Tag Archives: Gift

Deep Water – The Midwinter Solstice

deep waterToday marks the Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere. It is the shortest day of the year; how short depends on how far you are from the Equator. Where I live near Adelaide there are 9 hours 48 minutes of daylight and 14 hours 12 minutes of darkness. From tomorrow the days begin to get longer and the nights shorter.

In the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice coincides with the celebration of Christmas which became conflated with previous pagan festivals that commemorated the depths of winter. Ancient stone circles such as Stonehenge were aligned to mark the winter and summer solstices, indicating the profound significance of these days. And in the Scandinavian and Germanic cultures the midwinter festival of Yule honoured the gods in order to protect the people from starvation through the depth of winter to come.

These days there are few at risk of starvation, but the observance of the deep winter continues strongly in the northern hemisphere where Christmastide contains within it the Yuletide of old. There is a celebration of the light within the darkness in the Yule log and  Christmas tree lights. There is an echo of the winter slaughter of animals and brewing of ale in the form of Christmas feasting. And there is the tribute to the power of the tribe in the gathering of friends and family on Christmas Day.

Yet here in the Australia, we are bereft of a celebration of winter. Our Christmas Day comes at the opposite end of the year, when the days are long and the temperatures high. How can we celebrate the depth of winter? Some people have inaugurated their own ‘Christmas in July’ as a way of reconnecting to this winter spirit.

In the Five Element model, the Winter Solstice is the seasonal manifestation of the Water Element. Water represents the deepest yin: dark, cold, moist, withdrawing, self-reflective. If we can align ourselves with these qualities at this time of year, we connect with the power of yin. The more we can go to these deep places within, the more we have access the gifts of Water: Knowing, Potential, Power, Stillness, Trust, Wisdom and Will.

Our culture is not very supportive of yin. And here in the southern hemisphere we don’t have a festival to celebrate the aspects of yin. So we need to create or own personal commemoration of the Winter Solstice. Over the next days, I invite you to spend more time resting, meditating, contemplating. Sit quietly by the fire; light the  room with candles; take solitary walks in nature; tuck up in bed early. Plumb the depths of your own Water within. Cultivating your yin qualities at this time of year will provide you with the resources and the resilience to sustain you through the yang half of the year which begins in spring.

winter solstice


The Gifts of an Element represent the essential goodness of the Element, its deepest nature. One of the greatest Gifts of the Earth Element, whose season of Late Summer we are now traversing, is altruism.

Selfless GivingAltruism is the highest form of giving. It is not simply giving to another in need but also includes a selfless concern for their well-being. It often involves some kind of sacrifice on the part of the giver, a sacrifice of energy, time or possessions, without any thought of receiving anything in return, either directly or indirectly. There is no expectation of recognition, gratitude or even a subtle desire to feel good about the giving.

Interestingly, when a person takes an altruistic action, it does feel good. Neurobiologists have found that when people placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated pleasure centres in a primitive part of the brain that also lights up in response to food or sex. Even when the altruistic action is done with no expectation of reward, there is a pleasurable sensation.

Philanthropy is the concern for others which arises out of love for humanity and which has come to be associated with charitable giving. Altruism goes further in that it includes unselfishness. At its highest, there is actual selflessness, a lack of self. In this state, the giver has no sense of himself as a separate individual but rather as a part of the infinite web of manifestation. There is no sense of giving from one to another because there is no separation. No gift, no giver.

This brings to mind Lao Tzu’s thoughts on the subject:

The Master stays behind;
That is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
That is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself
She is perfectly fulfilled.

The ego is inherently selfish and self-serving. When there is no ego self, there is no selfishness. There is no self-centred action because there is no self there to act. Therefore, the way to true altruism is through disengagement from this false self and engagement with the True Self, which is not a separate individual but a manifestation of the Infinite. Then, fulfilment is not in the doing but in simply being.

• What are your motives for giving?
• What is the most altruistic thing you have done?

Book cover


This is an extract from my forthcoming book The Way of the Five Seasons. Publication by Singing Dragon Press March 21st 2016. For more information and to pre-order click here


We take a pause in our examination of acu-points to consider one of the Gifts of the Metal Element. The Gifts convey the essential goodness, the deepest nature of the Elements. These qualities touch the parts of us that are the higher expressions of our soul. They connect with those places where beauty touches us and where art and music find their landing places within us. I invite you to explore the Metal quality of acceptance within yourself.


AcceptanceIn psychological terms acceptance means assenting to the reality of a situation without attempting to change it, protest against it or run away from it. This does not mean that we like the situation or give whole-hearted support to it, but there is an acknowledgement of the truth that this is the way things are in this moment.

It is a common view that we need to bring acceptance to the things we do not like, but really, it applies to all the things of life. It can become an acceptance of everything that life has to offer. Acceptance is a posture that is full, alive, present to life and an active welcoming of whatever is happening. It is not resignation or submission or collapse. It is a breathing-in of life in all its manifestations. It is an active meeting of life in the moment, a simple recognition of that which is right here, right now.

This wider sense of the word is reminiscent of Rumi’s poem The Guest House in which the poet invites us to welcome and entertain all experiences, whether joyful or sorrowful, because all can be seen as guides for our growth.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi

Further exploration

Metal Writing icon• What are some of the things you are able to accept? What is difficult to accept?

• What lies in the way of accepting things as they are right now?