Today is the Winter Solstice: the shortest day and the longest night of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.
In Washington where I live the sun rises at 7:43 AM and sets at 4:23 PM. Nine hours of daylight and 15 hours of darkness.
The melancholy that often accompanies darkness has felt especially present in the environment, in the world, and in my personal life lately. Every time the sun sets it seems to pull hope and optimism down with it.
At night, my mind takes me places I rarely travel in the day . The boogeyman under the bed isn't an actual monster, but rather my own thoughts and the dark energy that surfaces when the sun is absent.
My mindfulness practices keep me afloat, but I haven’t managed to escape the current reality of our collective suffering as a nation and as a world. Some mornings it feels like I wake carrying the residue of the world’s junk. No matter how much I try to distance myself from the world's suffering, the dark realities of life inevitably seep into my heart. We are undeniably connected to one another and to all other life, and what hurts you ultimately hurts me too.
The impacts of Covid have blanketed household after household in a thick layer of ash. Many parents are trying to work from home while their kids are glued to screens in the room over, “at school.” I can’t even begin to understand how single parents are navigating. Millions of people are unemployed. Small business owners are drowning. The government is a straight up mess. We’re so divided we can’t even agree whether or not to wear masks. We’re insensitive toward each other. Thousands lost their homes in the western summer wildfires. The earth is suffocating from our decisions.
The amount of things we could pile on this mountain of suffering seem endless. The burden is heavy, and for so many.
As someone who values mindfulness and practices that invite peace into my life, I sometimes feel pressure to turn the volume down on the sorrows of life by not speaking about them or by not staring too long into the abyss. I surround myself with uplifting messages and activities, and I’m often exposed to empowering ideas like the power of attraction, connecting to your true self, and letting go of hardship.
They all have their place in life. But as I’m learning, suffering and darkness are just as much a part of the overall story of existence. And though I'd rather exist in the light (wouldn't we all?), I understand that darkness must also be acknowledged and its lessons received with gratitude.
Nature embraces the light as much as she embraces the dark. That's why year after year, for millennia after millennia, she illuminates the earth half of the year and wraps it in darkness for the remaining half.
In all things, we would be wise to learn from Mother Nature and trust her for what she knows. By acknowledging that our personal life experiences correlate with the intelligence of the universe, we can welcome a sense of ease and trust through the process.
That is to say: there is a purpose to every season of our lives, and we cannot experience the richness of life without embracing both the dark and the light.
No matter how dark it may feel, trust that you're exactly where you need to be. Have faith that what we're collectively and individually experiencing right now will prove, eventually, to be an imperative part of the journey. As my land-mate said to me recently,
"The chaos we survive could give way to a different world inspired by the energy we help bring to it. All that we've learned could be essential for, and in harmony with, a greater dynamic and potential that's unfolding... and perhaps there was no other way of getting there than through such a substantial collapse of what has been."
Today we will spend more of our day in darkness than any other day of the year. But tomorrow, the sunlight will begin to increase little by little, carrying us closer to the longest day of the year. If there's one thing nature promises, it's that sunshine will always come to kiss our skin and invigorate the flowers back to life once more.