These past few days I have been preparing for my silent winter retreat, which will run from Monday to Friday of this week.
I have been visiting friends, buying lots of nice food, sorting presents and cards and happily ticking things off a long list.
The list is now empty. Well, I didn't hoover the house. Every time I tried the electricity went off with the lightning so I ticked it off anyway and when the time is right the hoover will come out and the electricity will stay on - hopefully!
I went on my first Christmas retreat a few years ago. It was at a silent meditation centre in Devon where I had previously worked. This personal (self-lead) retreat-time was one of the most popular of the year there, with people booking their places back in the summer.
I was amazed to see so many people dedicating this time to silence and meditation. On Christmas Day there was still a sense of specialness with an array of lovely food, but it was all contained within silent human presence.
Being with others like this in the winter felt very primordial, very natural. To be quiet as the snow fell and robins and wrens hopped from branch to branch was a relief. Winter seemed to support retreat more than any other time of year.
So what about all the other Christmasey things I love? What about sparkle, twinkle, colour and celebration? What about tinsel, talking and appreciating those wild people who go OTT with their outdoor lighting? Well I have all of that too - I honour both the silence and the music by having the retreat sandwiched between nights out dressing up and dancing.
If there is too much noise then go for walks in nature, have meditation lie-downs, candlelit baths, wee mindfulness breaks, experience cloud watching leaning against a tree, pet animals (if they're smelly you can always wash your hands after!), watch the flames in your fire, stick your tongue out in the rain, breathe in, breathe out...
Whatever your life circumstances, this transitionary time of year is a great opportunity to set the tone of the coming year.
I will be holding you all in my loving-kindness over the next few days as the light grows.