Fallow times are when our ancestors would set the fields to rest and bring in the harvest. Fallow days are winter days. They are action-less times when we don’t achieve anything in particular. These are times to work less, or not at all. Fallow times are opportunities to contemplate, go within, and to rest in the shadow.
We certainly have had opportunities to understand about shadow, going within, and personal introspection this year. These internal shadow qualities are now amplified through the movements of our planets and the sun at the Winter Solstice. We are dependent on the natural rhythms and elements of the Earth. Our Western, imperialistic, colonizing, white supremacy culture, has emphasized removing ourselves from the natural elements and organic rhythms, destroying Indigenous cultures and almost everything in the natural world. To be still, to honor the darker days, and to not achieve goes entirely against our capitalist culture. However, these natural rhythms and elements are essential for our physical and mental well-being. Our very Earth needs us to embrace quiet reflection.
I am a yoga teacher, and in yoga there is a lot of discussion about the importance of light, bringing our bodies to lightness, finding the spiritual light, even wearing white to encourage this light connection. But we do this at the expense of the richness of shadow. How can we find the light at all if we do not contrast it with the shadow? I find in my own experiences that my shadow times bring me greater nourishment. From the shadow, I can discover my rich roots.
We need to reconnect with these primal rhythms, and the Winter Solstice is a perfect time to relearn this connection.
These shadow months are a reminder of the relationship to our inner darkness. There is something in the winter that is primal, mysterious, and utterly irreplaceable. We need the darkness as much as we need the light and heat of summer. These days remind us that there is a light and life at the center of darkness. It is our essential nature. The inner darkness brings us to unconscious realms where healing and new life being. We must die, in a sense, to our old ways in order to reborn. This dark fallow time allows us to arrive at deeper levels of understanding and perception.
Practice connecting to this darker natural rhythm in creative journal work. Begin by writing a list of shadow words. Use words that inspire your senses. Can you list shadow words for sight, sound, touch, smell, taste? Any other words that come to mind are also welcome. Then, write a short poem about the shadow and darkness, perhaps inspired by your time inside this year and what it has changed for you.
Other simple practices
- Light a candle instead of turning on the florescent overhead lights.
- Candle gaze—the yogic practice of “Trataka”—light a candle and observe the flickering flame and the shadows on the wall.
- Sit in the dark. Listen to the sounds around you, and the sounds within.
- Take some time off (however it is possible for you). Start by saying no to some obligations. Honoring these fallow times of darkness is essential to reconnecting to our lost natural rhythms.
Recipe: Chaga Chai
Drinking a hot beverage while sitting in front of a candle light might encourage you to connect to your inner shadow realm of inspiration and dreams. Chaga is a type of mushroom that grows on birch trees. It is usually found in colder, darker climates. The part of the mushroom that is harvested grows like a dark burn scar or burl. Chaga appears black because it has a high melanin content. It has many strong medicinal properties and has a mild rich flavor.
1 Tbsp Chaga mushroom (powdered or crumbled)
1 tsp of Reishi Powder (another medicinal mushroom that pairs well with Chaga)
1 Tbsp cardamon, freshly ground
3 Tbsp cinnamon chips
2 anise star pods
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 inch chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp dried dandelion root
Gently grind spices in a mortar and pestle for about a minute. Add spices, chaga, and dandelion to the about 6 cups of water, boil for 30 minutes. Strain herbs. Flavor with your choice of mylk and sweetener (I prefer cashew mylk and a couple of teaspoons of maple syrup).
Also by Angie: Adaptogenic Holiday Dream Latte
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Photo: Angie Follensbee-Hall