This years’ winter solstice falls on Wednesday December 21st at 2:45 am PST, when the Sun reaches its southern most declination in its orbit at the Tropic of Capricorn and we experience the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. For thousands of years all over the world the winter solstice has been celebrated by many different names in many different countries and cultures. Some examples are: Saturnalia in ancient Rome, Yule in northern Europe, the Dongzhi Festival in China, Yalda in Iran, Korochun in Slavic countries, and Blue Christmas in Christian countries, just to name a few. The celebrations all have common themes—people getting together to share food, drink, gifts, songs, and stories. Our modern celebration of Christmas has much in common with these ancient festivals. At the winter solstice it’s dark and cold and our physical energy tends to be lower than usual. Some of us suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) due to a lack of sunlight and are prone to depression at this time of year. So we gather together with family and friends to soak up some warmth and affection, to share good food and spirits and thoughtful gifts. It’s a challenging time of the year both physically and psychologically for many of us. The upside is that when we are surrounded by darkness we have lots of incentive for spiritual practice—for seeking the light within us. It’s easy to go off the rails a bit this time of year with so much holiday hubbub, and to neglect our sadhana at the time when we need it the most. I just returned from my annual week long sabbatical in Maui. Typically at this time of year I’m running on fumes and greatly in need of some rest and rejuvenation. A few years ago my wife initiated this tradition when she got tired of seeing me dragging my weary ass around the house and booked me a trip to Maui. It worked like a charm and I’ve convinced her that it’s something I need to do every year. I spent the last week doing as little as possible—practicing yoga, going to the beach, reading, hanging out with friends, going to the movies, eating well, surrounding myself with beauty, and sleeping. My flight home last night arrived at midnight and I walked through my front door at 1:15am. By the time I got to sleep it was 2:30, only to be awakened by my alarm at 5:45 so I could go back to work and teach two yoga classes. I was hoping to walk into the studio glowing with health and rejuvenation, but under the circumstances I failed to pull it off very convincingly. I had a good nap this afternoon, however, and hope for a good nights’ sleep so I can do a little better tomorrow. Happy holidays everyone! Give your selves the gifts of kindness, compassion, generosity, and love this week and you will naturally do the same with others.