Winter Solstice Wonders
When I was a boy, I had no knowledge of the Winter Solstice and it’s connection to the Christian celebration of Christmas with its ongoing twelve day celebration. It wasn’t until I became an adult and student of the ongoing religious holidays that I discovered the roots of this season. In a very brief telling, George Monbiot reports that “the Christians stole the Winter Solstice from the Pagans and Capitalism stole it from the Christians.” It was always connected to the shortest day and longest night in both hemispheres.
Nature continues to remember what we humans forget. Every cycle returns to stillness, silence and darkness. Every out-breath inspires an in-breath. Every outer engagement turns back inward to its origins, its center and begins again. From death comes new life and from the darkest night, a new dawn is born. No material or shopping frenzy can keep these cycles of nature from being what they are. We can try to ignore them and create all manner of diversions but the light grows shorter while the dark grows longer.
The Winter Solstice, like it’s metaphorical sibling Christmas, is a time of endings and beginnings that invite us to stop, look, listen and wonder about our life here on earth and our life beyond this realm of being. It’s a time to ponder the cosmic forces at work within us and without us. It’s a time to let go of all that shrouds us in darkness to let come all that can awaken us to the inner light. It tends to draw us closer together, to gather around the fire for warmth and intimacy even if it’s only the light of a candle.
The darkness and cold of Winter seeks to remind us that everyone and everything needs quiet time, stillness and a return to its origins and roots that cannot be touched by the frost. From this place there is an eternal hope for the return of greater light, verdant growth and fertile days. In deep reflection, regrets and disappointments can be released while new intentions, through the gift of more light, can return to our lives. As we open our days to these promises, more light comes and we are again renewed.
There will always be darkness and light, fear and love, sorrow and joy in each season of soul to teach us about the polarities in life that we can transcend while also including. When spiring passes we can remember our innocence. When summer passes we can remember a certain reverence. When autumn passes we can remember the abundant harvests. When winter passes we can remember our patience and perseverance. The wonder of the Winter Solstice comes in our awakening and awareness of the moment.
The contemplative potential in this season is in our capacity to gradually move from whatever darkness we’re in to a greater receptivity of the outer and inner light that increases from day to day. The unlimited potentialities that gradually unfold in the ever increasing light is a guide to how we can open to the very Source of this light and life. In this way, we can venture forth into the mystery of new beginnings; to love, joy, peace and promise. It’s a daily quest to embrace the best and leave the rest. It’s a discipline.
John Burroughs says: “It’s the life of the ice crystal, the architect of the snowflake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. The crisp winter air is full of it.” Here we walk and awaken to experience the clouded beauty in the purity of whiteness and the wonder of abundant new life unfolding in the secrets of winter. Here we contemplate our own mortality and immortality, our darkness and light, our endings and beginnings. Here we can learn to recover from what has been while we prepare for what can be.
Many decades ago in my winter of discontent I discovered a deep silence, solitude, solace, strength and serenity on the side of a mountain in the dead of winter. The fire that was built in the potbelly stove stirred my soul. The short days and long nights awakened something in me I can’t describe. The snow that continually fell from the sky sent magical messages from the cosmos that awakened a new space in my heart. The companionship and unconditional love of a faithful dog taught me lessons of soul.
To take all this in and continually embrace it is the recurring theme of this special time in December. It’s a celebration of life within a world of blessing. It’s a season that asks us to relax, reflect and realign our priorities. It’s an opportunity to engage the whole world in the ever present conspiracy of love that’s as close as our very breath. It’s a lingering season, a time to get grounded deep in the earth; to calm, center and discover the peace in long nights and short days. It’s celebrating the wonders of darkness and light!
- As you open yourself to this week’s wonders during the Winter Solstice, light a candle from time to time and ponder the light and darkness that’s within and without.
- On at least one night this week, bundle up and go outside. Find a place to sit that’s safe and stay there for a time to simply watch, listen and breathe. Feel the wonder!
- Clear your calendar this week and take a slow leisurely walk without talk. Notice how the environment looks. Feel the naked beauty of the landscape. Feel the sacred unity within your surroundings. Stop from time to time to take note of the divine energy.
- During your days this week, stop and feel where you are. Awaken to the light and darkness within as well as that which is flowing around you. Notice what you become aware of. Where’s your center in this moment. Take your time, go slowly.