Yesterday was the Winter solstice - the longest night of the year. Tonight at sundown is the first night of Hanukkah.
The Winter Solstice is a sacred pause, the moment where we experience the depth of darkness before we start incrementally making our way toward more light, and eventually reach the Summer Solstice (longest day of the year). This is known as Spanda, the Yogic/Ayurvedic principle of expansion and contraction.
We can experience Spanda in our breath: the inhale is expansion, the exhale is contraction. The Winter Solstice is like the pause at the bottom of the exhale before we start inhaling again. Pause. Empty. Ready for new energy. It's a time when we can plant seeds of intention for the coming solar year, simply by being still and noticing what we feel when we pause,
By the same token, Hanukkah is a kind of Spanda that allows us to expand with light into the darkness. The candles burning in the menorah remind us of the coming of the light as the flames dance in the darkness each evening when we light candles at sundown.
If we align with the dark of winter, we slow down, we get cozy, and reacquainted with stillness. We rest and we dream bigger dreams. The expanse of the dark connects with the vastness of possibilities inside each of us. Can you feel it? What is the dark encouraging you to notice?
Here is a lovely poem that speaks to the wisdom of the Solstice from the Jewish tradition. In the Jewish calendar, Kislev is the month that corresponds with December.
Kislev Meditation by Ellen Dannin
The seed, planted in the dark,
waiting in the dark of the year,
the seed drawn to the light,
the seed planted in the dark earth
by our own hands,
to be drawn from the earth by the light,
which will return.
Do the planted and the planter
wait in despair in the dark
for the return of the season of light?
What if, we think, the light did not return,
if we waited in the dark
and, at last, despaired of light.
We could almost forget, in our winter’s darkness,
that light will come again.
We light the lights in the dark of the year
that all is in readiness,
that we wait only for the warmth of light,
that even in the absence of light,
the work of creation is made ready.
May this time after Solstice and before the holidays find you caring for your inner Spanda and appreciating the gift of the Sacred Pause.
Blessings for your Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, or any other holiday you are celebrating now. Cherish the wisdom of the dark. Welcome the coming light and tend to your inner Spanda by balancing the doing with being, the activity with the stillness.