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Reflections on the Winter Solstice and a Difficult 2020

I believe that there is an exceptionally good reason that in late December in the northern hemisphere, when the days grow visibly shorter and temperatures begin to plummet that we mark the time of the solstice (an astronomical event) with so many celebrations (human events).

Every season, every month has both religious and secular celebrations and holidays, but none more so that the month of December and time of the solstice. For Christians it is Advent and Christmas. For Buddhists it is Bodhi day. For Jews it is Hanukkah. For Paganism is it the Yule. And there is Kwanza and Boxing Day and let us not forget Festivus. (Curious about the 60 celebrations in this time of year? You’ll see the list here.)

As humans, we have a circadian rhythm, just as all animals. As such, this time when in nature there is more darkness than light and more cold than heat we react. This signals to us a time that we too can pause a bit to experience the darkness, find our sources of light and create our own illumination, either physically with candles and lights or metaphorically with stories of new beginnings and hope in times of darkness.

It is not a surprise that 2020 continues to be an exceptional year, even in the astronomical realm. For over the 2020 solstice Jupiter and Saturn will be just 0.1 degrees apart, creating the “Christmas Star” – a rare event with the last time being in medieval times in 1226.

This holiday season, no matter what or how you celebrate, will be difficult. Far too many are facing the dire implications of the pandemic with either loss of loved ones, loss of personal health or well-being or loss of businesses and employment. Everyone is faced with a disruption of long held traditions such as the gathering of friends and family, parties and revelry and perhaps travel or holiday events.

Both my work and my life has taught me (over and over and over again) that in these periods of darkness, we have three choices.

  1. We can deny and resist against the hard realities, refusing to accept difficult truths and tough circumstances, acting as if nothing is happening and burying the emotional pain.
  2. We can hurry through the darkness, pushing through to the other side.
  3. We can sit with what is. Not liking it but finding both ways to deal creatively with it. We can sit with it long enough to enable the situation to teach us, to strengthen us, to make us more resilient.

My life experience has been that it has been those times where I fully accepted and dealt with the tough stuff the miracle occurred. The darkness transformed me, shaped me, taught me valuable lessons. Looking back at all those tough spots, I would not want to repeat them, but I also would not want to have lost the things that they taught me.

For it is in darkness that we learn to appreciate the light. For it is in the darkness that growth and transformation occur. It is in these times of disruption and “not normal” that we can explore what it is that we want to shed and what it is that we want to carry forward.

So in this holiday season of 2020 I hope that you and your loved ones stay safe. I hope you find new and meaningful ways to celebrate this passage from darkness to light. And I hope that the gift in this holiday season of 2020 is each of us finding ways to capture our own learning, to find creative ways to capture the spirit of the holiday, and to emerge transformed and knowing that we can create and claim our own lights.

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