Sunday, December 20, 2009

Embracing the Darkness, Welcoming in the Light

The days have been long and dark here in northern Michigan. As we approach the Winter Solstice, the sun rises at 7:58 a.m. and sets at 5:03 p.m., providing only 8 short hours of daylight. Now, the darkest time of the year begins to transform itself to become more light-filled.

As "spiritual beings having a human experience" (a phrase attributed to Teilhard de Chardin), I believe we are constantly re-aligning ourselves with the sun, the light within us, and the light of Spirit. The celebration of Winter Solstice happens the world over in a myriad of ways that is simply stunning to read about. From the Dongzhi Festival in Japan to Seva Zistane in Kurdistan. No matter how it is celebrated, the theme is the same--we celebrate the return of the light.

Each year, as the days of December darken the landscape, I light a perpetual candle. It's a liturgical sort of candle, one purchased at a quaint Catholic goods store; a tall purple glass holder with replaceable plastic inserts of wax and wick, safe to keep burning 24-hours a day. It's the same sort of candle you'd light in the back of church for the purpose of petitionary prayer. It stays aglow through the month of December--my version of an Advent candle, if you will.

What I love the most about this annual ritual is this: If I awaken in the middle of the night and have to move about, the candle's tender glow is there in the darkness, an ever-present reminder to me of the presence of Spirit--even in the darkest of times, even on the blackest of nights. 

I do not fear this period of wintery darkness as some do. In fact, I take it in and allow it to works its magic upon me. One of the themes of the season of Winter is "fertile darkness." It is a time of going inward, of cozying down into one's self to relish the silence, or play with the Muse, and listen. For me, as a writer, this time is vital to my creative and spiritual well-being.

Though my external landscape is very wintery right now, covered thick with the white stuff, my beloved garden gone from view, beneath the surface much is happening. There is life. Seeds are gestating. Things are also gestating beneath the soil within me. My interior landscape is rich with growth. And though somedays it feels a bit dark, and I feel unsure, I do trust the well-timed beauty of my own growth. I cannot urge the season away. I cannot make the sun shine more brightly until it is time. But I can light the fire of my inner life and allow it room to breathe, to glow, to grow ... 

As Winter Solstice moves through you, what is gestating in you?

Do you have a sense of what is being birthed in you right now?

I'm eager to hear ...

(By the way, I am taking this week off to fully enjoy the holidays with my family. So I'm sending you and yours many blessings—Peace, Love, Abundant Joy! 

 No matter what tradition you hail from, no matter how you celebrate this season, may happiness be yours.)


Join me for a Mini-Retreat celebrating this season of dark and light!

Soon I'll be offering the 2nd installment in the series on "The Seasons of My Soul." The focus is "Winter," and we'll be exploring the spiritual invitations of winter: going within, stillness, fertile darkness (creativity), and tending the light within.

Sunday, January 17, Inn at the Rustic Gate, Big Rapids, MI

Click here to learn more.

I'd love to see you there!

(Image: "Playing with the North Wind" by Susan Seddon Boulet)


Sharmila said...

Jan, I am so grateful to be here today, and this is exactly where I am at also on my spiritual journey. So much of what you shared here resonates deeply within me.
Especially as you talked about Winter as the "fertile darkness" and a time of going inward, cozying down into one's self. That is exactly how I feel lately!! wow!
Also I know that seeds are planting and others are wanting to birth through. I feel very much that although there is some darkness on the soil of my soul it is a season that is very sacred and is welcoming the light! It is hard to wait but I keep bumping into signs and even this blog that remind me of the miracles to come! I am trying to patiently enjoy each moment and not rush the process! I'm not sure what 2010 holds for me yet, but I do have a huge dream that is part of the miracles I speak of so we will see! :) and the Mary thing, it's still there, though I don't know why exactly. Intriguing and so reverent! I am interested in what you spoke of at the end also with your series on the seasons of the soul. will you have this available online? I'd love to learn the content as well. Just a note to suggest if it was possible, I know I won't be in MI! :) either way, I wish you all the best with your upcoming series and other projects! Many blessings and Merry Christmas to you and yours! :)
xx ~Jen

Laura said...

As Winter Solstice approaches I too have been quieter, dormant in some ways like a little seed or a tree's roots.

I do know that I'm feeling the quickening of creativity and the urge to make music, paint, make new mala designs. All in good time.

All this is very positive. And I have your book to give to several of my favorite women for Christmas.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful, peaceful, and warm holiday. Thanks for being you.



Sharon said...

The idea of a perpetual candle intrigues me. How comforting it would be to see that light during the night. You have brought light into my life this year, Jan. I count you among my blessings. Enjoy this holiday with your family.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jan .. first I love the picture .. wonderful.

I'll have to visit your sites to see the various world celebrations of the Winter Solstice .. very interesting to see how they've developed. I love the idea of a winter candle to constantly remind you of the Spirit presence.

Spring is ahead - it just has to wait for me to be free - though now I'm working towards 2010 spring, I feel I can let some shoots out .. at last. I love your sentence "But I can light the fire of my inner life and allow it room to breathe, to glow, to grow .."

Thanks Jan - here's to that sure and secure growth that will burst through and lead us on ..

Have a wonderful time with family and friends -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Anonymous said...


The Winter Solstice means more to me each year. I light candles, of course, and read prayers with my seasonal Story-Beads. I am trying to embrace the darkness as well as the light.

What's gestating for me are my creativity and spirituality, just as I hoped. You have been a great inspiration in doing that. I wish you and your family much joy and peace this holiday season.


mermaid said...

A reminder that thoughts and the critic are always there. I can't stop them. I can choose to be compassionate and listen to another story.

Happy Winter Solstice and Holidays, dear one.

Lisa (Mommy Mystic) said...

Jan, a lovely post on the solsticem I love your candle...there was a time when I feared the inner intensity of this time of year a bit, but now I think it is actually my you said, it pulls us is the time of mystery, of hidden knowledge, of facing ourselves...stay warm and have a wonderful holiday and new year!

Jan said...

Thank you all for your lovely, heartfelt comments. I am holding everyone in my heart and will hope that each one of us gives birth to wonderful new aspects of our truest selves. May we hold true to the course of Spirit and the Love of which we are a part.

It has been such a joy to connect with every one of you this year, whether in person or through this blog. I thank you for the courage you instill in me to keep walking my talk and embodying MY truest self. I am so grateful for you and your presence in my life.

I love you all...

Peace...May all beings everywhere experience peace.

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

Embrace the light ... embrace the darkness. What is, is. Embrace it fully, wherever we find ourselves. I love the glow of a candle, it's gentle light flickering. I think of those who lived before electricity and wonder if they had a different appreciation of candlelight than we do, necessity versus pure pleasure? The light will come, the days will expand. As you know, I am entering a new stage of my life journey. We will see what comes to fruition in the coming months. I trust it will all be good, because it will be.

Kel said...

candlelight is delightful whatever time of year

we were looking forward to creating something special within our loghenge for summer solstice (in upside-down-land)

but visiting relatives who don't appreciate such things meant it was not good timing


thankyou Jan for the gentle glow you infuse over us, the connection is one of this year's greatest gifts

Jan said...

Your gentle words of wisdom are so light-filled themselves! I imagine our forebearers so appreciated the light (esp. fire) as it was the source of so much, many comforts especially. Whenever I am gathered around a bonfire with my family I think of this and how blessed we are to be huddled together, like beings of old, with our attention focused on the here and now—warmed by the light.

I imagine that you would be a great lover of candles and bonfires. I do wish you could have had a sacred "solstice" bonfire. There is always New Years, another sacred time I believe for gathering together and setting forth our intentions for the new year to come. I would love to visit your Log Hendge someday! Your presence in my life this year has also been a great blessed and JOY! xo