Winter Solstice: The Promise of Darkness

We were fortunate enough here on the East Coast to have crystal clear winter skies for last night's full moon/winter solstice/lunar eclipse. The amber-red hues of the full eclipse were striking, but what moved me the most were the later stages of the eclipse, when both the shadow and the luminosity were strikingly visible. It was a stunning visual reminder of the magic inherent in the workings of the universe, and of the rightness in the rhythm of darkness and light.

Winter Solstice has always been a sacred time of year to me personally, as many of you know from the Winter Solstice classes I've taught over the years. I deeply appreciate the way the solstice reminds us to let the natural cycles of our lives take place, instead of always pushing for (perceived) productivity. We often forget it, but then the solstice arrives to reminds us: there is a time to wake and a time to sleep, a time to work and a time to rest, a time for being with others and a time for being with just ourselves, a time to embrace and expand and a time to let go and surrender.

Perhaps more than anything, the solstice is a time to explore the wisdom of our inner quietude. I am so moved by the way the natural world invokes and supports this turning inward. When we soften, open and relax into the dark stillness of our inner quietude, we connect to the life-begetting radiance of our deeper nature. However, this happens only, and I do mean only, when we're willing to fully meet and embrace the low point, the dark still-point, the point from which we don't actually know how we will emerge. The solstice contains a promise -- give yourself with patience and genuine generosity to the darkness, and the light will follow.

Here's a winter solstice poem from one of my favorite poets, contemporary mystic David Whyte. Enjoy.

Winter Poem

by David Whyte

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,
what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.
Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.
All those years
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.
All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
Silence and winter
has led me to that

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.


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