At this time of year, there is a great deal of emphasis placed on birth and the coming of the light. But the Solstice is really Nature’s season of rebalancing between life and death, and new life is never possible without a darkening, a sloughing off.
What makes this season holy is the act of casting off that which, with little to no guarantee, will set us on a new course. Like winter, Nature’s death field closes in on us with its cold and dark promise to claim all that isn’t thriving. It isn’t unusual to resist this process. We may find ourselves trying to prop up the old way, lifeless as it may be, in an attempt to reanimate the ill-fitting, limp, and even destructive, because at least it was familiar.
But as reluctant as we may be, the holy act of this season is trust. Even as the old things are being cast off, torn away, or leaving of their own accord. Even as disappointment, heartbreak, and fear are rearing up on all sides. Something better for our well-being is marshalling itself below the cold ground. And the sooner we can conclude our old attachments, the sooner the new way will be made visible.
One of the great inhibitors to movement in this life—> death—>life cycle is the belief that things didn’t work out because you did something wrong, or that you weren’t good enough. That the loss, whatever it may be, is reflective of your failure to be worthy in some way. And I think there is value in combing through our experiences to see if you’ve behaved in integrity. But at what point does this combing become perseverating? When are you twisting yourself into a pretzel to make something work when you could be giving it “a good death”? When are you mounting resistance to change when you should be respectfully concluding old attachments?
This is where the discerning acumen of the “inner yang” (in all genders) is extremely valuable. This is the part of us that can take a step back and differentiate between what is being projected onto us, and what we know to be our own truth. In a tsunami of emotions, it can be excruciatingly hard to know the difference between someone’s projection or judgement about us, and our own knowing. Introjection, is when we take that projection as our own. It might behave as an inner dialogue, “I’m doomed to fail,” or, “I am irresponsible,” or, “I’m difficult to be around.” When we allow this to keep us from life, we are, like characters in fairy tales, under the dark spells or enchantments of those in power over us. We ate that poisoned apple – and it put us into a deep sleep of inherited belief.
To break these spells, we must first become aware of them. In dreamwork, we can expose the narratives that are operating compulsively in our lives and begin to re-story ourselves out of the places we feel habitually trapped or stuck. But in order to move into our next life cycle, there is almost always a sacrifice to be made.
You may have heard me say before that sacrifice was originally meant, “to make sacred.” At this time of year, on the threshold of dark and light, we are being called to sacrifice those things that we may have loved dearly, but that are ready to leave, or be left by us. And we must do it without knowing what lies ahead. In that free-fall between things, a small, almost inaudible voice asks us to believe.
As ruthlessly as death sweeps in to dismantle what’s familiar, life always follows. It brings vitality and growth to the fallow regions of our lives. Just like wild herbs appear in depleted soil to give it nutrients, it is the way of nature to remediate. Our job, like the soil, is to submit to this mysterious process. To trust that, even as the old form is decomposing, a new form is coalescing out of sight.
During these holy days, I invite you to consider where stagnancy and insufficiency may have set in to your life. What relationships, habits, identities, or projects, are taking more from you than they should be giving. Is it possible they are are trying to release you? Are they worth salvaging, or will the sacrifices they should be instead eroding your well-being?
As you contemplate these questions, try to listen for something holy calling out from under your confusion. Can you give your trust to this still inaudible call?
With all my love for your courage,