candle-balcony-winter-solstice

the magic of the longest night + a family ’round the table

i’ve been preparing for the winter solstice for days, even weeks, anticipating it with excitement, thinking + pondering + feeling + reading all of the signs in my life. listening to my soul. observing nature. slowing down + letting the dark mornings i’ve spent alone before the sun rises wrap around me like a warm blanket. today, however, the solstice is finally upon us northern hemisphere dwellers. the night has finally come.

and it is the longest night of the year. which, by itself, sounds like a drawn out tortuous day of darkness + boredom. in reality, however, it is a day of beauty and celebration. a day of warmth and hope and energy and light. how interesting is that? the longest, darkest night of the year brings us light + hope. but, it’s true, i believe. though the daylight hours are short, and the night seems to go on forever, with the darkness engulfing us, it is only because it is the longest night that we make the turn toward light. beginning tomorrow, the light returns to this part of the earth. from here on out, until the summer solstice, the days are longer and the sun shines a minute or two more each and every day. this day, that seems so hopeless, is actually filled with possibility. a day for dreaming dreams and setting intentions. a day for leaving behind all of the things of the previous year, harnessing the energy that the light brings, and celebrating the newness that comes with a new year.

of course, in order to endure this dark time of year, it is necessary to create as much coziness as possible. it’s the perfect time to light candles and string up twinkle lights. to warm ourselves with toasty drinks of mulled wine + cider. to decorate our homes with greenery, lest we forget that underneath all of the cold + snow + dark, life still exists. and even though we are inside during most of this time of the year, if we gather together, we can feel the glow of love, the energy of life, moving between us. and, if we dare to stand or sit outside in the middle of the darkness for just a minute, if we find the courage to embrace the darkness, then we learn how much the dark has to teach us, and we understand the beauty of the night.

i have celebrated this winter solstice very simply. i began the day by taking part in our little family advent candle lighting ritual. an little moment meant to acknowledge that we are still journeying toward christmas, that we are still seeking love and light.

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and then, after doing some errands (and christmas shopping on my own!), lina and i prepared a dinner for our parents. yes, the joy of this season, one that i did not realize would be quite as moving as it is, is that we are celebrating this holiday with both of our parents. it is so amazing. we picked up loan’s parents at the airport last night, and spent our first day together today – just resting and relaxing, so they could get over some jet lag. but, we decided to invite my parents over for dinner.

the six of us gathered around our dining table, eating food + drinking wine/beer, reacquainting ourselves with each other, laughing, joking, and sharing the simple pleasures of a family gathering. i had no idea how much this would affect me, how emotional i would be to be able to celebrate and share this time with each other.

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family table solstice christmas

after dinner, i snuck away for a few minutes by myself on the balcony. this was going to be the heart of my solitary solstice celebration. i took a candle out, wrapped myself in a big blanket, and grabbed my journal + a pen. i must have sat outside in the near-freezing temperature for about 30 minutes. the air was cold, but i was warm. i sat and thought. i wrote, and i gazed at the light of the candle, flickering in the darkness. i fell the hope of a new season, a new year, new opportunities. i jotted down something that i knew i needed to leave behind now. i gave up and left some old patterns of thinking and ways of being. and i harnessed the energy inside me that will carry me throughout this next phase in my life.

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now, the apartment is quiet. i’m back inside, warm and toasty. the tree is lit and a christmas movie plays in the background. everyone else is in bed. there is a wonderful sense of rest + calm in my home. and i know, that when the sun rises tomorrow, the light will have returned. yes, it is very, very dark now – in the middle of the nigh – but, i feel at peace. i feel present and alive and ready. but, i am not in a hurry. i’ll let the darkness be as it is right now – and i’ll simply be aware + embrace it.

tomorrow, the light returns again.

 

light + love xx

moonrise

embracing a blue christmas

” you need to know something about the darkness. don’t fight it. embrace it”

- the geography of bliss

but, i mean, the darkness is not fun. at all. and if it’s cold + dark, well, that’s even worse. but, that’s what we are facing right now in the northern hemisphere – literally. and symbolically, cold + dark, has taken hold over the entire world… with violence, hate, suffering, sickness, war. it’s all quite unbearable at times.

but, darkness is part of our world. and somehow learning to embrace (NOT ACCEPT!) the darkness is something that i believe is important. and i learned a lot about embracing the darkness when i lived in sweden (read sweden posts –> {here}). i mean, it’s cold and dark for about 4 months out of the year. it’s just a fact of life. something i had to learn to live with, because no matter how hard i tried, i could not make the sun come up or keep it from setting. it was what it was… and you know what? in embracing the darkness, i came to appreciate + love it.


a few months ago, i wrote a blog post about (read it –> {here}) the book the geography of bliss. in it, the author travels to what have been dubbed the “happiest” countries in the world. one of them was iceland. the chapter on that cold, northern country was my favorite one in the book. there was so much richness there, so much to learn about what true happiness is + where it comes from. and how interesting is it, that one of the happiest places in the world also seems to be one of the darkest + coldest…

it was then, that i began wondering even more about how much we can learn from the darkness.

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it has been noted that colder places produce happier people. my first thought about that was, well, of course. everyone sits inside and drinks themselves into a drunken stupor.  which, in part may be partly true. but, there is so much more to it than that, i believe.

life is not easy in cold climates. nature is brutal, life is difficult, much planning and preparations are involved, survival is critical. doesn’t sounds like a recipe for happiness, does it? but, if we keep thinking about it, if we go a bit deeper then all of those things that make life harsh + difficult, we find that cooperation + community are extremely important. in other words, it becomes all about relationships. to each other and to the natural world. there must be co-existence and interdependence.

so, basically, what makes life in places like iceland work is, to put it simply, love. and that, my friends, can be found even in the darkness.

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when surrounded with the stark, tough, natural surroundings,  life can feel like an impending doom. everything becomes a struggle and a fight to just survive.  in iceland, people have to work together to survive, but instead of just “surviving” they have also learned to create their own happiness – due to the fact that it is cold + dark for so much of the year. these people, who live and work and survive together in difficult situations, use the opportunity for the cold +dark to become inspirational. nature inspires with its beauty and it power. and the people of iceland seem to respond to this by creating the life that they wish to have – in fact, artists, authors, photographers, dreamers all flock to iceland for inspiration. the darkness forces people to imagine and dream and tap into their creative energies.

i like to think of the darkness as a catalyst for transcendental moments. a place where possibility lives. even in the midst of the darkness and cold, there is the possibility for inspiration, transformation, creativity, and love. i mean, without the cold, there would be no coziness. without the dark, there would be no beauty. without struggle, there would be no need to help each other, thereby creating community.

yes. it’s so strange, this paradox. but, without the darkness, without tough times or struggles in life, we would not deeply understand happiness and joy and light. without death, we would not have life.

so, if you are feeling blue this christmas, instead of all warm + fuzzy, just remember that the cold, blue, dark places often reveal much beauty, give us opportunities to create community, and inspire us in ways that we otherwise might not have ever imagined.

hold on. hold fast. and let the dark inspire you.

light + love xx

* photos in the post from google images. top photo by be|love|live photography

meditation mondays: looking at who we really are

“darkness is a place of unknowing, and it may be a place of danger or it may be a place of divine revelation.” – barbara brown taylor

look, i know that all of this darkness stuff is annoying. but who would we be if we didn’t reflect a little on our lives? and i don’t mean just remembering the good times + fun stuff, but also recognizing + admitting the not-so-good stuff. now, reflecting doesn’t have to bring us down, you know. we may already feel that we are covered in darkness actually. i also don’t think think that reflecting makes us a negative person – it just makes us honest. and we can call ourselves out of the all of the painful and shameful things because, ultimately, there is always hope + grace. we are always loved, always filled with that spark within.

being brutally honest with ourselves only serves as a way to lead us to becoming better people. it’s all part of our journey of becoming wh we are truly supposed to be: whole, healed, authentic, bearers of light.

and i can’t learn about who i am and where i want to go/who i want to be, if i don’t look at where i’ve been/who i’ve been and search my heart + soul, asking some real, honest, deep questions.

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these dark days of advent are the perfect days to engage in a sort of personal evaluation (and dream-casting). advent is a chance to uncover all of the darkness that covers my inner, divine light. and i want that light to shine, we all want our lights to shine, don’t we?

still, that light cannot be uncovered unless we explore what is getting in the way. we cannot grow and be transformed and move on in life if we do not understand what’s causing us to put up barriers. and, even if the darkness simply falls upon us, not of our own doing, we need a time in life to pull ourselves together and realize that we have all the power we need within us. we have the choice to determine how we want to live our life.

yes, the darkness has much to teach us. we actually do not understand the light with out the darkness. think about it: there is beauty in the dark, along with the fear and pain. without the night sky, we would not be dreamers and star-gazers. without clouds, there would be no shaft of light bursting through, giving us a real symbol of hope. without dark nights, we would not feel the magic of twinkle lights. without cold and snow, we would never see the strong, determined little flower peeking through reminding us that anything is possible.

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yes, the dark places can be scary. they are a place of unknowing and vulnerability, whether voluntary or involuntary. we always try to get out of our dark places as fast as possible. so, why would we intentionally place ourselves, even for only five minutes, in the middle of a dark place of honest reflection? but, i wonder… what happens if, when faced with the darkness, we take 3 breaths, feel around, and simply sit with it for a minute? what if there is something to be learned? what if the divine is presenting itself in the light that breaks through in the dark?

what if we shifted out thoughts from “dark = bad. light = good”? what if, for only this time of year, we embraced the darkness? learned from it. and found beauty and inspiration in the middle of it.

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an advent darkness meditation moment for you:

if you are so daring, light a candle and sit in the dark tonight. and just be. let the thoughts roll around in your mind. just let them come. and take three deep breaths. feel your soul. and, know, that no matter what… you are loved. and then, imagine what you need to remove from your life and what you need more of. send those thoughts up into the air or the sky. breathe again. remember, that even though the darkness surrounds you, the light shines within you. you have everything you need within you. embrace your true self and give thanks to the darkness for reminding you, once again, that you are not all of that darkness that seems to suffocate you. no… you are a light bearer.

love + light xx

i’m a pro at building castles in the air

oh these dark days of advent… they’ve got me all messed up in my head. i am someone who is always positive and i have a pretty good level of self confidence. but, recently, i have started doubting myself. wondering if i will ever accomplish the things that i want to accomplish… and, the shitty thing is, i know exactly what i want, and yet, i don’t do it. well, in some ways i don’t do it. in other ways, it’s all i do. hard to explain.


my love is finishing her last final exam today and what that means is that this part of her journey is over. she has reached her goal and accomplished it all with an amazing amount of success. i have watched her over the past 2 years as she decided what she want, fought for her life to make it possible, made it happen, and then reached her ultimate dream. she is freaking amazing. i am so inspired by her. and i am so ready to celebrate her achievements with her!

she even said to me this morning, with a beautiful smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, that she has made her dreams come true. and then, she told me that she knows that i will make mine come true too. and i saw and felt her complete belief in me in her eyes.

but i’m not so sure… right now, in these dark days, i’m wondering if i am capable of it (a thought that is usually so foreign to me).

i’m so big picture. so dreamy, with my head in the clouds. i have grand ideas and i plan them all out, but i have a super hard time following through. i cannot focus. i don’t work my ass off like she does. but, oh how i want to. and i know that all i have to do is actually just BEGIN. but, something is holding me back. something like myself. and something else takes my attention. like right freaking now – i am blogging this instead of reading through my journals for my book. what is wrong with me?

[ now, friends, this is not a “poor me” post at all. this is simply me reflecting and being totally honest with myself. i think it’s important to look honestly at ourselves, even if the truth is hard to see and it hurts, to admit. and, if you have read my blog for a while, you will know that this is how i process stuff.]

anyway, just as i was beating myself up more and more – yet so grateful for my love’s complete, unconditional belief in me, i decided to head outside to the balcony for a minute to snap a photo of this morning’s sunrise – something that i have now done every morning in december. when i came in, i looked at the photo for a minute and then stumbled across this quote that i have never seen before:

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.” :: Henry David Thoreau

as soon as i read it, some of the pain + guilt that i feel was released. i realized that there is nothing wrong with me, and there are things that i need to change all at the same time. i’ve got the first part of the quote down pat, i’d say. i’m a pro at building castles in the air and dreaming big dreams, believing that they will come true. the foundation part, the part where you work with the universe to create your dream into reality… not so much. still, according to thoreau, i’m on the right track. and i’ve got people behind me. i always have. my love, being my biggest supporter + cheerleader.

but, i need to figure out what comes next. how the hell do i get stuff moving to the next phase? why am i missing some integral, motivational thing that others have? why do i want something to happen and then don’t want to do anything to make it happen?

of course, i’ve had dreams before… and i have made them come true. and, of course, i know that there is such a thing as timing – that things will unfold in due time, and it will all be better that i had imagined it. so, i know that i must be patient and work with the universe to manifest my dreams. but, i also know that action is freaking required. and right now, for my current dreams, it is here that i am lacking motivation/energy/willpower.

so, i will just send this post out there into the universe. i am not asking for any advice or anything. i am just rambling and talking. what i do ask is that you send some vibes and goo energy out there on my behalf, or think of me. i can use the inspiration. feeling this way is very very strange to me. i never feel down on myself. but, as the season of advent call for, i embrace the little dark, not so great places inside of me. i will sit with them. because know that the light is stronger, and that i will find a way to make shit happen. thanks for listening, dear friends.

light + love xx

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meditation mondays: those crazy dark times in advent

i had every intention of writing this sometime monday morning. but, here it is, late monday night. i am sitting in near darkness, with only the soft glow of our red christmas star hanging in the window over my head. and, while i wanted to get this out early in the day, i cannot help but think that this is exactly as it should be.

because this is exactly what advent is all about: a quiet, still, solitude that is hopeful + unnerving all at the same time. a confusing, and yet, peaceful place in the middle of the darkness. it is waiting on the advent, or arrival, of something – for the arrival of a great, amazing, transformative thing. and having no idea what to expect. so, it is to wait with great, excited anticipation + to wait with nail-biting apprehension… scared + overjoyed about what may come.

i admit that that is exactly how i feel right now – literally, and in my life in general. one great big exciting, scary journey into the unknown.

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the stress of moving was at its height today. there were frustrations + disappointments about how to get everything done, how to find a place to live, how to trust that everything will fall into place, and how to get our things shipped in a much cheaper way than we’ve been quoted. and then there were big celebrations as well – like putting our furniture online and selling almost all of the big things within 1.5 hours! amazing! yes. today has been a roller coaster of a ride emotionally. and i feel that darkness + fear, and that hope + excitement all at the same time. and, ultimately, there is nothing that i can do but to keep on going about my daily business filled with chores and waiting and hoping and more waiting.

but, there are signs all along the way. there are moments of clarity and moments of inspiration, moments when i feel that my soul is singing, or that everything seems to be lined up. there are moments that i just know what i know, and i feel a connection to something much greater than myself. these are simple, mystical, magical moments – and they keep me journeying on. they are shafts of light piercing into the darkness.

however, i am never magically released from whatever darkness i feel. the dark times come + go, but when they are here, then they are simply here. and i must go through them.

today, as i felt the confusion and frustration and out-of-control feeling, i just let myself feel it. knowing that it would not last forever. and, also knowing that i have the choice and the power to choose how i respond  to it – not that i always choose rightly.

however, when i do choose rightly, i choose to nurture my soul. i choose to write or bask in the beauty of nature or enjoy a beer with my love and a friend. and i choose to meet you all right here – on my little blogging page. this place is a ray of light shining in the dark for me. this is where i rest, reflect, and awaken to the signs of the universe, to the signs of advent. this time, on meditation mondays, is sacred to me. it is a covenant i have made with all of you – though you did not know it until right now. it is a promise to return every monday during the last 6 weeks of 2014 so that i can write and think and be and learn and grow. this is a place where my darkness fades, and the light shines.

now, i have a challenge for you, friends. a challenge to journey with me for the next 5 mondays as we go inward (dec. 8 + 15), reflecting on who we are + the darkness in our life, and as we then, turn and go out (dec. 22 + 29 and jan 5), discovering ways that we are called to live life true to ourselves + become the light that pierces the dark.

may you not be afraid of the dark, because you are not alone. i am here. we are here together.

 

light + love xx

how to survive the darkness: the season of advent begins

right now, in the northern hemisphere, we are literally stuck in darkness. the days just keep getting shorter and shorter. the darkness is heavy + thick. and we are waiting. waiting for the light to return – both literally + figuratively. waiting for a little glimmer of hope. but, it is oh so hard. and we have a long way to go.

today, however, with the beginning of the season of advent, we say that we refuse to just give up. we refuse to accept the darkness and its threat to swallow us whole. today, we take action in the midst of our waiting.

advent candle home asheville

in many homes, in many places of the world, we create our own light. we light one single candle, and we light a candle every sunday until christmas (for a total of 4) to mark our journey, bringing a teeny bit more of light into our lives each week. a candle that lights our way in the dark and gives us a tiny ray of hope… and, with these candles, we remember that the light will return.

lights home asheville

so, instead of remaining in the darkness, we light a candle and put a star in our window and put lights on our tree to proclaim that we are people of the light. that, even thought it is so very tough, we will not give up. even though we still have to wait, we will not surrender to the darkness. that’s right, we will make our own light dammit.

of course, we cannot speed up the universe’s process of turning us back toward the sun. we don’t have complete control over making the darkness go away. but, we do have complete control over how we wish to live. it’s our choice –  we can either sink deep into the darkness or we can find a way to bring a little light into an otherwise very dark world. we embrace our empowerment to bring some light into the dark, and yet, we still have to wait. and wait we will… breathlessly.

but, perhaps the darkness actually has something to teach us. perhaps the silence and emptiness and breathlessness will help us discover new ways of appreciating the light.

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as we journey on toward christmas, the new year, and arrival of light back into our lives, we spend our days and nights finding ways to co-create with nature – ways to make the waiting bearable. we seek ways to brighten up our homes, making them cozy + warm. basically, we make the best out of the situation because we believe. we trust and we know that this, the darkness, will not overtake us. and so, we bring light into our own lives – and we begin to spread that light into others.

and all along the way, we hope. we listen. we feel. and we light one more candle each week.