For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the time of deepening darkness is full upon us. For many people, the shorter days and long cold nights of winter bring struggle and resistance as we seek to maintain our busy lives as workers, parents, students, friends, creative beings, and partners. We mourn the loss of sunny afternoons and the chance to frolic in the sun before the work day ends. We feel dazed and even dismal as we go about our commitments, rather than energized and expansive.
What’s more, now we are entering into the deepest portal of winter, the longest dark night of them all—the winter solstice. In this moon leading up to December 21, it can feel as if the darkness is closing in on us. We feel as if the self we knew is dying, buried in the cold and dark. We often fight this feeling with every force at our command–electric light, roaring fires, excessive feasting and parties, and a subtle yet pervasive attitude that everything will continue as normal (or else). There is no room for the darkness in our modern winters.
What would this season look like if we let go of our fear and resistance and melted into them like an embrace? If instead of gathering more and more materials and people around us, we chose to do nothing, say nothing, and simply receive the silence? What if it has important things to teach us—about ourselves, our strength, our resilience, our wisdom? What if darkness is where the butterfly grows his wings?
We can learn nothing without challenge. Spiritual bypassers will argue, claiming that all experiences have something to teach us. Yet hidden in that statement, listen for the resistance. All experiences have something to teach—so why protest against the lessons of challenge, of fear, of sadness?
When she enters the chrysalis, the caterpillar not only enters total darkness—she actually dissolves, losing all form. She must do this in order to become a more beautiful and powerful version of herself. When we push away these emotions so forcefully, hiding from our shadows, we become trapped in old bodies, old beliefs. We never learn our true capabilities, because we have never tested them.
If you wish to know the secret of living life to the fullest, it is this: Do not always stay in the easy places of your soul. Of course, there’s no need to be a martyr. You don’t need to do battle with light any more than you need to do it with darkness. Balance is everything. But the often-forgotten gift of the solstice is to accept death and darkness as part of the great pattern guiding our lives.
When we truly know ourselves in this way, neither light nor darkness can rule our lives. We become free, equanimous, and content. Join us for a full moon dance in this Void of Darkness to examine and make friends with the beautiful shadows within you. Together we will transform fear into wisdom, shadows into allies, and darkness into a tender embrace.