Winter Solstice

The week before Christmas is here. Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, during the days and weeks ahead we will experience a suspension of the usual pace and routine of our days.  It is the Christian season of Advent, a time of waiting for what has not yet come. As I sit writing this by the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree, there is a feeling that something wonderful is coming, something beyond my ordinary thoughts and expectations.

The seasonal darkness reaches its depth today with Winter Solstice, which deepens the sense of suspension of the usual, the sense of waiting, the sense of suspense. It’s natural to seek signs of the return of the light, to shake the packages under the tree, to seek an end to the suspense. But this can be a wonderful time to practice peaceful abiding…or patience. Our whole iPhone culture is arrayed against this word and the state behind it. If you wish, join me in daring to explore it.

It’s always darkest before it’s pitch black. It’s natural to seek signs of the returning light but can we also be present for what is without always toppling forward, seeking relief or resolution, the next thing? The ancient root of patience is suffering. It means tolerating what is happening without adding anything—no argument, no wry commentary, nothing. But being patient doesn’t mean being passive. Patience can make us quicker and more sensitive—when you aren’t toppling forward you can be grounded and open. You can see and hear more.

It’s very natural to want suffering to pass, but we can soften in the midst of it. Sometimes (often) we try too hard to let go and be present. This can feel effortful and laden with self-judgment. I’ve found that asking myself to be a little softer at moments creates a pause in my usual functioning. A space opens up and I can be open to receive what is waiting to be received. There is a presence beyond our ordinary thought that comes when we are soft. When we are re-membered– body, heart, heart and mind. It is not here yet but it will come.

“Be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart. And try to love the questions themselves. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”


7 thoughts on “Winter Solstice

  1. Waiting is fraught with the fear or expectation of suffering, which can distract us and give us anxiety but is not, in itself, suffering.
    Perhaps it is that expectation of suffering that causes us to fill the quiet, still moment with imaginings, anxiety and busy-ness.

    1. Yes, CL. I agree. And even when there pain, there is often an unnecessary layer of mental anguish, e.g. “Why did this have to happen to me?” Pain happens, darkness falls, challenges arise…but a lot of our suffering is as you say–imagining, anxiety, and busy-ness.

      1. This concept, to add another metaphor, is the essence of The Hanged Man in the Tarot: to wait without resistance for what will come, whether from within or without: patience until the time of readiness, an opportunity to simply be at one with circumstances over which one does not have, nor try to have, power.

        In this state, whatever the metaphor, one sets aside assumption, presumption, prejudice, even hopes and fears.

  2. As is always the case, you present me with the right words at the right time. I hope that something beyond your expectations brings you joy, knowledge, peace — or any combination thereof.

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