We had an unfinished basement in our home when I was growing up. When my brothers and I got a little rowdy, and it was too blustery to go outside, my mom would send us downstairs to burn off some steam. On one such occasion, the electricity went out and my siblings and I were cast into darkness. This wasn’t the sort of dark that is softened by stars or a night light; it was complete darkness. It was disorienting. There was nothing to guide our senses. My brothers instantly panicked, crying out in the confusion of not being able to see. Being a little older, I knew that I would have to figure out a way to get us out of the situation. I moved towards their voices, while attempting to sooth them with a forced calmness in my voice. After we came together, the three of us held hands in a chain and I began leading them towards the direction of the stairs. As we fumbled along in the darkness, I used my free hand to feel for the familiar edges of the hallway that led to the stairway. After a couple of unsettling minutes, my mom opened the door and called down from the top of the stairs, which allowed in just enough natural light for us to find our way.
Winter reminds us of the potency of darkness. It invites us to go into the depths, but sometimes it can feel quite disorienting. Without light to illuminate our surroundings, we can lose our bearings. But all it takes is a little light to give us direction. The winter solstice offers a promise of returning light. Even a little more light each day can give us hope and more clarity.
Darkness is simply the absence of light, so we dispel the darkness by adding light. We need the stillness and quiet of the darkness to rest and integrate; we need the clarity of the light to orient and illuminate our way. While darkness can confuse us, all it takes is a slight sliver of a moon to show us where the path lies in the forest. A teacher of mine once said that a single candle in the middle of a large indoor stadium is enough to transform the entire space. This human experience asks us to find even the faintest of light to illuminate our paths and the path of others stumbling blindly in the darkness. Healing arises when we make contact with even the slightest amount of light. When we find that light within ourselves, we find a greater sense of clarity and purpose; then we can serve as a light to help show other people the way through the darkness. This is the promise of the pivot from the darkness to the light. The path of cultivating awareness, through mindfulness and healing arts is a path of inviting in the light so we can find our way. This is the purpose of a human birth: To welcome the darkness and to seek the light. This is the gift of the wisdom of the Taoist healing systems of Chinese medicine. May the lengthening days warm and guide you.