As we approach the Winter Solstice, I feel it is a good time for reflection. Typically we, who write in these spaces, often tend to write on or before or shortly after the new calendar year. In looking back, I’ve written here in at least one of each of these.
This year feels different. In fact, I feel that writing just before the Solstice, and beginning to review and reflect on the last year – no, for me, the last several years – is the proper time.
It is said everywhere, in conversations with mask-covered faces, or screens across the many miles and time zones, or splashed across the news and social media, that 2020 is unlike any we’ve seen. And when something else unusual happens, we say, “Well, it’s 2020.” I have said it myself, even as I know that deep inside my version of what 2020 seems to have become for so many, is a period much longer than one year…and actually resulted in preparing me well for this one.
As we move toward the Winter Solstice and the beginning of the natural new year, reflecting on what we have seen, felt, learned; where we have offered a hand or resources to the many who find themselves suddenly lacking various necessities – whether food, shelter or someone to listen to them – feels even more compelling and important than ever before.
The last several years in my country have been extremely challenging. I’ve only recently begun to appreciate the heightened level of my anxiety and my hyped up nervous system for what it was. It’s as if I now see, in retrospect, how my body was responding to the various conditions here. Feeling as deeply as I do, I was unsure at times just how much of what I was feeling was mine and how much of it was from the collective anxiety that so many are beginning to admit now, to having felt. Although we are not fully beyond threatening and possible challenges, I do feel we are moving toward healing. There may still be a few more bumps in the road…and we are still on the road toward something different. For that I am deeply grateful.
I’ve wondered, at times, at the amount of anxiety and stress that I have carried in my body. Some of it, I could chalk up to having spent my career in public service. Many of those years I worked “close to the flame” as a trusted leader once said. The closer to the flame, the sooner you burn out. That, indeed was true for me. One particular administration was extremely challenging to work in and led me to plan an early retirement at age 50. As I watch former colleagues and friends begin to leave their service now, I understand.
Leaving when I did created an opportunity to become more aware of my extreme sensitivity, and just how thick the armor was that I wore in my 30s, 40s and early 50s. Another type of freedom awaits, we we begin to peel one level of armor off at a time. Embracing feeling…rediscovering the safety of vulnerability… and finding our courage.
The pandemic has created so many opportunities for us to have a long, deep look at ourselves and just how we react or respond to our environment and the changes therein. How many have taken the opportunity this has – and still is – offered is unknown. I have watched as many have resisted, and done everything possible to keep their lives in the mode of their individually created normal, while others have softened into the change, following the suggestions made by epidemiological experts to adhere to new, different and seemingly unusual guidance. Why do any of this? Because we are being asked to care for and consider safety for ourselves and of others as well. The collective of humanity…ALL of us…is counting on the other.
It comes as no surprise then, that our country is in a pretty sad place. All of our seemingly well hidden secrets have been laid bare. Mind you, these secrets were not secret to those who have suffered for years and years and years while many more climbed the wealth ladder, stepping on the fingers of so may who kept trying, against all odds, to make it up one or two rungs, in order to create a different life for themselves or their families. And here we are…
Many still resist what we are seeing. Seeing the reality rather than participating in the myth is an opportunity to make necessary change. How many really see the opportunities before us, and how many are continuing to resist?
It is clearer than ever that we cannot teach anything that others are unwilling yet, to see and learn. In fact, when we finally come face to face with our own suffering, rather than continuing to outrun it, we fall to our knees, or we reach out, or we scream in pain hoping that someone will hear us.
This morning, as I do most mornings, I read a daily meditation, written by Fr. Richard Rohr. This morning the title of his daily writing, “Letting Go is Liberation”, feels timely. For the many who are afraid of letting go of the reality they’ve created, deeply fearful that something might be lost, this title offers a different way to consider what letting go is really all about. He is such an amazing writer and I appreciate the majority of what he writes. As I continue to heal much of what I was exposed to in the religion of my early life, I experience most of his writing as transcendent of dogma and more universal, and welcoming and healing.
In this piece, he offers six kinds of liberation. You can find today’s meditation here. You can also sign up to receive them each day on the same page. It’s worth a few moments of your time to read and reflect on where you find yourself. There is always more to realize (real eyes).
As we move closer to the Solstice, I feel it is also important to consider the deep and long shadows that we have an opportunity to take a look at. I recently offered a short post on the shadow here. Shadow work is so important. I also saw the quote in my inbox this morning:
“The keys to freedom are in your shadow.”
– Danielle LaPorte
Finally, the upcoming Solstice is unique. The Great Conjunction, as it is called, also occurs on that day. As the planets, Saturn and Jupiter enter the constellation of Aquarius (Air sign), and in so doing offer an opportunity for a beautiful spectacle in the sky, maybe…just maybe, we will all begin to liberate ourselves from so much of what we continue to drag around, and open our hearts to look deeply into our shadows – or continue to do so – and breathe, deeply.
Blessings to all for whatever holiday you honor and celebrate. May the new year bring us all more love, peace and expressions of compassion to other sentient beings.