by Sandra Kynes
The recent presidential campaign and economic news has been dominated by the words “crisis” and “change”. Along these lines, a commentator on my local National Public Radio station observed how the Chinese Mandarin word “weiji” meant both crisis and opportunity. That little tidbit piqued my curiosity and with a little research I found a translation of the word on the Chicago Tribune’s website that was more illuminating. The second part of the word, “ji”, also means crucial point or the point at which something begins or changes.
The crucial or change point that I see as a silver lining in the dark clouds of financial trouble is the opportunity to step out of the materialistic quagmire in which our culture has become stuck. Several years ago in his book and video series “Sacred Balance”, environmentalist David Suzuki pointed out that we had traded material wealth for spiritual poverty. Given our current economic situation, now would be a great time to begin our withdrawal from hyper consumerism and shift the focus a little more toward our spiritual lives. This is especially important with the holiday season approaching.
I have always loved Thanksgiving Day because of its focus on gathering with family and friends to share time together over a special meal. Unfortunately from there the holiday season turns into a shopping frenzy. This year, however, instead of struggling and feeling bad because our budgets are tight, we could turn the situation around and make it serve as our personal change point. Rather than going crazy about a long list of things to buy, we could change our focus and begin something new for the holiday season. After all, do most of us really need more stuff?
Rather than stressing out over what we can’t afford this year we have an opportunity to jump off the rush-around-and-spend merry-go-round. We can find new ways to be more creative, but more importantly, we can find our own deeper meaning for the holiday season. After all, many cultures have celebrated this time of year long before malls and online shopping. I can’t help but think of the Grinch who took away the Who’s holiday trappings… but Christmas arrived just the same in Whoville.
The winter holiday season has always seemed a little more special; a little more magical, but in recent years it seems that we’ve lost touch with something. Since ancient times this season of the winter solstice has carried a lifted sense of anticipation because it brings light and hope. The winter solstice is a turning point in the wheel of the year where time seems suspended – almost as though nature holds her breath until that special sunrise occurs and we know we’ve made it through the longest night of the year. If we can imagine what the world was like without the brightness of electric light we may gain an inkling of how extraordinary this event is.
Another aspect is that winter light is different; it’s not as glaring and bright as summer light. And of course, there’s less of it. As a result, we tend to draw closer to one another, gathering around a fireplace or dinner table lit by candles. We hunker down together around this softer light. When the days begin to grow longer, we celebrate because we know that spring and renewal is on the way.
The softer quality of winter light helps us look within. This subtle gift that winter offers encourages us to slow down and follow our spiral of energy inward. Like the stillness of winter, if we sit in silence we can begin to find things under the surface – buried in the snow of daily life waiting for the right combination of warmth and light to germinate and grow. It may take a little practice to quiet the squawking parrot of everyday thought, but with patience we can move beyond this noise into deeper self.
What we find can amaze us because at the center, at the core of who we are is light and joy. This journey inward is like the journey through the dark of the year to the winter solstice. Whether we use the symbols of a returning sun, sun god, or son of god, the light is there to give us hope. Even though we travel this annual cycle individually, sharing the joy and hope with others deepens the experience and strengthens the bonds of community.
At this critical point that world events has given us, we can scramble in fear and stress out about how our lives may never be the same, or we can accept it as a gift. This is a gift that can bring us back to (or help us find for the first time) who we truly are. We can discover new levels of spirituality both individually and with others as we follow the simple ageless traditions of celebrating the light within as well as the light around us.
Sandra Kynes describes herself as an explorer of Celtic history, myth and magic. Her curiosity has led her to investigate the roots of her beliefs, and through the years she has been working to integrate her spiritual path with everyday life. Sandra tends to see the world a little differently than most people. She likes finding underlying similarities and connections and then crafting new ways to interact with the world around her. These investigations have resulted in seven books so far. Her website is at www.kynes.net.