Light after the Darkness
As I prepare for my first Christmas as a mother, I have been reflecting a lot on what I want to tell my developing soul sprout of a daughter about this hooplah that we call “Christmas” because, let’s be honest, to be an American wrapped up in it is a lot. Just this week, as I was rummaging through the wrapping paper aisle with a kind, gentle ninety-something year old woman, she looked at me and said, “I just can’t wait for it to be over.” And how many of us have said or thought the same at some point? This debt-inducing, force-fed consumption of endless “things” is not how I want my daughter to celebrate the holiday; therefore, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I will explain it all to her some day. So, here’s what I’ve come up with:
As I meditate on the approaching Winter Solstice (the darkest day of the year before the sun comes back to us), the story of Christ, and the legend of Santa Claus, what I can see is that underneath each of these tales is a universal theme, that each story - the Sun, the Son, and the Santa - is about the coming of Light in the midst of the Darkness. On a very palpable level, the Earth will soon tilt back toward the Sun, bringing with it the warmth, heat, and energy we feel in the long days of summer. And to an ancient people who lived in huts and igloos, this must have been such a celebration, the very tangible truth that out of nowhere, in the darkest of days, the Sun comes back to us.
Jesus’s arrival only validates this truth as he brewed in the quiet stillness of Mary’s womb, the darkest of places, from which he suddenly emerges, bringing with him messages of light, truth and hope to a dark, violent world. Literally out of nowhere, sprung from a virgin womb -- not to mention, in the meekest of places, a barn, amidst cow dung and lowly shepherds. Light appearing, in the midst of the jet-black night, in a very average place. I think one of the reasons that our culture is so obsessed with this story is because it’s living proof that it can happen, not just in the sky, but in our human reality. With this understanding in mind, it’s so clear to me that the story of Santa Claus is just another reminder that in the midst of the dark night, something good can happen, like a present arriving under a tree.
And while I love and appreciate the stories of old, I am more deeply called to see this Light emerging everywhere. Out of nowhere. For no good reason. And not thousands of years ago, but at this very moment. I’ve seen it in the cafe owner in who hurled himself at a terrorist attacker in an attempt to save strangers, the mother of three who took a bullet for her pregnant friend. I’ve witnessed it appear amidst the darkness of cancer as I watched my dear friend cuddle with her dying mother and joyfully reminisce on their favorite Christmas memories. I’ve seen it in the sudden and unexpected smile of my two month old daughter, in the couple brought closer by their financial struggles, in the deep understanding of my worth that came from the dark days of my eating disorder.
And while it’s easy to hyper-focus on the darkness and curse its existence, it’s clear to me that without this contrast of both Dark and Light, we wouldn’t know the deep and striking beauty of Good. We wouldn’t feel so urgently called to, as the Buddha says in his dying breath, “be the light” ourselves. We wouldn’t understand the depth of the lump-in-my-throat, tear-inducingly beautiful goodness of God without the darkness from which S/he emerges.
I am so excited to practice yoga this week, particularly on this Winter Solstice Sunday, where we will use the practice to align with the natural miracle occurring on our planet, awakening the creative sun energy that lies dormant within us -- the light that is hiding underneath the dark womb of winter, waiting to appear. We will then enter into a quiet, dark, yin space that will provide the time and space through which all that is brewing within us to come to the surface. This practice will help us to embrace the darkness, the velvety black cavern where we are more fully transformed into channels of light within a world that so badly needs hope, a visible hope that can only come from our way of being.
This week, on the mat, we celebrate the darkness because we know that it is from this dark place that the Light emerges, out of nowhere, in the simplest of places, time and time again.
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Yoga Teacher and Student, Speaker, Writer, Mother, Wife, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Human