic spiritual path. Part of the process necessarily involves reclaiming the power you have given to any other person to hold an opinion that means more to you than the truths of your own heart (Alanna Fairchild)!
The shadow represents blocks that need to be met with love and understanding and a gentleness to contain it all. It is only then that we allow the flow of light that is needed to shine brightly enough to release the block and move forward. We long as beings to expand, to grow more fully into who we are meant to be, to honor the amazing creative potential we all possess. Clearing stagnant energy from our systems takes courage and strength, but is a beautiful testament to our inherent power. We all have this power!
I have been using essential oils and crystals to help in my shadow work. They help hold a pure vibration to assist going within and acknowledging what lies hidden and where it originated. Once you fully name it, you will find the light has already started to form cracks in the dark. Hope. That is the light of hope. I really do believe that when we are ready to do shadow work, we will not be given more than we can handle. It is a process, sometimes a chipping away, that is where the gentleness resides.
Black Spruce is one essential oil I find helpful and it smells divine, like a walk at night through the forest. It brings mental clarity and has an immediate grounding effect.
The Lakotas used spruce to strengthen their ability to communicate with the Great Spirit so it makes sense it would help us communicate with ourselves on a deeper level. It is distilled from the needles which provide respiration for the whole tree, no wonder this oil resonates with the respiratory system! So take a deep breath, you won't regret it!
Spruce is rich in monoterpenes and is anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and antiseptic. Add some drops to your favorite carrier oil and rub into tired sore muscles or diffuse into the air this time of year to help as an airborne disinfectant. Just placing a drop or two into your palms and inhaling before meditation can deepen your practice. I recommend Young Living's Northern Lights Black Spruce (www.youngliving.com) or Stillpoint Aromatic's Black Spruce (www.stillpointaromatics.com).
The next essential oil I love to use is cinnamon leaf. Energetically it helps invoke memories and when you are willing to go within, memories can help lead the way. I want to take a moment and distinguish between cinnamon leaf and cinnamon bark essential oil. The leaf oil is what is typically used for diffusing and topical use while the bark is typically used for internal use (only directed by a qualified practitioner please). You definitely want to avoid undiluted application of the bark oil as it can be a strong irritant to the skin.
I know at this point having read the word cinnamon several times, you are imaging yourself curled up on the couch under a blanket with a cup of something hot. That is the aroma of cinnamon, comforting, warming and uplifting.
The oil of the leaf is rich in phenols, especially eugenol which is responsible for its fragrance and makes it a potent antiviral, anti fungal and broad spectrum antibacterial. Note: there is some research that suggests cinnamon leaf oil has anti-clotting properties so please use at your discretion.
Cinnamon has been used for thousands of years in the East for a variety of conditions including colds, flu, digestive problems and kidney troubles. In Traditional Chinese Medicine cinnamon is an incredibly powerful tonic, stimulating vital life force. When used for shadow work I recommend diffusing several drops to warm the air with its pleasant scent before meditating or doing yoga.
The final essential oil I recommend is helichrysum, one of my favorites. It is also known as immortelle which makes me love it even more. It is derived from the Greek words helios meaning sun and chrysos meaning gold, referring to its numerous clusters of tiny yellow flowers. This oil invokes a healing presence that reminds me of receiving a handpicked bouquet by someone I love. It is gentle but penetrating and my go-to oil for bruises. No wonder it offers its beautiful support in releasing trauma.
It has been used in herbal medicine since Ancient Greece (Holmes). The oil is rich in esters which account for the direct relaxing effect on the nervous system. Having an amazing affinity for the skin, it is a perfect oil to use for bruises, wounds, and inflamed skin conditions. In shadow work, I reach for helichrysum for its tranquility and the ability to soothe the release that comes up. I rub a drop or two over my solar plexus (3rd chakra located a couple inches above navel) or take a sniff from the bottle.
As for crystals, rose quartz is great to use along with helichrysum when releasing traumas. It has an affinity for the heart and its soft loving energy calms the mind. A stone I have just started working with and find fascinating is astrophyllite. It is an uncommon stone first found in 1854 on Laven Island in Norway. The stone I have is mainly black with flashes of blue, silver, browns and golds in it. It makes me feel like a galaxy is contained within. Others can be mainly gold and brown with flashes of blue and silver. Astrophyllite can direct light into the darkest recesses of our being to allow us to perceive and understand our shadow self (Feels Crystals and Jewelry). When meditating with it, I find I can go deeper and my energy clears easier. It first came to me in a reading and was connected to radical rebirth, a phoenix rising from the ashes. I knew I had to get my hands on one and haven't been disappointed.
Whether you use essential oils or crystals to assist in this work, I strongly encourage you to find what tools work for you. Find yourself a healer, therapist, use yoga, meditation or spend time in nature. Whenever you do things that lift your spirit and make you feel more grounded and centered, you are increasing the light within. If you want to explore this more with me in a healing session, you can contact me at 970-402-6753 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be honored to hold a sacred healing space for you and energy is not affected by space or time so the healing work I do can be done distantly too!