Winter Solstice

Lessons on Change and Transformation.

Long Island Sound

photo: Sofia Ajram

Welcome to the return of the sun and the birth of a new year! In Latin, solstice means “sun standing still” and Winter Solstice is the great stillness before the sun’s strength builds and days grow longer. In the words of Molly Hall, “It’s the fruitful dark out of which new life can eventually emerge.”

This time of darkness and the gradual return of light has much to teach about change and transformation, particularly the part we most often resist—letting go of what was, and opening up to that which will replace it. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, provides a time for gestation, integration and strengthening. However, from the outside it looks as if the trees are bare, the flowers have died and spring will never come.

This is what William Bridges in his book Transitions calls the Neutral Zone—‘the wilderness’. This is the ‘in-between’ time when the old way has ended, but the new way is still unclear and unfamiliar. It is the time before the new takes form. Some cultures recognize these transitions with ritual and support, understanding that this is necessary for the new to take shape.

In Western culture we often move quickly from the old to the new and forget to honor the time in between. We move from one identity to the next or one organizational form to another, with no interlude, leaving us feeling confused and depressed. In the work place, left unaddressed this might look like uncertainty, mistrust, self-preservation, productivity problems, loss of team play, power struggles, low morale, weak commitment, bailing out. Fortunately, this is not just meaningless waiting and confusion. It is a time when a necessary reorientation and redefinition is taking place.

If we are leaders of groups or organizations it is helpful to allow time to explore the change at hand and provide a container—a place to voice thoughts and feelings and imagine what could be. There is little reason to go through the pain of change and transformation without good cause or hope for a better way. Groups and organizations can provide an adequate container that allows people to move from the old to the new by following some of the engagement guidelines outlined below:

  1. Educate and inform people about the change initiative, the conditions that preceded it and the opportunities ahead. Answer the questions: Why change? Why now? What’s it going to look like?
  2. Involve everyone! Let people raise questions, voice concerns, share their ideas and most importantly for leaders: USE their ideas, address their concerns, and give them a chance to solve the issues they have raised!
  3. Continue to meet and revisit these issues and initiatives—give everyone time to go through the stages of change, and witness their ideas implemented and concerns addressed.
  4. Educate people about the change process AND let them go through the stages—allow for the expression of emotion without getting stuck in it.
  5. Give people the task of implementing and evaluating the changes.
  6. Track and measure results from the start. Post these results weekly so people can see the fruits of their labor, and if the desired change is not occurring, use a new strategy.
  7. If possible, START the change in small pieces, aim toward a few quick successes. Reward, recognize and celebrate from the very beginning.
  8. Communicate the project or initiative throughout the organization, create a buzz. People are different. Some need facts and numbers and others need imagery and hope. Some need speeches; others need to see the results.

Transformation is a messy process. It’s nice when nature provides a place for this to occur. The chrysalis allows for the caterpillar to literally dissolve and morph into the new form. Imagine if the caterpillar rushed to its next phase and there were no chrysalis. It is during this empty time, when there is no form, that we can fully transform. If we move too quickly we may re-create what was, or if we hold onto the past while grasping for the next rung of the ladder, we become paralyzed and fail to let the new form emerge.

A friend of mine explained that plants in winter are anything but inactive. The energy they will use in spring to bloom and grow is now invested in building and strengthening their roots and foundation. They are not dead, they are rejuvenating and preparing for their rebirth. Can we trust that within the time between the new and the old lie the great possibilities? The paradox of the deepest darkest winter is that it holds the seeds of spring. Here’s to a fruitful winter in 2011!

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15 Responses to “Winter Solstice”

  1. Karen Mejia says:

    Thanks for these words of encouragement and engagement…indeed they reflect the change process. What a time to be still, honor, and wait for the light to emerge and the change it brings.

  2. Geri DeSapio says:

    Dear Linda,
    Thank you for these words of profound wisdom, and for deepening my relationship with winter and the unseen mystery of life and re-birth.

    I wish you a wonderful, reflective and rejuvenating solstice season.
    Warm regards,
    Geri DeSapio

  3. Sherri says:

    I am so sorry but I live in northwest and again the cloud couver was so thick that the solice was not seen

  4. your DAD says:

    You sure are a deep thinker. Lots of food for thought here. Great piece. —–Love, DAD

  5. Anne McDermott says:

    Very beautiful, comforting insight.

    Thank you, Linda.

  6. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    thank you Anne!

  7. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    thanks Dad!!!!

  8. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    I did not actually see the solstice but I did view the lunar at eclipse at 3am! It was a deep beautiful shade of red. Used to live in the northwest so I know how those clouds can be. Have a great holiday Sherri

  9. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Thank you Geri for your beautiful words – and I wish you the same!

  10. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Karen, Yes! I so honor that near or far we are on this journey together!

  11. Pat Rutledge Hartman says:

    Linda,

    Once again your words are spot on. Your Choice of Sylvia Ashrams photo lends itself perfectly to your observations and recommendations.

    I am not surprised you have given me additional food for thought. I am always able to learn something from your shared words.

    Your newsletters continue to be truly inspired.

    I hope your Christmas is as special as you are to so many.

    All my best wishes for a fabulous new year as well.

    Pat

  12. Stephanie Wall says:

    Linda your article really touched me thank you for sending it.

  13. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Thanks Stephanie I am so glad to hear that!

  14. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Pat, hi just saw your post thank you so much! I wish you the same and look forward to connecting soon!

  15. LINDA PROVENZA says:

    Michelle that is awesome! I love the image and imagine that others do as well! Hey what about a horsey blog?

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