Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hug the Dark

The title of the carol we sang at the Solsisters’ Winter Solstice celebration on December 21 is Holy Night, Longest Night (see Invocation). It's sung to the tune of Silent Night. This is a sacred time for many people and in most traditions. Above all, it’s the time when we can turn inward to see what’s really going on.

Darkness is part of a natural cycle, and when we reach the darkest day of the year on Winter Solstice; it’s time to shift to inner concerns. New Year’s resolutions are one way we do this in American culture, although we still tend to make them outer-oriented—I will lose weight, pay off debt, get a better job. People have more success with these new starts in spring, the natural new year, when our energy rises with the first shoots of plants from under the ground, and we’re more rarin’ to go.

Winter, on the other hand, is the time for reflection, reading, quiet, meditation, and taking stock. Two favorites in our Winter Solstice ceremony are something you can try at home during these last weeks of 2007. First, we do Meditation on Recognition—what do we recognize that we have accomplished and appreciate about ourselves this past year? This is a kind of self-report card, and writing down what we have gained since the last inventory can be a huge revelation. You can include both inner and outer achievements: I’ve been a better wife or mother, I have as many knee-jerk reactions to things, I like myself more. The second is a real favorite. After passing the Yule Log and infusing it with our thoughts of what we’d like to see changed in the world, such as peace in the Middle East; we focus inward. We write down all the things we’d like to release into the Yule Log Fire that are personal, whether it is 20 lbs. or an irritation with a workmate. It is a hoot to watch people line up to burn their lists. Some dump it and walk away, even with a “wash your hands of it” gesture. Others linger to be sure every fiber of paper containing the junk they want to dump has burned to a crisp. Some people have a short list and get to the fire among the first; others write long lists and need more paper.

This year, I plan to mine my journals from the past two years for insights, because it has been a very transitional time for me—from full-time work plus to full retirement from a day job. Even though I plan to go back to work part-time this year, the time off has been like an extended winter where I have finally had the time to be quiet, reflect, and let inner issues surface for resolution. That should be our true New Year’s “resolution,” the kind where we look in the dark corners of ourselves for the stuff that needs tender taking care of. In the whirlwind of most of our lives, it is amazing how many inner signals and intuitions we miss for running as fast as we can. The build-up of issues swept under the rug will ultimately make a big lump of gunk for us to cope with later, often not on our own terms. Illness, break-up, and tragedies of all sorts are often the result of the waxy build-up of untended inner content.

I describe my first year of retirement like getting off a kids’ merry-go-round in the park. You are no longer spinning physically, but it still feels like it, sometimes even with a wave of dizzy nausea. I had no idea how stressed out I was after 36 years of full-time work. I usually did other work on top of that, primarily my astrology practice and writing. My need for complete R&R for a period of time was screaming at me in raised blood pressure—highly atypical for me—crankiness, and a host of other physical and psychological signals. I am so relieved I took my body’s loud advice, even though I went kicking and screaming to rest. It took the first nine months of retirement for me to get that I needed to do nothing for at least a year—or at least as little as possible.

While this may seem like a luxury to most people, especially those of us who are not independently wealthy and have to work for a living, nature gives us opportunities every day of our lives. We just have to take them.

Winter is a time to relish the dark of night and the season of hibernation. Take time at night to meditate and reflect, even if it’s only 15-20 minutes. It can be so replenishing. Keep a dream journal, and encourage your dreams to guide you by welcoming them with intent to remember them. Part of my previous practice, Inner Growth Work, was to help people remember and work with their dreams. If there is enough interest, I’ll do some posts on this topic. Above all, give yourself light duty in the dark months. Read, relax, veg, take hot baths—know that this down time is essential to creativity and accomplishing all you want during the rest of the year. And if this all seems a little heavy to you, remember that you can do light reading in the dark and use the down time to watch funny movies and restore your sense of humor, health, and balance. One of the best articles I have ever read about the role of laughter is How Laughter Works on the How Stuff Works website—a must Favorite for anyone with a computer and a lust to learn and laugh.

Hug the darkness; it will hug you back. Spring will come sooner than you know, and if you miss the opportunity to rest and recuperate from last year’s action, you won’t be running on all cylinders in 2008.

Have a happy, healthy New Year—and a fabulous dance in the light and dark of life!

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