The Darkness and Light of Winter
Winter Solstice (22 December 2019) is the deepest part of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Our ancestors celebrated this darkness before the days began to lengthen again. Now this celebration of Yuletide sits beautifully alongside the light and joy of Christmas.
Although it is the darkest time of the year, I am interested in how we surround ourselves with dazzling light. It’s an amazing paradox how light and dark are so inextricably linked. The Christmas lights look spectacular when set against the dark night sky.
Your own Christmas lights on your tree and in your home sparkle the brightest when all the other lights are dimmed.
And nature shines in the darkness too: I was woken up the other night. I thought there was a headlight beaming into my bedroom. But when I pulled back the curtain it was a gleaming moon shining exquisitely in the dark!
Although Winter Solstice itself occurs before Christmas, it’s worth planning ahead to the quieter days and evenings that follow this busy time of year. Cosy evenings indoors provide perfect opportunities to reflect on our lives.
It’s a time to acknowledge how the past year has been, to reflect on our choices, blessings and challenges. Some of it may include a letting go of what we’re ready to release. And a renewed focus where we can kindle our inner light for the new year to come.
Acknowledging the illuminated and shadowed parts within
Every one of us has illuminated and shadowed parts within. Over our lifetime, we may find ourselves focusing on the shadow – what we perceive as our failures or downsides.
And sometimes others appear to only see our shadow. They don’t see, recognise or acknowledge our light. Sometimes that’s a great lesson for us to learn from. Other times, it may mean we must walk away from those who will only ever criticise and belittle us.
What is needed here?
Sometimes the best parts of us can’t be described in words. You might not fit into any category of strength; you’re not a surgeon, a carer, a linguist who can speak 5 languages or a scientist researching a cure for muscular dystrophy.
Yet being you gives you great worth. With all your light and shadow.
And light is essential to shine on the darkest parts of ourselves where we feel shame, guilt, greed, envy. Shine a light on these feelings, don’t let them fester in the dark. To acknowledge aspects of ourselves we wish to hide, is the start of dispelling them.
I listened to a podcast the other day by Elizabeth Day ‘How to Fail’. She interviews a range of people and in this episode she talked with Jonny Benjamin, a young man who in 2008 stood on a London bridge ready to leave his life by jumping over.
A stranger (Neil Laybourn) came along and began to chat to him. He was simply being kind and held the space to listen. Yet he truly provided a light in the darkness. Since that experience, both Jonny and Neil have forged new lives highlighting mental health and wellness.
In nature, whales, seals and penguins eat krill and plankton. These are microscopic creatures of the sea. Seemingly unimportant, virtually invisible. Yet what a role they play! Every aspect in nature and wildlife plays a necessary part (worms, beetles, flies, ants, spiders etc.)
I love the fact that we can all shine our light in such a diversity of ways. A quiet glow or a massive beam. There’s a time and a place for all and any of these.
I’ve always loved the painting, ‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman-Hunt. It’s not just the light emanating from the lantern, but so many other details here worth noting.
I recommend you look it up. One version can be seen at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
A candle meditation:
A candle flame can be a symbol of continuing life.
As you focus on the flame, allow the colour, light and warmth to fill your body. Sit with the stillness and the subtle movement.
Breathe deeply and trust your breath. It continues through the darkest of winters, even when your own will is at a low ebb.
As you inhale, draw the golden glow of light to all parts of your body. Then visualise that as you exhale, you breathe out the light, creating a cocoon of harmony and brightness around you.
The darkest times require your light
The darkest time of the year can be tough. And the darkest of times in humanity.
Don’t give up. The light always dawns.
Darkness is not a mistake. It’s part of the natural cycle of growth and renewal and evolution.
Support yourself with light of all kinds. And most of all, nurture your own inner light. It can never be diminished.
The Stranger on the Bridge (Jonny Benjamin)
Light as inspiration for musicians:
13, There is a Light by U2
Shining Light by Ash
The Light and the Sea by Dar Williams
Come into the Light by Lucinda Drayton
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation