ANd Just like that…its 2022

…and just like that, our calendar shows the last page. And just like that, our brightest star and center of our galaxy plays its yearly performance and brings us one brand new event: Winter Solstice 2021.

Numbers are simply numbers to many of us, but to those who have spent every waking hour devoted to understanding the meaning of numbers, this particular Winter Solstice contains some unprecedented characteristic. You see to the

THE WINTER SOLSTICE IS A SPECIAL TIME FOR THOSE WHO HONOR AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE PATTERNS OF OUR NATURAL WORLD.

On this day, the sun is at its lowest point in the sky, traveling across the sky and a world above us in a short stride, resulting in the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  

The winter solstice is an event that has been observed for millennia by many of our Indigenous ancestors. For Indigenous people across the globe, the world and all its elements, is a source of teachings about natural and universal laws. In understanding the interconnectedness of all things, we recognize that the cosmos– the sun, moon, stars, and other planets– affect us and connect us in undeniable ways.

While some Tribal Nations have traditionally held special ceremonies during celestial events like the winter and summer solstices, others may have simpler ways of observing these moments.  Some Tribal Nations have maintained teachings around solstice time, while others may be seeking to revive the teachings, practices and ceremonies that were forcibly taken from us.  

As a window into darkness, the winter solstice is an opportunity to go inward with deep intention, to care for our spiritual selves, our bodies and minds, our loved ones and families, our animals, plants, water, and to prepare for the longer days ahead. 

THE WINTER SOLSTICE FALLS ON DECEMBER 21 THIS YEAR.

In the spirit of self-care, community care, accessing our ancestral memory and our most powerful selves, here are 14 different ways that you and your loved ones can spend this  winter solstice in observance of a natural phenomenon that comes only once a year.  Take what works for you from this list, and if possible, consult with elders and your own traditional teachings for guidance on the best ways to acknowledge this event and deepen your spiritual connection during this time. SARAH SUNSHINE MANNING Shoshone-Paiute

Sarah Sunshine Manning, NDN Collective Director of Communications, is a citizen of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Idaho and Nevada, and Chippewa-Cree of Rocky Boy, Montana. Manning directs NDN Collective’s communications strategy and impact. She also serves as producer of the NDN Podcast While Indigenous and as editor of the NDN blog. Manning has Bachelor’s degrees in American Indian Studies, Social Science-History, and licensure in Secondary Education. She has a Master’s degree in journalism and mass communication. The selected points from Professor Sunshine Manning are a great way to honor Earth, Sun and Self.

1.  TAKE THE DAY OFF OF WORK OR JUST SLOW DOWN AND REST

Whether you have to pull a full or double shift on winter solstice day, or if you have the day off already, set aside time to just, be. No guilt. No intrusive thoughts about what needs to get done. Set down your electronic devices and smart phones and be present, be in the moment. And if you have children, partners, friends or loved ones (of any species!), spend that quality time together and totally unplugged from technology. 

2.  COOK AND SHARE A HEALTHY, COMFORTING MEAL WITH someone 

As Indigenous people of the Earth, kinship is what has always held us together. Sharing space and time to cook, eat, and nourish our bodies and our loved ones’ bodies through the preparation of healthy meals is both physical, communal and spiritual. Seek out traditional and clean foods to prepare or cook your favorite recipe from a loved one!

3.  REFLECT ON THE PAST YEAR

Take time to reflect on the highs and even lows of the past year. Acknowledge and celebrate your growth, your resilience, your strength and the blessings you may have overlooked. And last but not least, let go of what doesn’t serve you in order to create space for the positive ahead of you in the coming year. Make amends with others if you need to and set yourself up for new possibilities, new friendships and deepened connections.

4.  GIVE THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR BLESSINGS

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what isn’t working for us, what didn’t happen for us in the past year or loss we may have endured. But the fact that we are all still here, breathing and living right now, is evidence of so many blessings. Start with the small things, like, clean air, a warm space to be in, your physical abilities, the gift of your intelligence and creativity. Recount these things in your mind, in a prayer or meditation, or even write them down on a piece of paper. There is no limit to how long this gratitude list can be! And in fact, the longer the list the better. 

5. CLEAN AND HONOR YOUR LIVING SPACE BY DECLUTTERING 

Our homes are the sacred spaces where so many important things happen.  We rest in our homes, we eat in our homes. We gather, commune, and even raise children in our homes.  Creating a sacred space in your home sets you and your family up for success each day. Create an atmosphere on solstice day that allows you to just be present in your home and to focus on the things that nourish and inspire you.  This might mean getting a lot of the heavy lifting-type cleaning done in the days leading up to solstice day. 

6. SHOW THE PEOPLE WHO YOU CARE FOR THAT YOU APPRECIATE THEM 

This could be as simple as a written card, a text message, a phone call or a home visit. You can show up for them with a favor, a simple gift, or just with your presence. Not only express your gratitude for them and the ways they have brought value and nourishment to your life, but ask genuine questions about how they are doing, and be an attentive and compassionate listener. 

7. CHANNEL YOUR CREATIVE ENERGY THROUGH ARTS, CRAFTS AND EXERCISING YOUR IMAGINATION

One of the most powerful gifts that we all have, is the gift of our creative thoughts. We are born with creativity, and we exercise this daily with our thoughts and actions, actively co-creating the world around us. We are ALL creatives in some way!  Channel your creativity by dreaming up something new, by making something with your hands and your mind, and savor the process. Sew, bead, paint, write, cook, design, change the layout of your bedroom or living room, and even strategize movements. The possibilities are endless! 

8. DRINK NATURAL AND MEDICINAL TEAS

Our natural world is rich with medicines, for both body, mind and spirit, and our ancestors knew the power of drinking medicinal teas. If possible, prepare and drink teas from your or other Indigenous homelands. Drink tea with loved ones. Pray over your tea, pray to the root and plant nations, to ancestors, and to the water, and know that you are activating medicine on a cellular and even generational level. 

My personal ritual for today: I will join a couple of hundred, perhaps thousand of people around the globe and unify the light points of the Earth. She is worth it!

Happy Everything. Happy Solstice. Happy New Beginnings.

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