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.

balcony-solstice-lights

candle-balcony-solstice

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.

Cozy-Mountain-Home-Iceland

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.

iceland_northern_lights_wallpapers

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.

advent-candles-two

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.

candle

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