"In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends." Henry David Thoreau
My house after the first of two blizzards to hit in 2010 (credit: Blog Author)
Today, our planet is tilted in such a way that half of us will experience the shortest day of the solar year, the Winter Solstice. Personally, this is my favorite time of the year, for as Thoreau so poetically wrote, this is the time of the year most suited for leading an inward life.
I grew up in the northern part of the US where the days were short, the nights long, and snow blowing in the bitter wind. Ah, heaven! The sun would set around 4:00pm or so and a purplish haze would envelop the area just prior to the arrival of darkness; my favorite time of the day. Why? I'm not really sure, to be honest. It may be because that's where I grew up and so the memory of cold winter evenings brings a warmth to my thoughts. It may be because of my penchant for quiet beauty as an opportunity for reflection. Regardless, today ushers in an excitement for me just as the arrival of summer produces in others.
The Winter solstice has been observed for thousands of years. Our ancestors built edifices, large bonfires, and later lit up their homes; all in the hope of enticing the sun to return. If we think as ancient humans thought, imagine what would be going through their minds as the days shortened. In lieu of scientific knowledge, they most likely were fearful that the sun eventually would not return.
In our personal lives, do we ever feel that the "setting sun" will not return; that our happiness and peace will never return; that we will live in "darkness" forever? Our internal fear is not unlike the external fear felt by our ancestors. As was true with our ancestors is also true for ourselves; the "sun" will rise once again! Our ancestors most assuredly assumed they had enticed the sun to return through their rituals and bonfires, although it was the working of nature that accomplished that goal. In our lives let us learn from our ancestors who didn't wait for the eternal darkness, rather, they took action and did all they could to tackle their fear and reverse what they felt was inevitable.
1. When we feel an emotional fear, take some time to meditate, to reflect on your inner self. Try to find the source or reason for the fear.
2. Identify your fear. Honestly name it for what it is. Honestly think through what you feel is the worst possible outcome in your current situation.
3. Have you ever felt this fear before in your life? What was the outcome? What actions did you take at that time which helped ease the fear; what actions did you take which did not ease the fear or change the situation?
4. Learning from your personal history, and with the help of family and friends, what specific action(s) can you take to overcome this fear and possibly change the situation? Regardless of the immensity of your situation and how small you feel your actions are, take action anyway! Our ancestors feared that the sun, the powerful orb in the heavens which gave them light and heat, would disappear forever. What did they do? They lit bonfires. A small fire in comparison to the sun, but they took action nonetheless.
5. Never give up on hope! If you take action to make a difference there is a chance that action will work. Take no action and I will guarantee nothing will change.
Through mindful awareness, we can see the beauty and the hope of this season. The darkness is part of the beauty, if we view it as such.
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