At the Winter Solstice the night is longest and the day is shortest. Cold envelops the Earth, trees are naked, the sky is grey, and the ground is frozen. When my life feels like that, even in the summer when the sun is bright and the breeze is warm, a Winter Solstice is there for me, offering profound opportunities for spiritual growth. The Winter Solstice is that time in anyone and everyone when no hope remains, all is lost and beyond recovery, and the land is barren to the horizon. A divorce, the death of a child, the failure of a business, loss of a job, foreclosure—the ocean of grief is bottomless in this dark and cold time.
Yet a Summer Solstice follows every Winter Solstice, just as a Winter Solstice follows every Summer Solstice. One cannot exist without the other. When death and desolation engulf all in the Winter Solstice, life and hope infuse all in the Summer Solstice.
How painful would it be to cling to the Summer Solstice or imagine that the Winter Solstice will last forever? When we plunge into frozen darkness with each tragedy or explode into happiness with each accomplishment, we miss the meaning of the solstices. They show us the changing nature of our experiences. They are parts of our experience but they are not who we are. We do not need to plunge into despair each time darkness arrives or pretend that sunlight and warmth will fill our days forever.
Cultivating love and challenging fear are choices. If we make them unconsciously, we journey through our lives forever fleeing the cold and seeking the warmth, fleeing pain and seeking joy. But we can choose consciously. We cannot control the weather—death, loss, and illness come—but we can choose our internal climate—love or fear.
The Winter Solstice is an opportunity to choose consciously.