Darkness has won, but the light is increasing.
We can now surrender our fear
That we will be trapped, forever sleeping
In Winter, the Night of the Year.
December 21st marks the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. Traditional cultures considered the solstice a sacred time. Their rituals emphasized the importance of sacrifice--the literal stoking of the fire--to bring back the sun. The giving of gifts symbolized the fuel for transformation. The intended effect was the promise of rebirth. The Germanic Yuletide and the Christian Advent are both examples of the movement from death to rebirth. Today we'll look at the solstice through the Eastern lens.
Activity necessitates rest. Rest fuels activity. This is an inviolable law in biology. There is no such thing as stasis. Our body's processes are either catabolic (breaking down) or anabolic (building up). These are always occurring simultaneously. A common misconception is that working out makes us stronger. However, we leave an exercise session weaker than when we began. It is the good meal and the night of rest that actually completes the strength adaptation. Both the challenge and the rest are necessary for progress.
Winter is the most Yin season of the year. Plants and creatures enter dormancy during the winter as the abundance of solar energy declines. Yet, external stillness should not be confused with inactivity. Inside hibernating organisms, there is a symphony of change. Fuel is being burned to stay warm. Chemical pathways that will be essential for springtime growth are being established.
The duality of activity inside of stillness (Yang within Yin) is present within us all during the winter. This time of cold and darkness is an opportunity to take a rest from our normal busy lives and contemplate deeply. It is a time to dream big. Throw as many ideas against the wall as possible. Don't commit to any of them. They will be there in the new year. Reflect on the gifts you have been given and the hard work you have done. Bask in the warmth of yet another year of life. Sleep soundly with the reassurance that more great days lie ahead.
I am not one who is overly sentimental, but I have suffered greatly this year. I have lost more than I am comfortable publicly admitting. My best efforts have repeatedly failed. At every turn I was met with more dissappointment than I thought possible. I have been manipulated, decieved, and robbed. The very fabric of reality, truth, and justice has been tested. Yet, I am through the worst of it. I know that there is still much work to do, but I am happy to do it--I long to do it.
Now, I could easily brood in resentment, but that would forfeit any agency I have left. The only thing worse than loss is powerlessness. In the next year there is only one way forward--repeated conviction to being better each and every day. This looks like dedication to the people I love, committment to virtuous living, and faith in a greater good. That is where you will find me.