We’re on countdown to the winter solstice next week—the darkest time of the year. I have mild seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and I’m really feeling the dark.
This year, the dark seems heavy, and it’s not just the lack of sunlight. It’s as if more clouds are covering the planet, and they don’t appear to be going away soon.
Francis Weller, the soul-focused psychotherapist, suggests that we’re in a dark cultural period of reassessment, disintegration, and change that may continue for decades. The aftereffects (and on-going effects) of the pandemic continue; climate change won’t be resolved anytime soon.
He suggests that we need to learn to live with the dark and find the gifts within it.
The gifts of darkness
Even as I sit in front of my SAD-inspired lightbox and crave longer days, another part of me wants to linger in the darkness to savor it before the nights shorten again.
The darkest time of the year is an opportunity to go within, reflect, relish the longer nights, and feed the soul.
Darkness forces us to slow down, mind our steps, and learn to see when we can barely make out shapes.
Darkness invites us to listen with heightened awareness and sense into what we cannot yet know.
Being able to rest in darkness builds our fortitude to face what is difficult and expand into our hearts.
In the dark, we can grow roots, like the daffodils I planted two weeks ago.
We need night. It’s the time when our bodies recover, heal, and prepare for the new day. In darkness we find metamorphosis and renewal.
In darkness we fertilize our imaginations and plant the seeds for new beginnings.
The writer-aviator Antoine Saint Exupery knew how to value of night from his time flying in the desert.
“Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of the trees.
‘Tis the season
‘Tis the season to be jolly, with songs and advertisements tempting us to step onto a fast-moving treadmill of holiday craziness—surrounding ourselves with artificial lights rather than diving for a deeper light within.
We move too fast, do too much, and stop moving “at the speed of soul” to use singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer’s expression.
I love putting up holiday lights, which become more radiant at night.
In the darkness, the true beauty of the candle shines.
Honoring what matters in the holidays
The holiday season can pull us into a flurry of activity or help us to remember what is most important. We can honor the gifts of soul available in the season as we:
- Appreciate our grief or darker feelings and know they can give us a deeper connection to joy.
- Light our candles with reverence.
- Spot the little bits of hope—the kindnesses, vaccines, breakthroughs, and nuclear fusions —that stand out more clearly against a dark backdrop.
- Give our souls the gift of slow, rest, and even more slow.
- Feel the mystery of connection to others and the natural world.
- Reach out with care to someone we barely know.
- Give our hearts along with our gifts.
The power of the solstice
The solstice is an opportunity for ritual, celebrated across the globe through food, family gatherings, blessings, rituals, stories, and songs. It is a time to honor the sun, the natural cycles, and the idea that darkness and light are part of the celestial balance. Dark and light travel together.
May we treasure both.