Yesterday was the summer solstice; the longest day of the year and the shortest night. Increasingly I'm aware of the nature's seasons and wanting to connect with them and so took some time to mark festival that pagans refer to as Litha. In more ancient cultures, the solstice was a time to light fires and celebrate the power of the sun and all that has grown that year. It was also a time of reflection, as hereafter, the nights start to lengthen incrementally into winter.
There were some great photos in the press of people at Stonehenge, Glastonbury Tor and Avebury welcoming the rising sun; I would have joined them had I not had kids to ferry and a job to go to! I would have joined them because there is something amazing about marking the turning of the seasons with a bunch of other people doing the same thing; it increased the focus and energy of the experience and, of course, it is fun to have people to talk to and share with.
I had invited a couple of people to my back garden last night, but neither could make it so I went ahead and celebrated the solstice myself. I did yoga on the grass and watched the dew form. I lit a bonfire and, with my note book and fountain pen, I settled down by the fire to reflect on the year so far since the winter solstice on 21st December.
- I started my reflection by halving my sheet of paper and listing all that I have lost on one side, and all that I had gained on the other.
I have missed opportunities this year; I didn't go to the London Book Fair. I have also tried things out and realized they either didn't work or weren't for me; the early morning yoga sessions locally just didn't take off, I haven't found an agent and I didn't enjoy some of the work I was doing and so have declined that contract for the next academic year, in spite of the ever present voice in my head which has opinions about status and money!
There have been endings in my family; my eldest son has just left school and there have been some significant endings for me. I went to a funeral on the winter solstice and interment of the ashes in early spring. One of my coaches has retired, my supervisor left the country and a really, old and much loved friend has dropped out of contact without explanation or communication which I have found very painful.
- What or who have you lost?
- What has ended?
- What didn't work out?
- What didn't flourish in the way you thought it might?
- What have you let drop or not had enough time or energy to focus on?
The losses are more than balanced by what has flourished for me this year. I've done some great things, from watching Liverpool play with the kids and another family to going on community holidays and catching up with friends. I've helped set up a re-union of old colleagues which was a night of love and laughter and I have caught up with friends from where I used to live over 20 years ago.
I have learned loads; about everything from yoga and meditation to mental health, autism and suicide prevention. I have been on writing days, found a new supervisor and am excited to learn from him, and have started to run yoga sessions in one of the places I work which has been a delight.
I have supported the other members of my family into the next phases of their lives, new jobs, drum lessons, college and I have had more time with my dad.
New income streams have developed. The well-being days are getting great feedback and I've been privileged to work with a number of new coaching clients.
Crucially, my health has been great this year in contrast to last year when the menopause was creating chaos and I trapped a nerve in my shoulder.
Consider the following areas of your life: family, health, work, friends, money, opportunities, activities, habits, and anything else you want to add to that list, and ask yourself the following questions:
- What has come to fruition?
- What has grown but is not quite in bloom? How does it need tending to flourish?
- What do you have to be grateful for?
- What can you celebrate?
- Who do you appreciate?
Once I had listed my losses and gains randomly, I started to group them into themes. My losses fell into two categories; people I had lost and work which hadn't grown.
I had many more gains and just noticing this was a pleasure. When I grouped them I found they fell under the headings of; holidays/activities, learning, new income streams and reconnecting with old friends.
I was surprised at just how many trainings and courses I have done so far this year, because I attend them one at a time, I just hadn't seen the bigger picture of all that I have learned. I was also surprised and pleased to see how many old friends I have caught up with after too many years and still found the connections to be as exhilarating and meaningful as before.
There was a gap in my gains I noticed; I have only written one new creative piece this year so far. I have edited previous work but I have only written one long short story or novella and that still needs a good deal of work. This time last year I was deeply into the process of writing Into The Woods and so initially I felt a little sad that I have written so little this year. And then I had a word with myself because actually, I have been blogging here and on my own site, I have written the well-being days and I have written a few times for Psychologies Magazine as well as having some more work in the pipeline with them (thank you!).
Then I reflected that last year was like a year of exhaling, breathing out all that I had learned about domestic abuse for Into the Woods. This year feels more like an inhale. I'm learning loads about yoga, well-being and mental health and I am interviewing women who live differently for a new book. There is a balance that I hadn't noticed.
- Group your losses and gains
- What are your patterns?
- What surprises you?
- What is missing?
- What meaning do you make of what you see?
Then I asked myself what seeds I had planted and how they were growing.
Some of my seeds are well developed shoots of new life now such as the well-being days and yoga. Some won't bloom until later in the summer such as the workshop/community holiday I am co-facilitating for families. Some have only just been planted like the story about a character who is currently called Rootsy and a coaching process for menopausal women which only sprouted this week.
- What seeds have you planted?
- What are in full bloom?
- Which are strong, health shoots set to thrive,
- Which are tender shoots?
- Which are still dormant?
- What do they each need to help them thrive?
As well as seeds, I noticed I have rocks in my life. Julian who does my website whenever I need him to no job is too big or too small. Then there's Mark my accountant who I absolutely trust, Kate my editor who is brutal and supportive, Ceri and Richard my yoga teachers, Allison my coach, and then there is Clare who I can rely on to walk the dogs when I can't, Andy does my car, Jen who does the most amazing massages and sound healing and then of course, my partner and friends.
Noticing that I had all these rocks in place makes me feel so secure and safe knowing that I have people I can rely on, trust and respect in my life. I also noticed that there are a couple of 'rock roles' still vacant which has given my a focus to start looking for people to fill them.
- Who are your rocks?
- What do they give you?
- Do you have any 'rock roles' still vacant? How can you fill them?
Then, knowing what seeds I have planted this year and what rocks I have in place to support me, I asked myself what I wanted to flourish, what I wanted to focus on growing.
Before the winter solstice I would really love to see my son settle into his next phase of life and for our relationship to have adjusted to that in a really positive way.
I want to continue to build on the re-connections with old friends by visiting more and getting the next reunion underway. I want to continue to build on the success of the well-being days and I want to deepen my yoga practice and teaching.
I'm going to continue to enter my fiction for competitions and re-commit to my blogging. I want to deepen my knowledge and skills in mental health to further support coaching clients and I want to write more stories.
The seeds have been planted for the coaching and well-being, but I need to re-structure my time a little to give myself more writing time.
- What do you want to flourish so you can harvest fruits before the winter solstice?
- What do you need to do to give those things the best chance of growing?
Finally, I ended by listing all the things I am grateful for; my health, my rocks, my friends and family, the people I have worked for and with, the opportunities which have come my way. I really appreciate the people who champion my work and spread the word about it. I really appreciate working with such amazing people whether as coaching clients or in schools. My health is good, my kids are safe and well and my garden is in full bloom and beautiful. I am very lucky.
- What do you have to be grateful for?
- Who do you want to appreciate?
- What are you proud of yourself for?
Ritual and reflection
These ancient festivals of solstice and equinox, of season change and phases of life, help root me in nature, recognizing my own waxing and waning, inhaling and exhaling, shedding and growing, blooming and dying. The only permanent thing really is change and for me, these moments in the year help me live more consciously and appreciatively, living a life that I choose rather than one which just happens to me.
Solstice greetings to you.
P.S. If you've enjoyed this blog and the coaching questions you might like my book Love Being Me which has many more. Sign up to receive the opening chapters and their coaching questions for free here.