Well, we have now passed the much awaited date of 12/21/12, the end of the Mayan calendar, which many feared would bring the end of civilization. Some of us expected the apocalypse and others proclaimed this a time of awakening consciousness. Friends made pilgrimages to the Mayan pyramids, conducted workshops, held vigils, went on retreats, performed rituals, or even hid out and lay low, while others considered it just another day. So with all those perspectives and responses, what was it really all about? Is there anything to it or do we just make it all up?
Personally, I celebrate the winter Solstice in some form each year because it is deeply meaningful to me, being the darkest day of the year, and beginning the return to light, or as the ancient Pagan traditions described it, the return of the “sun king.” Everybody loves the sun, of course, but darkness is rich and beautiful too, and is usually underrated. We need the dark, on the most literal level, in order to sleep! But more than that, the long nights give us an opportunity to go inside ourselves and connect with deep soul-parts of us that are generally hidden from the light. The darkness is nurturing to our souls. The womb itself lives in darkness.
We often think of darkness as analogous to ignorance, suffering, and even malice. But really, at its essence, darkness is simply that which we cannot see—or refuse to face. If we don’t take the time to reconnect to the Mystery of darkness and our inner selves, then darkness can become our enemy. It can haunt us and become a source of terror, because it becomes the repository of all the things we don’t want to look at, all our fears and shame and so forth. If we “reject” darkness in favor of “seeking the light,” then we become lost like rudderless ships, skimming along on the surface of life—doing, going, consuming—with no real depth to sustain us. A light that does not acknowledge shadow is a false light. But darkness can teach us many valuable things if we befriend it.
Of course we also need light, the light of reason, care, courage, and conscious awareness. We are like seeds that have taken root in the earth that naturally seek the sun. But in doing so, we don't leave the ground; we remain rooted in a dark place.
Given the significance of the solstice for me, I like to think of the Mayan calendar’s end as a solstice for an entire epoch. Perhaps we are in a time of initiation. The dark night of humanity has come to an end! We have reached a collective “darkest night” with climate change, resource depletion, pollution, environmental degradation, and so on, but we are about to make a great leap of maturity as a species.
Some say that there may be significant effects ahead caused by solar flares. The sun is about to enter an eleven-year solar flare cycle that will intensify its power. Perhaps this is precisely what is needed, on a cosmic scale, to balance out all the fearsome, ignorant darkness down here on Earth!
Humanity’s return to the light? I’d like to think it's possible. I am hearing many stories in the news these days of good deeds and long oppressed peoples rising up. I don't believe in any mass injection of “light” that will cause everyone to suddenly become “enlightened.” But I certainly see that more and more of us are working to get beyond our petty judgments and conflicts, perhaps more than ever before. So despite the dire state of the world, there is hope, and it helps to focus on all the good things people do. There truly are far too many heroes to name. And all their small, unsung heroic acts are like tiny slivers of light.
So, as we proceed into this new epoch (or whatever it is), we must simultaneously face the dark and focus on the light. We grow stronger by acknowledging the recesses in ourselves and in the world that we cannot see or control, while remaining mindful and vigilant of our conscious words and deeds.
The sun in its return takes a while, but return it does, inevitably. As for the dawning of new consciousness, I think that can only transpire gradually as well, through practical, caring, day-to-day work in our imperfect world. I’m casting my vote for this change and keeping my sleeves rolled up. If this year’s epochal solstice moves more folks to open their hearts, face fear, and commit to sustainable action, that is definitely something to celebrate!