Today marks the darkest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. This day is celebrated around the world as Yule, Christmas, Sanghamitta, Korochun, Chanukah, Midwinter, Dongzhi, or Brumalia. The Solstice carries meaning across cultures and speaks to something profoundly human. As mammals we are preparing for hibernation, the crops have all been harvested yet it is too cold to plant. Many cultures feast on this day because they know that they will not be able to preserve all of their food or keep their animals fed. Now is the time to train the eye inward and to let the world die around us.
And yet, here in America we fight full-bore against this natural cycle. We hang lights on trees to battle back against the darkness. We ramp up our systems by preparing for family gathering and parties. We rush to get everything done by the end of the year. As I walk around Boulder I can feel it in the air, there's a hectic rushed energy in the air: a flurry of activity. I swear I've seen a car accident every day this past week! Our bodies say, "slow down" but our culture says "GO! BUY! SMILE! RUN!"
So what is the wisdom of the Solstice, what can we learn from this natural cycle of our planet? Well, the Solstice speaks to something universal, it speaks to the process of entering into the dark in order to welcome the light. Only by recognizing our darkest place can we begin to move towards light and healing. Our psyche, much like the planet, operates on a cycle, we circle around the same behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. We make the same mistakes over and over again, we fall in love with the same people, we have the same conversations. But this isn't a bad thing; in fact, it's brilliant, we give ourselves countless opportunities to try something different, to break free.
The healing journey is a journey into darkness. It's a journey into those scary, shameful, and revolting places. So march into the darkness carrying a torch of compassion! We light the way with acceptance and with love. Those monsters that you think live down there are just hurt children covered in face paint, shivering and groping in the dark. They are old wounds that never healed. With the fire we aim not to burn them but to warm them, invite them, and let them sit by us, perhaps lying their heads in our laps.
This is a radical departure from what we've been told, what we've been conditioned to do. Our culture tells us to destroy our monsters, to exorcise our demons. Sometimes we do this overtly, by keeping secrets or being self-critical. Sometimes we do this unconsciously by using substances or avoiding certain situations. This is such a disservice, it's violence. We are continuing to neglect our inner children, we are allowing our wounds to become infected.
I encourage you, tonight, to spend some time with your demons. Invite them to tea. Pull out a pen and paper and write down your deepest fears, your insecurities, and your biggest regrets. Then, on the back write your greatest desires, your accomplishments, and your hopes for the world. Spend some time with these parts of yourself. Can you look at them without judgement? Can you touch into the pain under the aggression? And finally, can you let it all go? Burn the paper, be present, watch the moon.