Today, December 21, here in the northern hemisphere, is the beginning of winter, when the sun is at its farthest southern point, making tonight the longest night of the year. Now, when cold and darkness abound, it is a time when we are invited to go within, to reflect and befriend our own darkness inside – the darkness of fear, loneliness, despair, not enough-ness, cold hearted-ness, and more. We are called upon to give all this darkness space and appreciation so that it may teach us whatever we need to learn – about our wounds, our capacities, and our resilience. In this way, we strengthen and prepare our souls to receive its own true light of love and wisdom. And, just as the light of each day now slowly slowly begins to increase, may we receive more and more love and wisdom from the light of others all around us.
In many cultures and traditions around the world, people gather to honor the winter solstice, and celebrate the coming of the light again. Helen and I invited friends over to our house on Sunday for an “almost-Solstice” party. In addition to good food, drink, and general merriment, we did a ritual of releasing whatever experiences, feelings, and attitudes from the past year that no longer serve us. Each of us wrote down of a paper whatever we wanted to let go of, then we went outside and cast those papers into a roaring bonfire. For me, it felt so good to just LET IT GO! Then we sang “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly, Fa la la la la, la la la la.”
All throughout these months
as the shadows have lengthened
this blessing has been gathering itself,
preparing for this night.
You will know the moment of its arriving
by the release of the breath you have held so long;
a losing of the clenching in your hands,
of the clutch around your heart;
a thinning of the darkness that had drawn itself around you.
So when this blessing comes, take its hand.
Get up. Set out on the road you cannot see.
This is the night when you can trust
that any direction you go,
you will be walking toward the dawn.
The 2nd blessing was by the great Celtic spiritual teacher, John O’Donohue, called “For the Unknown Self”. Here is an excerpt:
…it seems that a little below your heart
There houses in you an unknown self
Who prefers the patterns of the dark
And is not persuaded by the eye’s affection
Or caught by the flash of thought.
It is a self that enjoys contemplative patience
With all your unfolding expression,
Is never drawn to break into light.
It dwells in a strange, yet rhythmic ease
That is not ruffled by disappointment;
It presides in a deeper current of time
Free from the force of cause and sequence
That otherwise shapes your life.
…it knows to dwell in you gently,
Offering you only discrete glimpses
Of how you construct your life.
It has the dignity of the angelic
That knows you to your roots,
Always awaiting your deeper befriending
To take you beyond the threshold of want.