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Standing Still in the Solstice

2020 Winter Solstice

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about standing still. About pausing, breathing.

We’re approaching the Winter Solstice, the time of year where the day is shortest in the Northern Hemisphere. At the arctic circle, it’s completely dark for 24 hours.

I know that many of us have felt that we’re facing our own, personal winter solstices. Our communities feel fractured. Uncertainty, loss, and grief are now part of the atmosphere.

We all want to know, “when will this darkness end?”

But the word solstice doesn’t refer to this darkness. It refers to something different.

Imagine, for a moment, an invisible line in the sky. Day or night. It bisects the sky into the North and South, just like the equator around our planet. We call this the celestial equator. Twice a year (at the equinoxes), our Sun crosses this equator. Right now, it is heading South. On the Solstice, the Sun reaches its southernmost point in our sky. It takes a pause.

It stands still.

That’s what the word “solstice” refers to. The Sun “standing still.”

With the Sun’s pause comes a host of other occurrences. The shortest day, the longest night. It’s easy to look at these extremes and feel a sense of foreboding – that somehow night has enveloped the day, and the Sun itself has become frozen. But this sense of foreboding ignores the beauty and hope that the Winter Solstice represents. And embracing this beauty might be the key to us breaking through our own Winter Solstices.

Like a wayward traveler who has voyaged to a distant land, the Sun finally stands still on December 21st. It pauses, holding its place in our sky, before finally returning North.

Think about it. The Winter Solstice is only the shortest day because the sun stands still and then returns North. It’s only the darkest day because the next day is slightly brighter. It’s only the lowest point because the light turns back.

The Winter Solstice is the Northern Hemisphere’s rock bottom. It’s the “darkest before the dawn moment.” And this “darkest before the dawn” can inform how we journey our own, Spiritual Solstices.

Our journeys this year have been unexpected and perilous. Oftentimes, it feels like we’re a passenger in our journeys, as opposed to a pilot. But we have a choice that we can make – an action that can give us insight, strength, and (hopefully) some community in these fragmented times.

We can pause.

On December 21st, I encourage all of us to pause – collectively, though separated. I want us all to feel the faint rays of the Sun and imbue ourselves with the energy of a star and a planet who have paused in extremity.

Absorb this energy. Coax out the intuition of this celestial stillness.

Let’s pause each of our journeys – for just that brief day – to take stock of how far we’ve gone, where we’ve come from, and where we wish to go. Let’s stand in our stillness, and look back at the joys we wish to recapture.

We can examine our choices, our habits, our relationships; and decide how we will carry forward.

The Winter Solstice is a blessed time! It’s a rare time for introspection, reflection, and change. This energy is mirrored in our cultural celebrations around winter. New Year’s Resolutions? What is that but a pause and a change of direction?

I know that the Winter Holidays can be a circus. We all work double-time to purchase that perfect Hannukah gift, make that perfect Christmas roast, and plan that perfect New Year’s celebration. It’s hard to pause when there’s so much to do!

But your spirit deserves a Solstice.

Embody that energy of the Winter Solstice in order to become an active participant in your own journey. It feels counter-intuitive, but by simply taking a day to be still, you will gain unprecedented agency and insight into your own voyage through life.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Deborah

Deborah King