Winter solstice is approaching with the promise that the dark and cold of winter will end. The turning of the seasons is our creative teacher. For me, winter always feels like a test of my resilience.

Beyond winter, these are testing times. We are all experiencing a stress that is so hard to handle we hardly talk about: the stress of climate change. Climate change is affecting drinking water supplies, the spread of mosquito born illness, ocean levels, coral reefs, ice caps, and our ability to live and grow food while enduring extreme weather. This certainly can feel like a deep descent into darkness.

I focused on building resilience this past week when I led a workshop on developing inner resources for the Great Turning. The term Great Turning comes from Joanna Macy and refers to the movement away from our industrial growth society towards a life-sustaining world. In the spirit of Macy’s work, with the addition of Henry Emmons work on joyful resilience, we focused on our ability to be open-hearted agents of transformation.

When future generations ask us how we saved ourselves from peril–how we accomplished this Great Turning in such a short period of time–we will probably tell them it was because we transformed our sense of who we are and what we are capable of. We will say we tapped into our larger selves, which helped us imagine and create a new society.

Do you feel big? Do you feel open-hearted? Do you feel able not only to survive change but to lead change?

There are three practices that can help you continue to nurture your resilience. They are essentially mindfulness practices that can be practiced many ways. Here is one way you can dance them:

Cultivate awareness and acceptance. When we dance at the upcoming winter solstice, we will attune ourselves to this longest night. We will practice noticing how our steps mimic the patterns of life around us: spirals, waves, and branching trees. By practicing awareness we attune ourselves to the cycles of destruction and creation around us. We notice more about what drains us in life and what gives us energy.

Tap into the transcendent. When we notice the bigger patterns around us, we also realize we are a part of them. Dancing in a circle, sharing a pulse of movement, and following steps that have been danced for generations pull us into our transpersonal selves. With our movements we can become birds, trees, or a mountain breeze. When we feel insufficient and unworthy of the challenges before us, we can draw upon our danced experience of being as big as a village, river, or mountain.

Practice compassion. The more we tap into the transcendent–the more we experience each other as part of a big whole–the more our compassion grows. When we dance, our feet, mind, and hands are joined together through our hearts, like the center of a cross. The more we open our hearts, the stronger connections we have with each other, the earth, and the energy of the dance. The love in our hearts is like a sacred fire that can positively transform all things. We strengthen our hearts so we can wrap them around even the most horrible injustices and transform them with love.

I am so grateful for all of you healers, activists, parents, artists, farmers and dreamers who are attending to, amplifying, and serving the cycle of life. You are the light that shines in the darkness.  You are the light that gives others the courage to shine. Shine on!

Emily Jarrett Hughes