Reflection In the Dark and Cultivating Gratitude
Today is an excellent day for finding solitude and quietly reflecting in the stillness of darkness. Even though we are not able to be as socially active as we wish because of COVID-19, if you are like me, video chats have increased exponentially.
It is not a coincidence that you will often see the increase in articles about stress-free holidays, meditation and simplifying during this time of the year. Add a global Pandemic to that mix and there are not enough places of advice that can be tapped into. So, for today’s post I am offering two contemplative moments. One that is a written version and the other a video I recorded in March of this year with a a focus on gratitude.
Relax into the moment. Let the words on the page wash over you. And, stand for this moment of time in a space that is a little less bright….
As we carry the energies of the previous Sabbats forward in the continual cycle, there is much that is accumulated from those experiences and our daily interactions in the world. The dark half of the year begins at the Summer Solstice in June and what we have brought to fullness begins to wither in its exuberance and vitality. This is a natural process of the ebb – peak and flow of natural cycles.
Lughnasadh provided the space of gratitude for what we had accomplished, what was ready and ripe for the picking and what would serve as the compost for the next year’s growth. As we sat at our table of plenty and resigned ourselves to the coming of winter and increased loss of light, we saw the potential and product of what could be done with steadfast intention and purpose in planning for this time of lessening.
The Autumnal Equinox provided a space of balance and pause to regroup, re-shift and reassess what would fall into the pan of quickly amassing weight as the dark crowded in closer with shorter and shorter daylight. We may think that what remained as the lighter portion, lifted and floated away, but I think of it as becoming more hidden and less overt in its impact- there, nonetheless.
Samhain gathered everything of the dark and ancestral world to a climax of joy and sorrow, pain and release. How that out-pictured became the new norm accepted and the thoughts now turned towards the holidays, celebrations and a new perspective driven by the expectations held. You know how it goes, we either love the holidays or they are painful reminders of what we wish could be. And, now as we sit in the space of awaiting the Winter Solstice and the return of the light, we have choice as to whether we will fully embrace what calls us to settle in, turn up the heat and cozy up.
Self-Reflection is also a calling of this time of the year. Finding the space to be truly honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses and getting to know who we are naked and vulnerable in a not so brightly lit space takes courage and intention.How we go about this task is dependent on how deeply we wish to go. I like to use the practice of meditation to model my explorations.
This meditation may take the form of contemplative journaling, sitting in a darkened room and simply making note of the sounds of my breath, walking alone outside in the darkness of night(safety first, please), or doing periodic check-ins as I go through my day, assessing my thoughts (no, not my emotions).
..My preferred form is that of sitting quietly in a darkened room, with an unlit candle and lighter arms reach away. I begin by settling deeper into the physicality of my body on whatever supportive surface I have chosen. Sitting in a chair allows for comfort and the intention that you will not fall asleep.
I take several minutes to attune to the sounds surrounding and engage actively each of my senses in the experience of this darkened space. It is remarkable how heightened your sense can become when you are in the dark and visual – mind connection is temporarily paused. I take a few very deep breaths and audibly sigh into the release of each, holding the intention that each release is a willing surrender to ceasing activity and being fully present in what I am experiencing.
Soon, my breath and the sounds of the room disappear and I am surrounded by the stillness of the dark. Just me, my consciousness and the energy of the darkened space surrounding and almost cradling me in support of intention to simply “be”. I allow this sensation (not simply a feeling or thought, but much more than that) to take hold and carry my attention where it will. To carry me where it will into the darkness.
I remain in this energetic state for as long as feels natural in this moment of time. When the darkness and I feel as one, I visualize a tiny point of light directly in front of me. Slowly and methodically this point begins to spiral inward towards the center of my field of awareness. As it spirals, I see the petals of a single white rose begin to form. I am watching the creation of what has emerged from my space of darkness and with each curling and shaping of petal, the connection of it to me is strengthened and made more palpable.
I breathe into the creation of this beautiful flower and the dispersement of darkness that accommodates the formation of each delicate petal. As the Rose nears its completion light begins to emanate from it. Not a brilliance, rather the light that reflects on the supple waters of a consciousness that has loosened its rigidity and is able to move in accord with change and transformation. In finality the Rose lay on its side, a beautiful and symmetrical shape that I recognize as the beauty of the light within myself and that there is no need to fear revealing the delicacy of both light and shadow that are of my own making.
I remain as long as needed drawing in the beauty and light from my Rose. And, I offer up gratitude for the gift of beginnings and endings. This offering moves into the Rose itself and the petals begin to wither. Each drawing back into itself. Each appearing to diminish in vitality and light.
There is no sadness at this sight. This is the cycle of each Solstice and the Light that must give way to the darkness and the Darkness that must surrender to the newly birthed light. The darkness surrounds once again and I open my eyes as I reach out taking the lighter in my hand and light the wick of the candle. I pause at the beauty of this external light. I breathe into the knowledge that this is the same light that is held within the Rose of me, and that what is required is the intention and action of lighting its flame, regardless of closely the dark surrounds.
I spend some time just enjoying the gentle flame and soft light of the candle as I breathe deeper into my physicality, open to the sounds and smells surrounding and return to the space of the start of my journey….
Be creative in how you access this inner light and most importantly listen to the intuitive nature that will guide you towards how, what and when you need to modify what tools you use.
So, I invite you to take some time in the next few days to see the beauty of a rose reflecting back at you as the many layers and complexities of who you are. That same rose will at some point wither; its petals browning and drying up and stem of thorns becoming more pronounced. Nonetheless, what created it and the beauty it holds are still very much inherent within it.
Rest is the perfect companion and support towards creating a space of gratitude, regardless of how you may feel darkness, sadness and uncertainty creeping in. This recording was offered as a respite from the challenges of the Pandemic as things spun out of control in March. It was written with the intention of cultivating a deeply held sanctuary of gratitude that could be used to calm and soothe.
We have arrived now at December and COVID is raging throughout most of the country. Even with the promise of a vaccine not too far away, the reminder that we will not be able to spend time with family and loved ones in the same way as we celebrate the turning of the seasons leaves many feeling as though there is little to be grateful for. The truth is that we may need to just look a little deeper. Deeper into the memories of those we may have lost. Deeper into the joy of seeing family and friends on video; a gift that not that long ago was not technologically sound. Deeper into the gift of health. Deeper into the joy and support of community. Or just simply gratitude for waking each morning and being able to take a breath of life.
Join me in holding and cultivating your own space of gratitude and relax into it’s healing gifts….