Welcoming the Darkness

sun-and-moonIn the dark of this longest night of winter, I take a moment to honor the presence of light. There are many who struggle with the cold and darkness during the winter months. In the past, I have found myself bogged down during these months, struggling with melancholy and a sort of darkness of the spirit within, holding my breath waiting for spring to come.

Taking time to honor the shift in light has become an important ritual for my winters in recent years. When I have made time for this, my spirits have flourished in a different kind of rhythm and energy through the winter, instead of shutting down in attempts to maintain a status quo.

What does it mean to welcome the darkness?

I honor and recognize the rhythms of the seasons,
the cycles of the sun,
the movement of the Earth around the sun.

I honor and recognize
the long nights
as part of our planet’s journey
in space and time.

I honor and recognize
the shift of the natural world.
I watch the animals as they prepare for winter
and enter in hibernation.

I invite space and time
for deep rest and hibernation
in my life in these upcoming months.

I honor and recognize the parts of myself that
shy away from touching the darkness
of the emotional being that I am.
To step away from the unknown,
that which cannot be seen.

I welcome that I am a whole being,
honoring the joy and the sorrow,
the ease and the struggle of
this journey called life.

I recognize that I find discomfort in being present with sorrow and struggle
and in this discomfort tend to seek comfort in other directions.
I turn to food, distraction, television, movies, books, fantasy.
I lose sight of center, inspiration, my creative being.

I ask myself to step into the discomfort
to learn to trust its gift
To feel the depth of what feels painful
To find space for the tears, for the extra hours
curled up in bed, numb, quiet, still.

For on the other side of this, I always find there is light.
There is beauty in this space.

In the words of Barbara McAfee from Minneapolis,

“Every time I step into the darkness, I return with fistfuls of jewels.
Midnight Velvet wraps all around me, Stars glitter brilliant above.
Dreaming Darkness, Dreaming Light.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

“I return with fistfuls of jewels.”Healing Hope

I move forward with tenderness,
permission to be broken,
and in this brokenness, to be whole.

More whole than I had been as
I chased “okay-ness”
holding together with
distractions – the television, the Netflix binge,
even the long hours refusing to put down the novel.

In this tenderness,
I see the world with fresh eyes.
There are treasures all around.
The light glimmers off the trees, off the clothesline,
off the old iron pump above the empty birdbath.

I think back to times in my life when darkness was not a thing to hide from.

When I was 16, I spent my summer in the woods of Vermont. Every night we’d go from the main lodge down the twisting, root-filled path to the cabin. By the end of the summer, we’d know every root along the path, being able to anticipate each step with ease as we walked back in the full dark.

At 28, as an outdoor educator, I explored in the woods with 5th-8th graders every day teaching forest ecology, wetland ecology and more. Nighttime ecology included night hikes, walking a section of trail without the assistance of light. We taught students how to relax into their senses, trusting a different part of their awareness to be able to guide them along the trail in the dark.

We would quote Wendell Berry,

“To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”

We got a lot of practice ourselves on how to follow even the trails with twists and turns in them. The ground along the trail was firmer, more compacted by frequent travel, than the soil alongside it. The leaf litter was broken down and scattered along the trail. As soon as we stepped just off the edge of the trail, the leaves and soil would let us know and send us back to the center. Our peripheral sensory awareness became much more heightened as we learned to trust the receptors in the periphery of the eye to bring in the low-level light.

When I moved to Vermont in 2004, I joined a group of friends for a hike up Mt. Monadnock, a heavily traveled mountain. We chose to hike a side trail off the main track in order to steer clear of the crowds. We had a lovely time meandering our way up the mountain, stopping to identify mushrooms, to admire a wasp’s nest, to enjoy the stream in the fall sunlight. We got to the top in the late afternoon, and joined the crowds of others looking out over the vistas. Two falcons circled and danced in the air currents above our heads. We enjoyed the peace of the summit.

And then we realized we were starting to enjoy the sunset and most of the crowd had dispersed already. Not anticipating being out after dark, none of us had flashlights, but three out of the four of us in the group had experience hiking in the dark. We made it 2/3 of the way down the mountain before darkness fell. By this time we were well off the main track again, approaching the section of trail that ran in the dry stream bed filled with rocks and boulders. Moving slowly, trusting the sensation of the ground and rocks under our feet and our awareness of the space around us, we made it back to the road through the shadows cast by the glimmering light of the moon.

None of these experiences have ever held
any aspect of fear, worry, or struggle.
They have all been magical and safe.

I call on this knowledge of the darkness to keep me company
in these long winter nights to come.
I invite it’s gift to know the light more intimately
with my willingness to step into the unknown,
to welcome the darkness within.

A haiku for this season, a part of the spiritual practice of the daily haiku:

Standing in Darkness
I Wait. I Breathe. I Feel.
Opening Into Trust

Haiku for this season

Once upon a time, I had a practice of writing a daily haiku. It was a form of returning to the present, capturing a snapshot of moment, and cultivating mindfulness.

These days, I’ve been writing seasonal haikus. Here’s one dedicated to the fall equinox.


sap rise & sap fall
as sap returns deep within
I drink sun, rain, wind


Blessings,

Lucy

Spring Renewal – Bursting Forth in Spring

With the arrival of sun and warmth, flowers and trees are bursting into bloom, leaves are starting to unfold, and migratory birds are returning to the neighborhood. All around us, we can see the energy of Spring: rapid growth, movement, and change.

One of my assignments in acupuncture school was to sit outside for 15 minutes every day for a week. During that time, I honed my observational skills, while watching the changes in the season on a more subtle level. Watching how our health is a) affected by the change in seasons, and b) what the change in season is like inside each of us has always fascinated me.

As the leaves on the maples and the other trees start to unfold this week, the world is looking brighter, cleaner, and softer. The rain and warmth from the sun helps to wash the

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Winds of Spring

The yoyo days of spring are here. Temperatures are fluctuating madly – one day in the 70s, another day in the 20s. These dramatic changes in weather bring along powerful, cleansing winds that pick up the remaining dregs and collected debris of winter and blow it away. The drastic temperature fluctuations influence the rising sap of the trees. Sap for syrup flows most strongly when, on a cold night, the sap sinks back down into the roots, preparing to flow more strongly the next day as the temperatures rise again. The more fluctuation in temperature, the more sap flows and the more sweetness can be gathered.

How does the sap flow in you during this season? Is it flowing well, bringing energy, vision, and creative growth? Or are you feeling stagnant and stuck? Frustration,

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Dreaming for Groundhog’s Day

The beginning of February is the turning of the corner between Winter & Spring. We are exactly midway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox this week. From here on out, it may still feel like we are in the grips of deep winter, but the return of light starts to speed up, as we gain a couple extra minutes of sunlight each day. Check out this chart for time of sunrise and sunset and change in day length for your region.

So what does this have to do with our health? Our bodies respond to the sunlight and promise of warming days just as the plants do outside. As our own sap starts to run and circulate, we become aware of the sludge that has accumulated through the winter months.

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Have You Been Hibernating?

It was a cold day – below zero first thing in the morning and in the single digits later in the day. The sun was stubbornly hiding behind a dense layer of low hanging, steely-grey clouds. I painfully pulled myself out of bed and made it out of the house to each of my commitments that day, but not without a struggle and a grumble all day long.

“What am I doing out and about?!” my body screamed at me – “This is the time for hibernation! Go back to bed already!” I laughed it off and continued on with my day with a light hearted grumpiness.

But that part of me had a point.

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