Maybe it’s because Santa is watching, maybe it’s because of all the cookies and alcohol go to our heads, or maybe there really is a surplus of cheer in the air…this time of year is different than the others. It feels different, depending on where you live it may even look different. For some reason, the holidays are viewed as the pinnacle of the winter season, but in reality, they are merely a kickoff party. Winter has just begun and there are almost three months of cold and darkness ahead. The dropping of the ball on New Year’s Eve is a symbolic start, but it’s still winter. And we have a long way to go.
I found myself reflecting on the winter solstice this year.
From a calendar standpoint, this is just a nod to a new season, but for me it is starting to mean a little more. It just so happened that I was teaching a yoga class, on the first day of winter, under an *almost* full moon. I may not have paid any attention to this, but some fellow teachers at the studio where I work were holding a special celebration of the solstice after my class. So, of course I had to be inquisitive and find out more about why the solstice needed celebrating.
The winter solstice is the 21st day of December and is the shortest day of the year. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it is also the darkest day of the year. This year was kind of special in that there would be a full moon on the day after the solstice. This was an amazing stroke of luck in my opinion.Not only would the days get longer after December 21, but the moon would be full and bright and illuminate the darkness. It was as if the universe was challenging me to see things differently.
There is a tendency to treat winter like a new Christmas toy.
We love it out of the box, we are having so much fun until that shit gets real. Just as a toy would break, or need new batteries, or have pieces fall off, our sentiment about the winter does the same thing. It falls off. We party until the first of January, but soon we want to skip forward to spring break. We dislike the shorter days and having to wear multiple layers of clothing. We lament the money we spent over the holidays. We swear off every bad choice we made in the previous year and vow to redeem ourselves through a torrent of new year’s resolutions.
We want to leave the bad weather and bad habits and fast forward to the fun stuff. We are results oriented and we want to skip to the part where it’s done without having to go through the discomfort of not quite being there yet. Winter is the same way. We don’t enjoy being in it, we just want to be past it.
Sadly, the discomfort, the ickiness, the undesirable state of “going through” something is necessary.
In order to reach a new place, we will have to step away from where we are. We will have to spend a moment in transition. Winter is the same way…Unless someone has invented a time machine, we are going to have muddle through this winter time. Even though it’s dark and cold, and it seems we have such a long way to go.
So how does this relate to the winter solstice?
We’ve talked about choosing to be present before, and we can choose to be present here. In the middle of winter. When it’s dark and cold. Instead of lamenting an entire season, we can illuminate ourselves and lighten things up a bit. We can burn candles in our home. We can make a cup of tea or a pot of soup. We can gather with our loved ones and connect. We can even go outside in the evening and watch the days grow longer, one by one. Maybe, if we take the time, we can appreciate that slow but steady progression of the season.
The thing I’m learning about the winter time is this:
the light isn’t absent or missing, it just comes from the inside instead of the outside. WE have generate it, to charge it, nurture it. WE have to be the light. It sounds cheesy, but the holidays SHOULD be like a kick off party. We should try to keep the spark of kindness and generosity going throughout the season. We have to find it, that bright warmth, within ourselves and learn to shine in the darkness.
I would be remiss NOT to point out that this situation; this progress of inching forward at a glacial pace, is a bit of a microcosm for the world we live in. It seems that everywhere we turn we are raising awareness and building followings and embracing new opportunities, yet at times it feels like we are completely in the dark. There is still racism, sexism, bigotry and ignorance. The are coalitions and hashtags and foundations, but there is still pain. How can this be? How can things be changing all the time and yet, we still have such a long way to go?
It’s because like the seasons, things change gradually.
They don’t just go all at once like a switch. They creep, little by little. And we can creep too, right on into the world we imagine. Slowly but surely, plodding away at a glacial pace. The winter, like a lot of the bullshit in our lives, is happening, whether we like it or not. The best thing we can do is learn to be luminous. To cultivate light and warmth from our insides so that we can shine in the darkness.
Shine on my friends, and be the light!