As those of us in the Southern hemisphere arrive at the longest night and shortest day of the year, it can be useful to take a moment and reflect on the symbolism of the winter solstice. This is the time of both darkness and revival, culminating in the joyous return of the light.
Winter historically has been a time of death, scarcity of food and the cruelness of the elements. The solstice symbolises an end of the gloom and the triumph of optimism. To me both elements are essential in understanding the meaning of the solstice. By taking the time to sit with our darkness – sadness, grief, disappointments and all those uncomfortable feelings that we try to avoid, only then can we symbolically leave them behind and move forward into a phase of positive plans and celebration.
The news last week, that a 26 yo man has likely become the first Australian to die from swine flu fills me with great sadness and shame. While an opportunistic virus may be his ultimate cause of death, the reality is the disparity between indigenous and Caucasian health in this country must shoulder the blame. The officials who have reported his death euphemistically use the term “pre-existing health conditions” to explain it. Yet in 2009, even without the latest influenza pandemic, this man could only have expected to live to his mid-50’s, two decades shorter than a white man born in the same country.
At the moment many of us feel some degree of uncertainty about our future. From influenza to the economic downturn, through to the reality of climate change – there is not a lot of good news going around. Sometimes just sitting with the enormity of the state of our world can feel immobilizing. But by acknowledging the big stuff (whether it is on a political scale or the macro level of our personal burdens) and giving thanks for what we do have, this simple ritual can help us move through the problems.
When I am overwhelmed I like to take some time to acknowledge the personal elephant in my room and even if I can’t change a problem that feels too large, choose something small to help move on through it. Giving money to my favourite charity if I am worrying about finances, cleaning one small cupboard when the whole house feels like an untidy mess or spending time with friends when the inanity of communicating in 140 characters or less gets too much. The winter solstice encourages us to focus on what we can do, rather than stay bogged down in the mire of “its all too much”.
In my own life right now small but exciting changes are afoot. But you’ll have to tune into RRR tomorrow morning at 10.30 to find out more about!
Happy Winter Solstice.