Thoughts on the Solstice

The importance of pacing ourselves and taking time to pause.

by Helena Dolny

A few nights ago, my phone buzzed, it was a message from my daughter…”Step outside and look east… Big Orange Moon!”

If it weren’t for that message, I would have missed that beautiful sighting.

The experience made me ask, how is it that we live with ourselves on this earth? Are we in touch with its rhythms? How can we be more mindful of the seasonal patterns and moon cycles?

Today, 21 June, celebrates the June solstice, marking the longest day north of the equator and the shortest day in the south.

Around the world our ancestors lived in sync with the seasons and the solstices. Using these times of year as turning points, creating opportunities for pause, festivity and ritual.

Pacing Ourselves

Many people tell me they are experiencing mid-year fatigue. An acquaintance confessed that last Saturday they fell asleep at the wheel – who knows for how many seconds – but long enough to find themselves in the lane of oncoming traffic – luckily there was no oncoming traffic!

Perhaps we can learn from our ancestors about the importance of pacing ourselves, of taking time to pause. Can we plan a year that has ‘time out’ days, mini-holidays, and rituals that that support our well-being?

Taking Time to Pause

The School of Lost Borders, in California, runs a Death as a Rite of Passage retreat. The retreat places emphasis on the need to embrace winter as a time of slowness, hibernation, and death, before the emerging warmth and rejuvenation of the next season.

During my time at the retreat, the guides requested that we take a walk and find natural objects – objects that had died, or were dying (bones, lichen, feathers, leave). We were asked to reflect on death as part of life, to revisit our earliest memories of death, to recall how people around us had spoken (or not) about death, and how these experiences had shaped us. Later, back at the campsite, a talking stick was passed around, and people shared their memories.

  • “My mum reversed the car, drove over my dog, and just said, never mind we’ll buy another one.”
  • “My grandmother died. I loved her, was close to her. I wanted to see her. They wouldn’t let me – they wouldn’t even let me go to the funeral.”
  • “My mother was dying in hospital, I wanted to visit her. How old are you the nurse asked? Thirteen, I answered. Ah but you are too young. It’s not allowed”

Perhaps we can take today’s solstice, as a moment to pause and reflect on how we can engage with family and friends in ways that encourage us to be more at ease with death.

By taking some time to observe our own memories and beliefs, how can we choose to reshape how we see death and how we influence others?