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  • Jim Gilkeson

The Bear and the Tulip Bulb: An Inner Pilgrimage for Winter


We are entering a time of the year that I love. It brings out the contemplative in me. Here in the northern hemisphere we are leaning toward the Winter Solstice. This celestial event gets its name from the observation that the sun seems to stand still for three days at the lowest point before starting its ascent.

This Solstice edition of the Inner Pilgrim and Healer Blog is a mixed bag of items for this season. Thank you all for subscribing. I wish you all a joyous holiday season! ~Jim


“Lucina”: archaic. A midwife. [Lat. goddess of childbirth < lucinus, light-bringing] — American Heritage Dictionary

What is this ritual?

Solstice is descent

into the densest

point of the dark,

the shortest day,

the longest night,

the nadir of the year.

After that, it’s all uphill.

It’s the point at which the sun appeared

to ancient astronomers to “stand,”

waiting . . . (read more)


In its most basic terms, ritual is what we do to create a link between our small individual worlds and the great cosmos. We do ritual in order to leave the riverbank where we spend most of our time, and enter the river of life. All seasons have their rituals, but winter is a time of year when rituals abound. Not surprisingly, rituals of this time are about light that shines in the darkness, marked by feasts and festivals of light, bright stars and blazing trees. Scandinavian cultures have processions of white-clad girls entering pitch-dark rooms wearing evergreen wreaths with candles, lit ones, on their blonde heads. All this as if to dramatize to ourselves over and over again that during this time when the physical Sun is least evident, we have greatest access to spiritual light.

The Bear and the Tulip Bulb: An Inner Pilgrimage for Winter

Here is an inner pilgrimage for you, a spiral of light for wintertime, although you can do it year-round.


  • Contact with energy centers: You have probably by now established some contact with your energy centers. If not, you might want to brush up on your understanding of how to do this. Here are three tips and five ideas for making a good, basic contact with energy-active positions on your body.

  • Know where you are going before starting the exercise. In this spiral exercise, we will use a number of energy-active centers. See if you can find them. Here they are, from bottom to top:

  • South Pole: This will feel like it is about three feet (one meter) down in the floor, directly below your perineum;

  • Sacral Center: for this one, I recommend using the center of your sacrum;

  • Hara Center: see what happens if you bring your attention to a point three finger-breadths below your navel and allow that contact to deepen;

  • Solar Plexus: check out what happens three finger-breadths above your navel;

  • Heart Center: center of your upper chest;

  • Throat Center: for your starting place, try the position just below your Adam's apple on the front of your throat and just off the skin surface;

  • Pineal Center: three finger-breadths above the top of your nose on your forehead (if you relax your awareness there, you will be drawn into the activity of the Pineal Center);

  • Crown Center; find a position just forward of the very tip-top of your head, then up in your hair a bit (if you have hair);

  • North Pole: This one will feel like it is about three feet (one meter) straight up from your Crown Center.

  • In this exercise, pay attention to the directions of movement after you leave your contact with each of these energy centers. You will be moving your awareness in a spiral—up the left side of the front of your body and down the right side—as you move from center to center.

​​This pilgrimage spirals inward, appropriate for winter, a time when much of nature goes within and hibernates. The images for this exercise are the bear, hibernating in his cave, and the tulip bulb, lying buried beneath frozen earth, waiting for spring, gathering Light from the Source of Life to feed the seed of secret new life germinating there. This pilgrimage is dedicated to the bears and tulips hibernating within you.


Tulip Elegy IX

Not simply a wizened husk

and pulp, but some future

wound into a vegetable

locket, some clock

waiting to be unsprung

by cold hours, water,

a star's close pass.

Denise Low,

(used with permission)


A Spiral Exercise for Winter Solstice:

  1. Settle into a comfortable sitting position in which you can feel your breathing and move your awareness around in your body. When you are ready for this inner pilgrimage, drop your awareness into your . . .

  2. Heart Center. One minute.

  3. Slowly move straight down to your South Pole. One minute.

  4. Here's where the spiral starts: move out to your left and up in an arc to your North Pole. One minute.

  5. Move out to your right in an arc down to your Sacral Center. One minute.

  6. Arc out to your left up to your Crown Center. One minute.

  7. Arc out to your right down to your Hara Center. One minute.

  8. Arc out to your left up to your Pineal Center. One minute.

  9. Arc out to your right down to your Solar Plexus Center. One minute.

  10. Arc out to your left up to your Throat Center. One minute.

  11. Arc out to your right down to your Heart Center. One minute.

  12. Meditation: Now that you have come full circle in your inner pilgrimage, Spend some time in your Heart Center, allowing whatever wants to come up in you to do so. Five or ten minutes.

  13. End the exercise.

Good luck with this! This exercise isn't exactly easy, but it's worth it once you get the hang of it. It asks a bunch of things of you all at once: knowing where the energy-active positions are located; making an effective connection with them so that they will draw you into a deeper connection; traveling from one position to another off your body.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Again, thanks for being a subscriber. We will be doing more of these exercises in the new year.

And finally, a reminder that we have a live 2-hour online mini-workshop coming up on January 11, 2018. Click here to find out more.

Copyright© 2017 by Jim Gilkeson. All rights reserved.

Illustrations copyright© 2000 by Aimee Eldridge. All rights reserved.

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