Every year, from the Winter Solstice
till Spring or so, many of us struggle with our inner darkness. The long nights and lack of sunlight resonate with our own shadows, drawing them to the surface. Like clockwork, yearly, we experience the ebb of light and the rise of darkness within. Just as the oceans, we respond to the rhythm of Nature.
How do we relate to darkness? In ourselves, in others, in the world, ?
Personally, I usually just fumble along. We are not taught how to navigate through our internal darkness, our fears and negativity, our despair, resentment, anxieties, our skewed perceptions of self and reality. We have a label for it now, Seasonal affective disorder, S.A.D., which at least gives us a little bit of comfort knowing we are not alone, nor completely bonkers, but, beyond firing up our happy lights every morning for what seems like a longer period each year, digging up our therapists number from the bottom of the pile, reconsidering antidepressants, (which seem ineffective for most of us), we pretty much have no effective tools for coping with this annual shift in perspective other than hunkering down in our metaphoric bomb shelters till the wave of darkness subsides on its own. This is possibly the only instance procrastination works in our favour.
Eventually the darkness does pass on its’ own. Nothing sophisticated about this approach to maintaining our sanity and equilibrium. It is, in essence, reactive, an instinctual response to threat which just adds to our feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. There must be a better way to navigate through life and our winters, right? How do we heal childhood wounds, pain and grief? Loss? How do we contend with defeating feelings and thoughts that can drive us to drink, escapism, self loathing? How do we eliminate or heal those destructive thought patterns and dark feelings that keep us from being the most we can be? Can we do more than just hang in there and resist being swept away,? More than just get by? We are taught by example to be afraid of the dark within us, ashamed of our “flaws” and “imperfections” . We deny them, avoid and escape them, hide and repress them, project them on others, or express them with self-destructive behaviour. There must be a healthier, more productive and useful approach!
Fellow gardener and blogger Steve, at Naked Nerves, pointed out, in a simple and elegant post, (well worth reading!) “Going within at Sun’s return” that if we attune to the current cycle of Nature and the Winter Solstice, we will find a unique opportunity, and the perfect time to work with our shadows. They are surfacing now for good reason. If we can embrace and accept these dark parts of our selves at natures’ peak of darkness, work in harmony with Her rhythm, we can ride this waning wave of dark, supported by Natures own yearly movement from darkness towards light and renewal. Now, with greater ease than ever, we can work with our fears, our shadows, the monsters under our beds, our shadow selves, and transform them. Acting now, and not resisting the dark winter wave, means we can surf it, propelled forward by the natural crest, of diminishing dark and increasing light. If we can shift away from fearing, fighting, denying or repressing our dark shadows. If we can, befriend the dark inside us, we could ride this wave of darkness, all the way to its’ inevitable destination of light and Spring renewal. A journey, both symbolic and practical, on which there is potential for great personal growth and an increase in our light and happiness. A much more elegant and dignified way to deal with darkness.
Shadow is just as important as light. Nothing to be ashamed of, we are all made of the same stuff, but, some of us cope better, or hide our dark stuff better. It is there in us all. Darkness, in this context, is just as real, and just as much of an illusion as light. We have within us, all the light and joy in the world, and all the darkness and despair. Neither of these is who we are. We are but the observers and experiencers.
Neither is good or bad, and darkness is simply half the duality of life. There would be no bright Full Moon without a dark new moon, no long Summer days, without short winter hours, no lush fertile valleys without bleak frigid mountain peaks. There would be no light or growth, no emancipation or victory within us, if there was no darkness, no challenge, fear or shadow within us. And this, the darkest part of the year outside, is the prime time and opportunity to consciously work with, and grow through, our shadows and darkness. We can ride this natural wave of dark, if we can get past our fears, and our instinctive, reactive responses, and our resistence. We can surf this wave of Solstice dark.
This is one of the great secrets of traditional Alchemy. Timing our actions. Studying Natures rhythms and cycles, so we can harmonize our processes with them, not work against them.
There are obvious correlations here to the ocean, tides, Sun/Moon, the emotions, concious, subconcious, and the element of water. I leave these for you to contemplate and plumb, at your leisure.
Wishing you all an inspired and productive transition to the light. (Winter).