Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Solstice reveries and reflection - Day 21

Day 21 (Thursday 21st December 2017)
21 December is the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. 
It is known as the Winter Solstice and is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight 
for the whole year. The word comes from the Latin "sol" for "sun" and "sistere"
meaning "to stand still". In folklore, today was a traditional day to bring sprigs of
holly and ivy (symbols of masculinity and femininity respectively) to the home, both being 
evergreen they acted as a talisman and reminder that the leaves and crops would return. 
Holly was viewed as protective - evil spirits would get trapped in the branches of the tree.
At the Solstice the Oak and Holly Kings would fight, with Oak winning to rule until the Summer 
Solstice. In the Middle Ages unmarried women used to tie a sprig of holly to their beds to
ward off evil spirits. Ivy was seen as symbolising peace because of its ability
to link and bind two different plants together.
After today I am on holiday until the start of 2018. I will be driving down to my mother and sister's tonight, to ensure that all is OK for them over the Christmas period. Today's gem is written by Kate Jones, the founder of Inspired Lives a company that specialises in facilitating individual and organisational transformation based in Manchester. Kate is a superb coach. She and I first met in real life when she was exhibiting her business at the CIPD's annual conference a few years ago, we got chatting and a friendship was formed. Kate is highly intuitive and sensitive to the needs of others, whilst also being commercial and highly organised. She has a flair for understanding people (and not just because she has studied psychology). Kate commenced her career as a lawyer and spent time in professional services, consulting, media and financial services before founding her own business in 2000. She is the former in-house European General Counsel and General Secretary for Kellogg's and has many Blue Chip organisations on her CV. I love catching up with her via Twitter (her handle is @Inspired_Lives - she provides intelligent insight and much appreciated cheer. It is a pleasure having her as a contributor to this year's Advent Blogs series. 


21 December The Solstice – In the northern hemisphere this is our shortest day. With nature dormant all around us this is a good time for us also to be still, quiet and rest. Consciously notice and appreciate the returning light and the energy of rebirth. Focus on renewing our inner light. What will it take to turn that spark into a flame?

In the southern hemisphere the sun is at its fullest and highest. In the peak of expansiveness we are reminded that from here on the days begin to draw in. 

Embrace the season. Wherever you are today
‘Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.’ Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862).

Engage with the ebb and flow of the season exactly as it is where you are. Align with its pace, work with its metaphors. Enjoy what it feels like to be in tune with, rather than resisting, the patterns of Nature around you.

At Inspired Lives we use the Winter/Summer Solstices to retreat and reflect.

‘Take a rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop’ - Ovid

Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to STOP and say “No, not now”. Whether in our personal or business life it takes a certain steeliness to withdraw when chaos surrounds us. Time is of the essence when it comes to decision making and all manner of stakeholders are looking to us for answers or direction. The urge to please, rescue or solve a problem, can drive us to make a decision before we are ready, have all the pertinent facts, have asked all the questions, researched the options and taken time to look for another/different way.

And yet, what is the price of not doing this? Those who are used to making time for a retreat know that they cannot afford not to.

The definition of retreat includes ‘an act of withdrawing, to reconsider’.  Retreating, stepping back or away from a situation, set of circumstances or habitual way of being gives time to distinguish between what is true and what is false, what is real and what is fiction - a distortion born out of fear, reflex (unconscious automatic) responses, assumptions, partial information or even unconscious bias and hidden agendas.

Taking stock of where we are allows us to appreciate subtleties, uncover the roots of the challenges we are facing, review alternative perspectives and discover wider possibilities. Consciously allowing time and space for reflection helps us find a calmness and centredness that will bring clarity and insight.

Traditionally the calendar year end is a time for reflection; the beginning of a new year, a time for refocusing and re-engaging commitment to action. Taking time out to do this is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Any leadership role or senior management position is highly visible, with great expectations of positive impact both from the organisation and from the individual her/himself. High profile and high stakes in a constantly changing economic environment are likely to be pressurised and stressful. It is also an incredibly exciting and creative challenge, full of potential and possibility.

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