I have always been drawn to the solstices. They are like bookends in midst of my year. I love the images of the world turning as my corner becomes full of light or full of night. I am drawn to the idea of the ancients and the way they celebrated the solstice (something my husband brought up to me today). And in the winter, I reflect on the hope that sits in the fact that the days begin to lengthen.
The idea that winter can be a journey inward. In a time of year when everything is about the opposite. The shopping, travel, buying, expectation, disappoint, singing, joy, togetherness. Instead, it could be about spending a few moments alone, quiet, in reflection, just for you.
A year ago, I met with my yoga teacher for a private session. I wanted to integrate chanting and meditation into my daily practice. She gave me a beautiful chant that evokes the idea of spinning all the petals of your heart; it has become my favorite and I sing it often. My heart, mind, spirit soar as I sing. The meditation was to breathe in suffering and exhale compassion. At the time, two loved one were sick with cancer and I wanted to bring my love for them into my practice. She said on days when I felt strong enough, I could breathe in their suffering and then exhale compassion for them. But the most important part was that I first had to do this for myself. Inhale my suffering, exhale compassion for myself. Even though I could not heal the cancer, I could reach out to them in this way. One of them died in February; the other is almost cancer-free.
Now, I work with breathing in compassion and breathing out compassion. I have not felt strong enough to "take on" the suffering of another. In my moments of quiet, I am trying to feel the creation of this compassion inside me. My heart is trying to heal. My grandmother was not one of the loved ones I thought about during my meditation practice. She did not seem to be ill; my grandfather was the one with cancer. Even though I rationally understand that it is not my fault that she died and that with my very life I was sending her love and energy daily because of our relationship, I still think "if only I had realized..." With this winter solstice, my hope for myself is that I will begin to let go of this. As a new cycle begins with the light of the day, a new cycle might begin inside of me, with my light. My hope is that my light will begin to grow stronger, brighter, fuller through this gift of self-compassion.
My hope for you is that you will feel your light. That you will sit in the quiet long enough to find it, feel it, see it inside of you. As the days lengthen, let go of some of your darkness, and let your light shine brightly.