Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Today, December 21, 2009, marks the winter solstice, the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest length of darkness. The word "solstice" is from the Latin meaning, "sun standing still," and to people at least as far back as Neolithic times, this has been an important and sacred season.

The ancients were undoubtedly concerned that the sun was appearing less frequently as the season progressed, and the belief arose that human intervention was required or the sun might go away completely. Celebrations, rituals, and noisy revels were traditional components of this intervention. Before electricity and central heating, gatherings in homes around the hearth, or outdoors around a bonfire, were commonplace.

Today, the tradition continues with holiday parties, traveling to be with friends and loved ones, gathering around the television - which writer and mythologist, Xia, has called "the modern hearth of the home" - for the annual viewing of It's A Wonderful Life, and the frenzy of holiday shopping. All of these pursuits still help to accomplish the important role of driving away the darkness. (Regarding the shopping part, t
hree separate studies in 2008 indicate that compulsive buying can be linked to, among other things, depression, anxiety, and stress. Perhaps we are "buying off" our fear of darkness and death, and putting it on a credit card to that will have to be paid eventually.)

It's natural for people to want more light and less darkness, and there is a psychiatric diagnosis for individuals who suffer from depression during the winter: Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). Yet, darkness is sometimes a necessary element in the life cycle of all things. It is a time of renewal and introspection; a time to lie fallow for a while so that, when the sun eventually returns, we can come into full bloom and fruition.

So, please, enjoy yourself fully this solstice season. Get together with as many people as you can, and revel in the giving and receiving that the holidays bring. When you can, however, take some time to be still and quiet, and to journey for a moment into the darkness. Remember that the sun will return.

Shadow and Light Source Both, by Rumi (Translation by Coleman Barks):
How does a part of the world leave the world?
How does wetness leave water?

Don't try to put out fire by throwing on
more fire! Don't wash a wound with blood.

No matter how fast you run, your shadow
keeps up. Sometimes it's in front!

Only full overhead sun diminishes your shadow.
But that shadow has been serving you.

What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is
your candle. Your boundaries are your quest.

I could explain this, but it will break the
glass cover on your heart, and there's no
fixing that.

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

When from that tree feathers and wings sprout on you,
be quieter than a dove. Don't even open your mouth for even a coo.


1 comment:

  1. I certainly feel like I've been "lying fallow" for awhile, so I hope there will be some blooming and fruition soon ;-)

    Another great blog entry and another utterly awesome poem from Rumi. Rilke is like a western Rumi to me.

    Keep those blogs coming!