In the Nine Ki Handbook, Steve Gagne outlines the energetic qualities of the dark of night and cold of the winter solstice that occurs when the previous year ends and a new year prepares to begin. “Winter is a time when we have very little resistance to the natural environment, a time when (traditionally) all creatures settle into a secure and safe place until the forthcoming spring. Nature insists that humans and most other life forms on this planet acquiesce to the harsher conditions of this time. In winter we retreat into our own depths to replenish vital energies. By following this principle one has a great opportunity to reflect.”Self-reflection is one of the most important activities one can pursue in this season of dark and cold. This is a good time to bring the sense organs into a state of reduced activity. The calming of the senses and nervous system is a basic human need that is often overlooked in our digital society where we can be kept busy 24 hours a day. The sage Patanjali recognized that an overstimulated and over activated mind and body can lead to great suffering and recommended the yoga practice of svadhyaya. BKS Iyengar defines svadhyaya as “self study, which is the reflection of one’s own self from the outer sheath of the body moving towards the inner self.” The practice can take the form of reading and reciting sacred texts and prayer, or spending time close to nature. It can also take the form of practicing the yoga asanas. Each time we practice the yoga poses with care and attention we take a journey to an inner world, encountering physical tensions, psychological fears, and even moments of illumination that take us further into a pose and deeper into ourselves. What we can bring back into our lives from this inward journey is a vitality of body, calmness of mind, and a sensitivity to our friends, family, and the natural world around us.Try to surround yourself in a warm and supportive environment, take some time to practice svadhyaya and with that quiet time chart a course for the next year.Quote of the Month

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.From At the Fishhouses – Elizabeth Bishop