The Darkness Just Before the Light



At five o’clock it was dark and I closed the shades. It was a rainy, grey day anyway. The Christmas lights were already burning. It is getting close to the shortest day of the year. The winter solstice is December 21. In the northern hemisphere it is the dark time, the long night. It is also the time when the days stop getting shorter, and the light begins to return. People have celebrated this return of the sun for ages. Our celebration of Christmas is based on it.

Symbolically, the birth of Jesus fits well with the time of light coming back into the world. Hannukah is also a festival of lights. This time of year is cold and dark. Many people experience loneliness and despair around the holidays. However, the days, by December 24th, are already getting longer. Psychologically, there is also an analogous process by which a time of personal darkness precedes an awakening. Our difficult times often help us find our strength, courage, and open heartedness. On the spiritual path, the “dark night of the soul” is a stage the seeker must pass through before realizing enlightened awareness.

This year, 2016, is a year that presents a particular time of darkness on the national and world scene. Hope for the well being of the planet seems to be at an all time low. And yet, or maybe because this is so, holiday cheer seems brighter than usual this year. I have always been visited by the “Christmas Spirit,” a feeling of love and goodwill toward others that comes over me like a state of grace at this time of year, and it has always been closely connected with the solstice, even before I knew the word. I never really felt the holiday mood until the 21st, then suddenly – there it was.

This year it came early, about a week ago. Friends who are aware of what I’ll label “New Age” philosophy have told me there is an unprecedented quantity of light surrounding earth just now, associated with the recent election. My hope and prayer is that we are undergoing a collective dark night that will somehow bring us to a much happier time for the good of our nation and the planet. I know that this doesn’t mean go back to sleep about what is happening. I know it means to stay engaged. Our task is to bring our love and wisdom into the darkest hour.




5 thoughts on “The Darkness Just Before the Light

  1. I so appreciate this entry, which suggests that what we are collectively experiencing can be transmuted to become part of a positive, redemptive journey. So many people are either wailing and ranting or trying to put their heads in the sand, but I think there is a more positive response. In a time like this in which lower forces in the human psyche are arising to dominate public life, we each need to reflect on how we can carry and reflect the light despite the darkness. My sometimes lazily pursued spiritual practice has become of foremost importance because it provides guidance as to how to proceed in the most positive manner. At a time when populism, bigotry, greed are capturing the psyches of a huge swath of the populace, I am inspired to actively cultivate the inner harmony and alliance with spirit which is the only antidote. In the darkest time of the year, we light candles and turn on Christmas tree lights. So, perhaps, we, if we listen, are called on to turn on the little lights of our divinely connected souls. I don’t think that the political system is equal to combatting Trump and all he stands for right now, but I can conceive that a mass of individuals committed to spiritual awakening can shift the energy of the nation to one in which he and his ilk cannot maintain power. The light DOES always return, but this would be a good time to each make our individual contribution by nourishing it’s glow in our own hearts instead of sinking into negativity. Hard to do, because it demands that we take responsibility for a monstrosity that we didn’t create and don’t support , but who else is there to illuminate the path out of this mess.

  2. I am sharing a post from a friend because it is so pertinent to my message here:

    Namaste. I see the Divine in you.
    Namaste. I see the Divine in Donald Trump. I also see in him a grave danger to the entire human race.
    As a serial sexual abuser, he is not fit to be a school teacher.
    As one with a habit of inciting violence, he is not fit to be a policeman.
As one who has no regard for environmental safeguards, he is not fit to name someone to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
As one who is abysmally ignorant of the climate change that is happening all around all of us, he is not fit to determine the US relationship to the Paris accords.
As one who prefers oil to renewable energy, he is not fit to make energy or economic decisions. The smart money is leaving oil and moving to renewables. If the US gets behind the rest of the world in the development of renewable energy, that would be devastating to the future of the US economy.
In his security briefings he has asked repeatedly, why not use nukes. Anyone who does not know the answer to that question, should not become president of the United States.
    By a strange fluke, Donald Trump is in position to become the next president. This happened very suddenly and unexpectedly. The great majority of us did not foresee this happening. But, it is suddenly thrust upon us.
    To be awakened in the middle of the night by two intruders, who are killing one’s wife and raping one’s daughter would also be sudden. Most would consider it a call for swift and sudden response.
    I have long been an advocate of stillness and silence, but there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. There is a time to be still and a time to act with skill and vigor.
    The next three days could affect the future of the United States and the world more than any crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis a half century ago.
    Anyone who loves the people and the environment of the United States, may find it useful to do anything legally possible to stop Donald Trump from becoming President.
    I do not know what it will take. But if all the spiritual people in the country took a break from the spiritual chit-chat and applied themselves to the solution of this problem, the result might be far, far better than doing nothing. Ted Thompson

  3. I also want to share this letter from Spirit Rock Meditation Center:

    Spirit Rock Statement of Values: Spiritual Sanctuary and Refuge

    “As long as a society holds regular and frequent assemblies, meeting in harmony and mutual respect, can they be expected to prosper and not decline.
    As long as a society follows the long held traditions of wisdom, and honors its elders,
    can they be expected to prosper and not decline.
    As long as a society protects the vulnerable among them,
    can they be expected to prosper and not decline.
    As long as a society cares for the shrines and sacred places of the natural world,
    can they be expected to prosper and not decline.”
    —Mahaparinirvana Sutta (a text of Buddha’s last teachings)

    Dear Dharma Friends,

    Amidst the political and social challenges of our times and in light of our commitment to liberation, Spirit Rock declares itself to be a spiritual sanctuary and a refuge for all. We will honor and protect those who come here seeking the teachings of liberation.

    We are stewards of the Dharma; we build bridges, not walls. A climate of divisiveness and fear cannot alter our innate human goodness, and it will never change our values as an organization.

    Spirit Rock proclaims our continued commitment to the Buddha’s teachings of wisdom, compassion in action, interdependence and loving-kindness, excluding none.

    We reaffirm these teachings: “Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and eternal law.”

    We reaffirm these 2,600 year-old Buddhist values in the face of cultures of violence and harm that threaten life on this planet and that differentially impact oppressed, exploited and marginalized people, people of color, immigrants and refugees, poor people, women, Indigenous and LGBTQI peoples.

    We denounce racism, misogyny, xenophobia, trans- and homophobia and all forms of oppression and the valuation of certain lives over others. We value and celebrate diversity, inclusivity and respect for all beings and the inherent dignity of all peoples.

    The Buddhist Path teaches that meditation and inner freedom must develop together with a foundation of generosity, ethical behavior and loving-kindness.

    We affirm that human happiness requires intentions that are free from greed, hatred and cruelty; speech that is true and helpful, not harsh, not vain, slanderous nor abusive; and actions that are free from causing harm, killing, stealing and sexual exploitation.

    We affirm the interdependent nature of reality. When one being suffers, we all suffer. Thus, our own well-being and liberation is bound in the well-being and liberation of others. The only basis for Dharma life is virtue, respect and mutual care.

    Knowing this truth, we will resist the destructive forces of hatred, discrimination and recklessness and offer the powerful alternatives of fierce love and compassion.

    With the Earth as a witness, the Buddha proclaimed his right to liberation and taught that all beings have the right to liberation, to be free from the oppressive forces of greed, hate and ignorance.

    With the Earth as our witness, we offer a sanctuary for all to awaken together.

    Spirit Rock will continue to be a light in our society, to respond to constantly changing conditions, and to offer practices, teachings, and refuge that nurture the internal life in support of external service. We practice not for ourselves but for the welfare, happiness and safety of all life everywhere.

    May all beings be free, and may our actions contribute wholeheartedly to that freedom.

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