Lighten up!

by Jan on December 21, 2011

To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don’t worry about darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest.” ~ unknown

Sunset from Space

Sunset from space.

Everywhere in the world there is darkness and light, night and day, forever linked. When one is warmest, the other is coldest.

Where we are seeing the shortest day of the year about to become longer, the return into light, other people are celebrating the longest day, and the inevitable return into darkness.

It is all cyclical. We are all part of nature. As the world turns, so do we.

In a conversation with Katrina (a member of Hope on Hope’s team) about darkness and light — and hope, I found out that the solstice is a very special time for her. She resonates with this holiday both metaphorically and in a very personal sense as well. So, I asked her to write about it. Thank you, Katrina, you did great!

Here’s what she has to say:

Snow falling through trees on a dark winter night

(c) Katrina Mitchell

It is a bit ironic that at this darkest time of the year, I think a lot about light. Light and warmth.

This Thursday (12/22) marks the 2011 Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Since ancient times people throughout the world have celebrated the rebirth of the sun on this darkest night of the year.

Celebrating light (and life) in the darkness demonstrates our strength and resilience. It provides an opportunity for us to listen for our deep connection to ourselves and others. And, it is a time to celebrate, rejoice and welcome back the light. Our light. Our spark. Our warmth.

It is an important day in my family. My husband and I chose to be married on this darkest day of the year. Celebrating our anniversary on the solstice reminds us of our promise to each other: to sparkle, radiate, thrive, be our best and be the kindling and the flame for the other to do the same.

The Buddha said, “Make of yourself a light.”

I once heard a story of a solstice party in Alaska. The host invited her guests to “come as the light that you are.” And people did – they came adorned in light, they came as light – I heard someone even came dressed up as a lamp! It sounds like a grand and fun celebration.

But I like to think of it a bit more metaphorically, and as one of life’s great challenges.

What is the light that I am?

Where shalt thou seek the light if thou dost not turn within?”~ Quaker saying.

I think of the solstice marking a day of reflection, a turning point. It is an opportunity to begin to take stock of what I have accomplished, look for what I can let go of, clear a space for what I would like to bring into my life in the coming year, and invite in the qualities I would like to cultivate and share with others.

In these turbulent and economically challenging times, we are called to reconnect with what matters. We all have so much of ourselves to share. We have so much light and warmth to give.

I leave you to reflect on the gift that you are with one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. Shine on!

The Buddha’s Last Instruction.

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire –
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

~ Mary Oliver (House of Light)