Winter Solstice December 21, 2017 REFLECTIONS and MEDITATION

‘I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.’

 –Hafiz, Sufi Poet

Light can enter one’s life through working with difficulty but this newsletter isn’t a downer; hopefully, it’s just the opposite. And the intention, as always, is to inspire, inform and involve engagement with Spirit. I wanted to start with this:  One often hears quoted, it is the crack (or break) of the heart through which the light enters.

To sit with the difficulty without causing suffering to self or to others is to honor the dark and the light in one’s life.

These seem to me to be good meditative contemplations for the shortest day and longest night.  I wanted to write about it today as we enter what I like to call “the great stopping of momentum, the great balance of light and dark–the great silence, the big quiet.”

 Sitting with the difficulties of life, even the difficulties of daily meditation can open us to more light entering our consciousness so that we can benefit ourselves, others and the world.  Let me explain what I mean.

I’m talking about not turning away but rather really bearing the pain, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, without creating further pain for self or another in any way.   Not running from it, suppressing it or becoming angry or frustrated with darkness.  That’s an example of balancing the light and dark in one’s life.  We can be reminded of this type of yin-yang balance during the time of the Winter Solstice.

It isn’t easy to really be with troubles without adding more suffering.  In The Arrow Sutra, the Buddha teaches about how we embellish the pain or difficulty (shooting the second arrow), instead of observing what is actually present:  which is the arising and passing of feelings. So instead of turning away from emotions, turn towards them and watch them pass just the way they have arisen.  In this way, we allow the light of awareness to enter and wisdom to arise.

Practice in Meditation

A simple meditation today, the Winter Solstice, can help us work with balancing light and dark/ease and difficulty.  Here’s what I mean.  Sometimes, we resist emotions or thoughts or discomfort in the body or sleepiness or restlessness during meditation and in doing so, we shoot a second arrow, so-to-speak, and create a story around even these simple experiences in meditation.

OR we may come to the sitting with already-formed goals, intentions or ideas about how the meditation time is going to be experienced.  “I am going to be in a bliss state the whole time, or go floating into the heaven of the cosmos.”  When in actuality, we may feel sleepy, restless or have thoughts of regret or other emotional difficulties arise.

Meditation is a practice for life.  And life is full of darkness as well as light– full of difficulties as well as it’s opposite, freedom,  peace/ease.  Think of yin-yang.

Our world needs people who can stand in the fire or tolerate the difficulty, keep a cool head, not over-react, deal with harsh and hard situations with clarity and wisdom.  Meditation practice trains us to do this. 

The ideal

We don’t quit or run or try to escape –nor do we control or intend any type of outcome when we meditate.  We may have an intention for our meditation practice which is alright but many times if we just allow, and experience, observe, see the mind working while being interested yet not being too controlling, too tense nor too relaxed but  just allowing ourselves to move through the states without judging ourselves as “bad meditators” and without becoming frustrated … if we can uphold these ideals, I think  we can develop the ability to balance the light and dark in our lives too.   Yeah, I know this is an awkwardly phrased paragraph, but you know what I mean, right?

The Winter Solstice is a reminder of all of this . . .

  • of how the depth of our being which is radiant clear light can open up through staying with difficulties
  • of how our core mind, the primal mind, is radiant and clear in nature
  • of how just like the Tibetan Buddhist tradition speaks, a self-existing lamp of wisdom exists within each of us
  •  of how through the difficulties and darkness of life, we are able to access this kind of light or presence
  • of  how we go into the dark in order to be able to see the light
  • of how we are with the difficult in order that we may be able to have more ease

If in meditation we can embrace the unknowing or just allow rather than always trying to control – the unknowing will open up to knowing. Being with the difficult or darkness opens us to light as well as being regenerative and enabling wisdom.

Here is some poetry that expresses these ideas . . . 

“Some nights stay up till dawn,
as the moon sometimes does for the sun.
Be a full bucket pulled up the dark way
of a well, then lifted out into light.”
–Rumi
*****
Three times my life has opened.
Once, into darkness and rain.
Once, into what the body carries at all times within it and
starts to remember each time it enters the act of love.
Once, into the fire that holds all.
These three were not different.
You will recognize what I am saying or you will not.
But outside my window all day a maple has stepped
from her leaves like a woman in love with winter, dropping
the colored silks.

Neither are we different in what we know.
There is a door. It opens. Then it is closed. But a slip of
light stays, like a scrap of unreadable paper left on the floor,
or the one red leaf the snow releases in March.
–Jane Hirshfield

*****
If each day falls
Inside each night,
There exists a well
Where clarity is imprisoned.
We need to sit on the rim
Of the well of darkness
And fish for fallen light
With patience.
–Pablo Neruda


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Winter Solstice 2013 Celebration Ritual — How will you celebrate the birth of the sUn?

...its coming! Winter Solstice, the birth of the New Sun!
…its coming! Winter Solstice, the birth of the New Sun!

… its coming its coming! The Winter Solstice when the old SUN (with a U) dies and the new sUn is born! How will you celebrate? How about a very quiet and contemplative day out in nature, honoring nature in its quiet state. Huh? how about quitting the crazy Santa “buy, buy, buy” mentality madness...c’mon, just for one day out of this silly season to take a day to go walk in nature, be really really quiet, feed the birds and other small creatures that remain through the winter and have difficulty finding food in the cold winter months, bring corn meal to the earth as a gift and while you do so reflect upon the year that’s coming to a calendar close and how that relates to the bare trees, dry leaves, crisp/cool air of the season.

How about watching the sunset the night before to set the mood? Or if you’re an early bird–the sunrise. It is a day to contemplate the birth of the sUn! Contemplate the old days–BEFORE Internet Shopping and Black Fridays–even before electricity…. think: SIMPLICITY.   Some people in an effort to keep the day quiet and simple choose not to use electricity the whole day–bundle up and make a fire in the fireplace if you’re lucky enough to have one. Or just light the room with candles.

OH, and take orange slices out and apple slices out for the animals too—place them as gifts for the animals during your nature walk… popcorn, nuts, birdseed, cranberries, etc.

Did you know that for 6 days during the Summer Solstice and again during the Winter Solstice, the sun rises and sets in the exact same spot? Otherwise usually it moves across the sky from day to day. Watch the sun set on the shortest day of the year, and whisper a thank you acknowledging that the days will now be growing longer day-by-day.

Last year my granddaughter and I looked up everyone’s Druid tree and god/goddess based on day of birth  — we read the meanings of the tree and the god/goddess to each person.

We collected dry sticks in the woods after hanging pine cones smothered with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed on the trees. Each person in the family was given a stick and asked to think of something that they wish to get rid of in their life and then together when the intentions were firmly set in each one’s private mind, on the count of three we broke the sticks and all together yelled out GOOD RIDDANCE!

Then each was given a small candle in a glass to light while thinking of an intention for upcoming year.

I’d like to ask my family to shut off their cell phones or those big things they carry now that have everything on them–to shut those off during the time we’re together celebrating solstice. Will they? we shall see! what could crash the mood of the simple quiet solstice walk in the wood gifting the animals some treats but the ringing of a cell phone?

Well, this is just me just typing off the top of my head thoughts about the winter solstice–everybody has intuition and is psychic and can come up with many more ideas with a brief contemplation.

The Winter Solstice  is an extra special day for me  and for our family anyway because my middle child was born on the winter solstice and her name relates to the SUN. I didn’t know about solstice and all that jazz when she was born—but then \I know babies souls really whisper their names into their mother’s ears.

Family Winter Solistice Celebration 2012 ~ New Family Ritual

Winter Solstice December 21, 2012
Family participating in Solstice Ritual
Family participating in Solstice Ritual

Our totally pagan holiday yesterday was a success in the family!

By days end we snapped sticks over our head at the same time (got the sticks on our hike) and 1, 2. 3 good riddance we said together as we snapped our sticks signifying letting go of old ways and we burned our paper of things we wanted to release and then took our brooms and swept the smoke out the door and tossed our sticks out over the balcony to the woods shouting “good riddance”.

The kids read solstice poems and we decorated the Australian potted pine with names of Sun Gods from all cultures far back to Greece and Rome times written on handmade yellow Sun Shapes with shimmering Sun rays, each person drawing from a bowl their namesake and then with the wish for what they wanted to create and experience in 2013, hung their Sun ornament on the LIVING tree.

Extra  Sun Ornaments and ornaments of gold butterflies, fairies and snowflakes were available for extra wishes.

I read to each person according to their date of birth the name of their Druid Tree, Druid Animal and Druid God or Goddess associated with their date of birth!

One of my daughters was born on the Solstice 35 years ago so we had birthday cake and gifts for her.

I also gave each family member a little solstice gift and we had solstice cupcakes with one candle representing Sun and candy corn for the Sun’s rays.

Each person was given a small candle in a glass container and each lit their candle to welcome the new Sun King and we celebrated the birth of the new Sun.

Earlier in the day we decorated the woods with popcorn/cranberry garland and pine cone/peanut butter dipped in birdseed feeders for the birds and other treats …fruit loop cereal garland and small bagels dipped in peanut butter and bird seed.

We hung them on the trees while wearing garland on our head! It was fun they said!  They want this to be our new family ritual every year!

(they will do x-mas too in a few days…  change isn’t easy.  I’m glad we’re going to rekindle a Celtic tradition in our family! and that it will be part of our family holiday.)

Happy Holidays, whichever one you celebrate… winter solstice is one in which everyone can participate.  After all, we all benefit from the same Sun.

PS — if you are in the southern hemisphere, I hope you’re having a great summer!  We’re so looking forward to ours again and the pool re-opening!  🙂