Praise G-d Supreme, who made the moon and stars to rule by night. His Love and Mercy endures forever. ~ from Jewish liturgy
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~ Anne Bradstreet
On the eve of the 2013 winter solstice, the longest night of the year, my wife Ruth and I attended our friends’ 27th annual solstice gathering. The 30 lovely guests deeply and vulnerably shared poetry, songs, personal joys and adversities over the past year. As always, many folks referenced the power and beauty of the darkness and of the illumination that penetrates the dark during this month of religious/spiritual celebrations.
In his famous 16th-century poem Dark Night of the Soul, the Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross portrayed the painful experiences and hardships that people endure during the soul’s journey toward ultimate union with the Creator. Amidst the many pleasures of life, nobody is exempt from being at least periodically tested through various challenges and adversities. We can choose to learn and grow from these difficult trials.
The extended darkness, barrenness and cold of winter beckons us into a prolonged period of introspection. Beyond merely formulating new year goals, this month and season offer an ideal time for us to take stock of our character and personality deficits. The objective of a rigorous personal inventory is self-improvement, not deprecation or chastisement.
My nature is well-suited to self-scrutiny, so I value opportunities to dig deep. However, I must admit that lately I have been so busy with counseling, coaching and completing a book, that I have been somewhat negligent in doing my personal work. Last week’s shooting at a nearby high school (I counseled one of the students) coupled with participation in last night’s solstice have jostled my consciousness. I am intent on taking advantage of a lighter Christmas-week schedule to slow my pace and to resume my soul-searching. Will you join me?
Wishing each of you a blessed, joyous holiday season and a loving, meaningful 2014!