We are just upon winter solstice (Wednesday the 21st) which is a time when we can give attention to the longest night of the year. and see how the outer is affecting the inner. There are many rituals that surround this cold dark time of the year. Rituals that are celebrated externally also have a deep inner significance. What we do on the outside is reflected inwardly. We know this if we pay attention to how we feel when we smile verses how we feel when we frown. When we engage in a ritual it gives us structure which grounds us. When we are soothed by being grounded we awaken to the space around us and in doing so we recognize that the outer environment is affecting us and is being affected by us.
What significance does the longest night of the year have for us? When we sleep, we are plunged into darkness, as when we practice meditation. Our eyes close out the light. When yoga practitioners begin savasana (final relaxation) we place a cover on our eyes to shut out the light. When we intentionally seek darkness, knowingly or unknowingly, we are seeking something significant in this darkness. Afterall, consider how earnestly we seek sleep. There are the metabolic reasons for sleep- for example our organs detox, and our body regenerates. This actually happens in meditation as well, which is why people who have a deep meditation practice don’t need as much sleep and have more energy during the day. But something else is happening when we shut out the light- we are encountering our inner light. Whether we remember it or not (most of us don’t) it is happening. With the seen world shut out, it doesn’t exist. Like in a game of peekaboo with a young child. When they cover their eyes, they believe that all of the players disappear. In a game of hide and seek, when that young child closes their eyes they believe they will not be found. We hold on to that belief in a way because it is true! When we enter the darkness, we as an individual disappear. What does that mean, that we disappear? The person that has to be someone, has to do something great, or the person that always does something terrible and wrong, the person that has to distinguish themselves from others to be important- all that disappears. And when all that disappears, you are not separate, apart, or alone. And so the mind can rest its machinations and your energy can now focus on what is hidden by all those exhausting beliefs — which is the inner light. When you shut out the seen world and the exterior light you are putting those exhausting mind movements to the side and giving time for the inner light to be dominant. What a relief! Or maybe not? Entering this darkness can also be very scary if we do not have the context for what happens to us when the mind-driven personality ceases. If we don’t recognize this as a chance to be in the inner light, we will dread the darkness, and the non-existence it seems to represent.
Now with the solstice coming we are entering this external darkness together. The earth and its orbit is putting us into darkness for the longest stretch of time. We can dread it, or we can celebrate the fact that for a relatively short amount of time we are collectively immersing ourselves in to the darkness and into the resting of the mind and the seen world. Of course, in this modern lifestyle we enjoy now, the darkness of the night can be easily eradicated by flipping a switch (or if you are in my house, you can just ask Alexa to turn everything on). But during olden days when we were at the mercy of the movement of the planets, stars and sun, rituals developed, and awareness of the external energies were sharper. Possibly the power of the collective pause was felt more strongly and honored more deeply. And guess what!? We can still do that by asking Alexa to keep the lights and TV off, and we can join others who still see this night as a sacred time to come together and seek the light in the darkness.