Yule, also known as Winter Solstice, is the longest and darkest night of the year. This is a time to look inward â€” a time to make our peace with the dark of the year. At this time, we gather with loved ones, warming our cold hands over the hearthfire and reflecting on what we truly value in life as we look to the East and await the return of the Sun.
In theory, this is a time of festive celebration and quiet contemplation, pausing after a hectic harvest season to relax, collect our thoughts, and prepare for the coming Spring. This year, however, my Yule has been a little different. Yes, I’ve been turning inward â€” but instead of simply basking in the warmth of my inner fire, I’ve been stoking it.
Samhain, the holiday celebrated at the threshold between October 31 and November 1, is considered by many Neo-Pagans to be the end of the old year and the start of the new. It is the Final Harvest, a time to honor ancestors, harvest what is going well in our lives, and cull what no longer serves us.
The day after Samhain, I decided to start jogging. I didn’t really have a plan at first â€” simply an urge, an impulse, an intuitive desire to follow through on improving my health and fitness. My yoga practice has been a wonderful tool in this process, and I couldn’t have made it this far without it. But it dawned on me that I need to build up my inner fire right now, and I don’t have the strength and flexibility yet to do the forms of yoga most suited for building my inner fire.
And so, as the old year died away, I started to jog.
When I started, I could barely jog at all. I’m not afraid to admit this. The moment I started jogging, I felt stiffness and resistance in my hips and back, and my heart and lungs almost immediately went into overdrive, insisting that I stop this madness immediately. But somehow, I managed to complete a single lap around the block â€” and that was good enough for my first day.
Every day since then, I’ve been jogging once a day. Through the snow, through the rain, I’ve jogged without fail. As one lap turned into two laps, and two laps turned into three, I realized I was onto something. My body warmed; my muscles strengthened; my fascia (connective tissues) started to soften. In essence, my body started to rebuild itself at the cellular level, restructuring my flesh for activity rather than inactivity.
My inner fire is rekindling, and my whole body is transforming in the process.
My goal now is to jog every day for a year and a day, taking a break on any days when I’m too sick or sore to jog. Once a week, I also go to the gym with friends for jogging and weight lifting and some time on the rowing machines. So far, it’s been going well, leading me to believe that if I continue to get plenty of food and rest, I’ll be able to keep up this pace indefinitely.
Of course, this doesn’t take the place of my yoga practice! Yoga is still at the center of my approach to self-healing. This dramatic shift in activity level would probably be tearing me apart if it weren’t for the fact that I’m continuing to go to yoga class once or twice per week and doing more yoga at home on most of my days away from class. The jogging stokes my inner fire, and the yoga allows me to smooth out the kinks and work on the long-term goal of improving my strength, flexibility, and overall body alignment.
So now, 49 days later, I find myself sitting at home on Yule after a day of jogging, walking, talking, working, and philosophizing. My recent focus on rekindling my inner fire has in some way drawn me away from other pursuits in the community, if only temporarily. But as the Sun rests at its lowest point in the sky, and I sink fully into this inner work that lies ahead of me, I’m starting to wonder if I may once again be reaching a turning point.
The celestial turning point we observe at Yule is very subtle. To the naked eye, it may seem at first as if nothing has changed. But ultimately, everything has changed. Nights that were getting longer will soon be getting shorter. The arc of the Sun will soon rise higher and higher in the sky. We still have some of the coldest days of Winter ahead of us â€” but tonight is the darkest night, and our days will only get brighter from this point forward.
This doesn’t mean that we should put too much energy into looking forward. We should be here, now, on the darkest of nights, and sit for a while with the fact that our lives are often shrouded in shadow, buried in cold soil, cloaked in impenetrable mysteries that our conscious mind may never grasp.
But as I sit here in this place â€” a place of doubt, a place of uncertainty, a moment when I wonder if the light outside will ever return â€” I find peace in the silence and the stillness. For even on the coldest, darkest night, there are seeds sleeping in the soil. And even in the dead of winter, there is still life in my flesh, my heart, my soul.
I don’t know what the future holds. Maybe I won’t find the success I’m hoping for, and maybe humanity as a whole will never emerge from the dark night of the soul that we find ourselves in these days. But what I do know is that here, now, in this place, in this moment, I feel a light and a life within me that can never be extinguished, never be killed, never be lost even on the longest, darkest night.
I’ve felt this inner fire in my heart for a long time. But for years, I’ve had trouble bringing it out of the world of spirit and into the world of flesh. Now, with each lap that I run, each asana I perform, each prayer that I pray to my Goddess and God, I feel that fire more fully in my body. This fire is no longer just something that I know, or I see, or I speak about, or feel in my heart. It’s something *I AM* â€” a passion that I live, breathe, eat, sleep, experience in every cell of my body.
Drawing this fire into my body isn’t a simple or easy process. There have already been kinks along the way, and there will surely be more to come. But it’s better to be fully alive in a place of creative chaos than to be trapped forever in an unchanging world of separation between flesh and spirit.
I’m experiencing a great awakening, the full effects of which won’t be outwardly visible for some time to come. If my life path follows the Wheel of the Year, as it sometimes does, then each of the coming Sabbats will bring with it a new stage in this journey.
At Imbolc, some new glimmer of hope will become apparent, even though times still seem dark. At Ostara, something new and colorful will blossom in my life. At Bealtaine, the power of my passion will be readily apparent, a tangible creative force to be reckoned with. At Litha, I will experience the fullness of this new creative force. And over the course of Lughnasadh, Mabon, and Samhain, I will harvest the fruit of this creativity.
Of course, this is all conjecture. Maybe I’ll crash and burn tomorrow, or maybe it’ll take years for me to come closer to achieving my dreams. But today, I feel the power of the moment deep within me, and I have high hopes that this power will become manifest over the course of the remaining seasons of the year.
As the light grows brighter, so will I. As the Sun rises, so will I. As the Wheel of the Year turns, my life will turn around, and I will shine more brightly than I ever have before.
Here’s hoping, eh? If all goes well, my good fortune will be your good fortune. I’ve been keeping my community work to a minimum during this time of inner work â€” but as the seasons change, I hope to have more time, more money, and more energy, both for my own sake and for the service I long to offer to my community.
Hopefully, then, we all have a bountiful harvest to look forward to in the coming months. In the meantime, I am content to sit in the cold, in the dark, stoking the Yule fires through the longest night of the year, stirring the hope that in due time, the light will return.