December JournalThe dark night melts into foggy days.
The familiar takes on an unknown form.
The first step upon an unpaved road
Into the darker regions
We have avoided thus far.
Each faltering movement
A declaration of how little we know.
Shapeshifting Reality instructs
That nothing is ever as it seems
And the Unseen Hand professes
An Essential Nature far greater
Than our Self Identification.
My mouth opens to a Song of Desperation
A prayer for Restored Faith,
Renewed and strengthened
In the Eternal Twilight.
I would that my Action demonstrated as much Bravery
As my Inaction does.
In Stillness does the Battle lean in favour of the Just.
Grant me the Stillness that in the darkness
I may Trust
I may seek Revelation
Winter: The resonances of the Elements
In Chinese medicine, Winter is associated with the Water element. Water has an inward movement. It finds the lowest, deepest point on which to settle. It is the most yin of the elements. Its movement is slow. Languid. Yet intentional. Water could be considered the most fundamental of the earthly elements. It covers 70% of the globe and as such is the most abundant compound on the planet. It is the life sustaining essence of the human body, making up 60% of our material form. And yet, unlike the body, water is indestructible. It is a shape shifter. Changing from form to form to suit its environs – ice, steam, liquid. In all of its forms, water reveals its power. But it is a power of the depths, not the heights. Water can break deep caverns into rock. Can draw ships to a violent end. Can chip away at land, eroding edges. It can be fast and strong, or still and glassy. Whether a puddle or an ocean, the vastness of water cannot be ignored.
Water is hugely adaptable, shaping itself according to its container. So too should we aspire to be so malleable. During the winter season we, like the water, are called to the lowest point. To our depths. Into the darkness. Not a sinister or suffocating darkness, but an unexplored region of our most raw, essential nature. Rather than resisting, can we surrender to the process and fill the darkness with pure consciousness? There is little or no outward growth or progression in our lives at this point as our energy is being demanded on a focused and one-pointed internal journey. With no goal in mind, we allow the water quality of our consciousness to mold to the shape of the internal landscape, and discover what it has to teach us about who we are beneath “identity”.
Ayurveda teaches that the air elements predominates during the winter season. It carries cold, hard, brittle, dry and mobile qualities and resonates on a psychological and spiritual resonance. Air and ether together make Vata dosha in the body and mind. During this season we experience an increase of vata and its associated characteristics. Whilst the physical symptoms of stiffness, dryness and changeable digestion may be self-evident, it is the subtlest effects of the dosha that interest the introspective student of the Self. Vata is the imagination. The spiritual communion. Vata wants to be otherworldly – it aspires to the divine, and will not be contented by the mundane. We have a tendency to focus on the unattractive side effects of elemental imbalance during any given season. But this month, I encourage you instead to celebrate the resonances of the air and ether elements. Allow the creative and fluid channels of the mind to be free to move, to express and experience. Sink more deeply into the contemplative practices that vata is so conducive too. Let practicality fall by the wayside for a brief time, and become totally immersed into the devoted self.
Darkness: A Move Towards Revelation
“Since before we were Homo Sapiens, humans have been seeking out spaces of darkness in which to find and make meaning”
– Robert Macfarlane
– Robert Macfarlane
And with the last of the Star’s rays on a slowly emerging December dawn, we enter into a month of great darkness. The bleak mid-winter.
So often we aspire to the mountain tops, towering above the clouds, in the hopes that we can one day rise to their great heights. To gain a unique perspective and become somehow wiser. Ennobled. Like the Himalayan Yogi’s or the Medicine Keepers of old, we feel a pull to become closer to the sky. To seek communion with the sun and stars. Yet when we gaze up, we can see for thousands of miles. The sky does not hide themselves from us. We relate with it daily in the form of weather, prāna, horizon. However, the real mystery of creation and insight lies not in the lofty reaches, but in the invisible regions of the underworld. The unseen world that lives beneath our feet. It is in the depths, rather than the heights, that our roots are formed. It is here that we must venture if revelation is our goal. Attraction to heights is a relatively modern phenomenon in the history of man. In ancient times we sought answers to the great questions of creation from the body of the earth. The caverns and caves. The underworld. As the foetus is formed in the darkness of the womb and emerges into the light, so does everything start from darkness and become enlightened.
Just as there is a whole unexplored world that lies under our feet, there is a whole unexplored Self that sits quietly beneath the whirring mind. The dark days draw us inwards. Invite us into the deeper and less visited reaches of the soul. Not that we may cast light upon the caves and caverns of our internal worlds, but that we become familiar with the darkness. That we reconsider our relationship with the dark and see it not as a place to be fear or rooted out, but a place of the utmost potency and wisdom. As the most essential starting point of everything that we are and will become. The purest form of our essential nature is the element that remains unaltered by the lights of socially influences consciousness.
To fully learn the lessons of the darkness is to become very still and quiet. Receptive to the comings and goings of thoughts. The echoes and foot falls that reverberate through the mind. To sit in meditation is to surrender to the subconscious. To drop definitions, acquisitions, and all baggage that prevents you from fully submerging to the underworld of the conscious self. I is also vital to spend time alone in order to fully engage with the original consciousness that lies in the dark silence of the inner world.
We emerge from the darkness changed. It is impossible not to. For in Winter’s long sleep do we learn more of our true nature. We do not necessarily achieve progress in the sense of moving forward, for in fact we experience a return. We are welcomed home into the original, uncontaminated consciousness that we arrived in this body with. For ultimately we will not be saved by that which we learn or acquire, but by that which we had all along yet hadn’t recognized the value of.
Wisdom: Essential Trust
Winter acts like a blindfold, plunging us into darkness, leaving us no choice but to Trust. Most will experience resistance. For to trust is to be vulnerable: a state not many of us choose willingly. Yet to be vulnerable is to be soft. To be sensitive. To be wise. And to feel secure enough in ourselves that, come what may, we remain steadfast.
Now is not the time for planning ahead. Instead we should soak up with qualities of the season. To rest the physical body whilst becoming reacquainted with the inner. When we relinquish control over the material forms of life, and allow natures elements to inform our thought and our action, we will exist with much greater ease, and experience less resistance, both internal and external. It is a time to lean into the things that speak most to us. To nurture our inspirations. To sink our passions deep into the cells, so they need not be loud. No. Rather they bubble up from a place of grounded surety and clarity. To live for the moment is to have faith that the future will not forsake us. To cultivate Faith. Trust. Are they not somehow the same? And Love? Does Love not bind the two? Bound in God. In light. In dark. In the earth and skies. The impenetrable ground that supports us and the Heavenly realms that we aspire to. We are not forsaken beings but buds being invited to blossom, if only we had the essential trust to do so.
Trust is the antithesis of fear, and once trust is established, fear becomes transformed into wisdom. Wisdom is that which holds us firm when the future is unknown. It is the virtue that stabilizes us to pick a steady path through an unfamiliar landscape. It is a cup brimming with possibility. We become steady in our vision. Stable in our worth. Magnetic. Aligned.
Practice… Spending time with your journal. Ask what holds you back from Trusting? What does Faith mean to you? How does Fear most readily manifest itself in your day to day life? What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of… smile. All is as it should be. Though we may lack the faculty to understand why things are the way they are, we can cultivate the wisdom to accept that there are no mistakes in this world. Our personal missions may be informed by the world around us, but their outcomes remain unchanged.
An Experience of One’s Own: The Art of Not Sharing
We have become creatures of transparency. Public figures. Even the darkest corners of our private spheres are now broadcast for mass consumption. We feel the need to share the details of our lives with the world. Friends and strangers alike. From the food on our plates and the clothes on our back to the delicacies of the heart. Everything becomes ‘content’. Visual snacks for the faceless social media. When did we become so attracted to exposing ourselves? The cost is a perpetual lack of presence, as each act is done as a tribute – an event to be documented and beamed into the cold hard digital landscape – rather than being an experience in its own right. I am as guilty of this as any. Never is my phone left behind when I walk to the hills. For without a photo to broadcast my walk to the world, did it even happen? Was it really worth it? If I don’t post an image of my mountain top sunset, was the hike an illusion? Was time lost and nothing benefited?
The concept of sharing is a nice one. I use the word ‘nice’ purposefully. A sort of sugary, insipid and uninspiring word. We share because it’s become the norm. When I was a child my parents would make me write thank you notes to all the godparents who sent Christmas gifts. Each note came out like rote. “Thank you for the … It is exactly what a need for …” and then a long contrived and soulless list of the “things I’ve been up to recently”. I’m sure no one really cared what book I had just finished or the name of the pony I met last week, but it was polite and, well, nice.
In a similar way, yet less innocent, learning about how a total stranger living the #vanlife in Australia spent their weekend provides little more than a momentary dream of another world before I scroll on to the next shared experience. In the case of connecting to the experience of a stranger, suddenly the “niceness” is missing. Instead there is a voyeurism and element of contrived performance that replaces the innocent cordiality. Don’t get me wrong. I love seeing images of how others live. Finding inspiration in unlikely places and being able to experience a highly edited world from the comfort of my living room. But what does it do to the moment. That moment when you could be taking in the experience, but instead you are taking a photo to offer a diluted perspective of the same experience to someone else.
One of the more serious side effects of this addiction to sharing is that we lose a vital sense of self. We come to see the world through the ‘likes’ and opinions of others. Our internal dialogue becomes superficial and inauthentic. We have narrowed down our vision to the point of excluding a range of emotional and intellectual, let alone spiritual, integrity. Ask yourself when was the last time your walk became poetry? When were you last brought to tears by an act of kindness or beauty? How often do you allow your imagination to run wild? Do you recognize divinity in every day actions and objects? Often we are too distracted by the act of ‘capturing’ and ‘sharing’ in order to live.
December provides many opportunities for turning our attention to the present moment. It is a time to prioritize family and close friends. To work on spiritual connection and elevation of consciousness. See if during these festive weeks, you can keep connected to the moment and spend meaningful time with those around you – and yourself! It is a time of intimacy and self-reflection. Limit the amount of time you spend on your phone, trusting that world will not fall apart if you check out of cyber reality for a few days or weeks. Find meaning beyond the world of shared experience.
The Angels Watch
Perhaps there is much more that could be written. Much more that could be shared. After all this is the most spiritually potent and tender months of the year. Perhaps that is precisely why I am finding silence more powerful than words.
December is a gift. A month where most of us are blessed with time. A change of schedule. A fresh perspective. Certainly it can be a challenge. Spending time with loved ones can bring out our ragged edges and highlight areas where we are tender or raw. It is easy to allow our consciousness to become swayed and caught up in the chaos and perpetual tumble of the materially driven “holiday season”. But we have a choice. Rather than numbing and shrouding ourselfs in gaudy festive paraphernalia, we can choose to become present. To used this gifted time wisely, to find connection to the forgotten parts of ourselves. To establish meaningful connection. To learn from the wise who suffered for our sake. Let us not forget that spirituality is the integral resonance of this month. The birth of the Christ child. The chance to rebirth our original nature. To reestablish who we really are when stripped of our identifying material features.
And so I will keep this journal short. For the rest can only be written by your own hand.
I wish you a fulfilling advent of deep introspection and powerful revelation.