Stop. Sit down. Take a breath. Then take another. And another.
How does it feel to slow down?
Winter is naturally a time of slowing down, of healing, of rest. Winter asks us to reflect, go inward, and trust the fruits of our efforts reaped during the other seasons. I imagine in winter you feel more tired than usual, and perhaps even heavy or weighty.
This is natural, good and needed.
I also imagine you have felt resistance or guilt in feeling the pull of rest -- I know I have. Our culture tells us this story time and time again: we need to be productive in order to be considered worthy additions to society. It implies that rest is not needed, and if we do need to tend to ourselves, there are implicit restrictions.
How many of you have refused to call out sick for a mental health day because it isn’t a visible ailment? Worked on vacation time? Busted your ass, felt on top of the world, then got sick for 3 weeks straight and felt shame, or guilt?
Here’s the truth: we need a balance of both work and rest. We need that earthy 'being' energy just as much as we need that fiery ‘doing’ energy. The world we live in today (patriarchal & capitalist) values the 'doing' energy much more than the 'being' or restful energy, and as a result, it is easy to get caught up in a seemingly endless cycle of burnout. We have been taught that resting is for the weak or sick and have internalized that belief, resulting in a need to do do do all the time or…..risk losing our sense of worth.
Despite what the world has continued to drill into us, this is not how human beings are meant to exist.
Let’s backtrack a little so I can explain. These energies I’m talking about are referred to as masculine and feminine, though they have nothing to do with gender. They represent qualities of the universe at large, that each of us hold within. These energies are depicted in the yin/yang symbol, an image you might be familiar with:
These energies are parts of the same whole. They cannot exist without each other -- each creates a space for the other to exist, and each also exists within the other. The universe is their dance and this same dance exists in our bodies and souls.
I have put a brief description of each empowered energy below, but know these are by no means an exhaustive list of qualities:
Masculine energy is stable and focused, and embraces structure. There is a sense of clarity- one can see a clear path laid out in front of them. This energy is protective, assertive, and takes direct action. Go-getter goal setters, if you will. This energy feels linear: life goes from A to B to C. The masculine creates a container, creates structure for its world, and likes to be in control. It is the sun- fiery and uplifting.
Feminine energy is dynamic and flowing, the uncontained air. Irrational, unrestricted and guided by intuition. Both the knowing and the unknown inside us all, feminine energy works outside the box of logic to open up new possibilities. This is the flow of creation and abundance. Feminine energy is unafraid to delve into shadow and knows that death is as essential to life as birth, or rebirth. It is circular: never-ending, always beginning. It is ease, rest, darkness, the moon.
To help us understand why masculine energy is prioritized in society, let’s look at a brief (VERY brief) timeline of the patriarchy:
Many thousands and thousands of years ago, when human civilizations first began, they were communities that worshipped the Great Mother and saw power as being derived from nature. Many of these were matriarchal societies, deeply respectful and devoted to honoring the cyclical nature of life. Communities worshipped a diverse set of gods and goddesses, many of them emerging from the natural world. This went on for quite some time. Like, a very long time. Thousands and thousands and thousands of years. Then, approximately 4-6ish thousand years ago, things started to shift. Sun gods across cultures started to eclipse the Great Mother. God as the Father became more popular, polytheism shifted to monotheism in many cultures to support that paternity shift, and a hierarchical structure (power over) started to form. Paternity was made central, and this was the beginning of the patriarchy as we know it.
(Again, this was a brief, BRIEF overview of the history, and if you are interested I recommend you do some additional reading and research! This shift also happened to different mythologies & cultures in different ways, and it’s always worth diving deeper into the specifics).
Now the patriarchy, just like the matriarchy that came before it, is a social structure, and it’s important to note there was no inciting incident to spur it on, merely human development (probably helped along by the spread of capitalism). I mention all of this because it is important to learn about our roots, about the people who came before our time and learn from them. We went from a society that was deeply connected with both feminine and masculine energy to a society that drove the feminine underground, elevated the masculine, and asked us to live energetically imbalanced lives without even knowing it.
Now, thousands of years into this patriarchal way of living, we as a culture are feeling the effects.
We have internalized valuing masculine energy more than feminine.
This internalized valuation can disempower both energies. Almost every day I fight the urge to do more or prove my worth through what I can produce or how much I can get done. I have struggled for years to end my cycles of burnout. This pandemic was telling me to rest and it took me a frickin’ YEAR to absorb that message fully. That is masculine energy in excess. What I want to offer is the possibility of union -- the empowered feminine and masculine energy within each of us, balanced and moving us forward with clarity on this nonlinear path.
I am right there with you, working on embracing the feminine aspects of life a little more. Here are some things that I’ve been yielding to more this winter:
Not setting an alarm on days I don’t need to be up at a certain time.
Lying in bed (I call this ‘taking a rest’) or napping
Yin and restorative yoga
Free movement // free singing
Baths or long delicious showers
Asking for support
Winter may be coming to a close, but there is no better time than now to start shifting into more balanced energy, if that’s what you need. I encourage you to get curious about how these energies manifest in your life.
You do not need to fill your days. Your production does not determine your worth.
You can rest.
We are in a time of destruction, of chaos, of the dark feminine. She is making herself known and I wonder, what will come next? What is being destroyed and what will take its place?
Enjoy these final days of winter friends, and embrace the mystery.