Winter solstice is a time to remind us that darkness is just as essential to life as light. We tend to glorify the light and put all emphasis towards it. There are festivals of light, light shows, light tours. There are workshops, seminars, videos, books, podcasts, TV shows all on cultivating happiness, positivity, joy and our inner light. These are all incredibly worthwhile endeavours and traditions that hold immense value, and bring richness into our lives.
However, we tend to neglect or discount the power and necessity of darkness. Night is just as integral to life as day. In order to have balance in life we need the yin and yang. The same goes in our lives. We draw our strength and become resilient from our struggles. It is my belief that people become derailed when or if they don't expect the hardships. Being optimistically aware allows a person to stay positive, but also pragmatic about the realities of life. People in our lives will pass away. We will encounter intense emotional or physical burdens. We will suffer professional and personal upsets. But, there is comfort in knowing this is part of the life cycle, and experiences we all go through. The more we deny this or turn our back to it, the harder it is to endure when it happens, or recover from afterwards.
Having the ability to live harmoniously with the light and the dark gives us the ability to live a life of balance. Teetering from one extreme to another is hard on us - emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Especially considering the amount of people who are living with mental illness and mental health issues, perhaps it's time to normalize the idea that it is OK to not feel great all the time. Maybe embracing the darkness is OK for a while instead of fighting it. When night falls upon us we don't resist, we rest.
I am reminded of a short story that has gone viral, but when I looked into it, it seems there is another version than what most people are probably familiar with. It's the story of a Cherokee man telling his grandson about a battle going on inside of him between a white wolf and a black wolf. When the grandson asks which wolf wins, the grandfather replies "the one you feed". However, there is a longer version with a dramatically different conclusion where the grandfather advises they both win, and both are needed, as both equip you for life's journey. You can find that version here.
In Tao ideology, the central principle is to flow with life. If you are feeling a certain way, don't fight it, don't resist it, don't judge it. Simply acknowledge it's there and understand the root of it.Interestingly, the flow of the ocean is dictated by the moon, not the sun. The ocean does not resist the waves. Instead, it flows naturally and therefore carries out its purpose.
During the shortest day of the year it allows us to reflect on the fact that since the dawn of time, our planet has survived because the darkness balances the light. Also, for millennia humans and animals alike have been rest-assured that once winter solstice passes, the sun inevitably rises and the days become longer.
So, if you or someone you know is in their dark period, embrace it. There is no light without dark. Winter solstice is here to remind us that long periods of darkness is normal and part of life. It also reminds us that long periods of warmth and light are just around the corner.
This winter solstice, cozy up to a fire or under a blanket, light some candles, put on the Christmas tree lights and know that whatever you are experiencing, whatever you are going through it is normal. It is OK. You are OK. Just like this long day or darkness will soon be over, so will whatever you are experiencing. Embrace it - it is all here to teach us a valuable lesson: to find balance within ourselves and live harmoniously with the light and the dark.