"Tell us about the ways you experience darkness." The facilitator prompted as we gathered in a circle.
The winter solstice was upon us and we were being encouraged to reflect on the important role darkness plays in our lives. This was a novel and scary idea for me.
I had always hidden any inkling of darkness within me for fear of rejection. Now I was not only being asked to talk about it openly but to explore the positive sides of the darkness I endured.
At the time, I was grappling with feelings of despair. Darkness followed me like Pigpen's dust cloud in Snoopy. Tears rolled down my cheek as I gave voice to these feelings and thoughts for the first time aloud.
As I spoke, I reflected on Rumi's words, "The wound is the place where the light enters you." An affirmation I said to myself whenever the pain felt too great. A gentle reminder it was not permanent.
I took a deep, cathartic breath in and out as the weight I carried dissipated with each word I uttered. Speaking my truth made room for other possibilities to reside, like hope. It wasn't an instantaneous turnaround, but one of many subtle shifts signaling the changing tides of my heart.
Krista Tippet recently aired an OnBeing interview with Katherine May, where they discussed her book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.
On the show, May read a passage from her book, "Wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible."
This notion runs counter to consumer culture. When nature enters a period of hibernation, we are expected to do more, buy more, achieve more. And yet, we stand to gain so much more in non-doing.
There are gifts in Wintering. In slowing down and allowing the pain to move through you like the way bubbles in an effervescent drink rise to the top and pop. For the fizz of our own discomfort and pain to settle, we must remove the lid. Wintering is not about bottling up our pain or stuffing it down but allowing it to be without judgment or shame.
May observes our own personal Winterings may not coincide with the seasons but replicate the ebb and flow of life in nature nonetheless. "Wintering is a metaphor for those phases in our life when we feel frozen out or unable to make the next step, and that that can come at any time, in any season, in any weather."
While I do not feel the same weight of darkness upon my shoulders this solstice, I look at this shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere as an opportunity to pause. An invitation to send love to those who are enduring their own Winterings - for it's important to know you are loved and appreciated as you are. A reminder of the immense power a little light has on brightening our lives - before we can enjoy the bounty of summer we must allow winter to give way to spring.