The cycle of the seasons here in the northern hemisphere is winding down to the longest night of the year – the winter Solstice. We enter the time of increased darkness and decreased temperatures. Yet, it is in the dark that the light shines most brightly; a candle during the daytime is hardly noticeable, but at night it is a beacon of light.
There are times when our lives seem overcome with more darkness than light. Yet these times can be powerful and transformative. Often, the darker moments are the ones that call forth our greatest gifts and the most inspiration and support from the Divine.
Celebration of Light
December is a month full of stories and traditions that reveal that sacred Light. Hanukkah is a celebration of the light of a temple oil lamp lasting far beyond what was deemed possible. The birth of Jesus is celebrated on Christmas, when a brilliant star shone in the heavens above the manger where he lay, guiding three wise men to honor him. And the winter solstice, though it marks the longest night of the year, represents the rebirth of the sun and initiates its growing light, leading up to summer.
It is a time of great celebration, but not all of us may feel like celebrating. You may feel some darkness lingering around you, either in the greater collective world or in your personal life. However, take heart; for these sacred traditions remind us that, if we hold to the Divine light within, we will be sustained and lead out of the darkness.
Attending to the Light
The key to this is, naturally, to attend to that light. I remember going on a Vision Quest in the summer of 1989 and learning the lesson of staying focused on the light – the fire, to be specific.
I had traveled out into the high desert of the Inyo Mountains with a group of about 20 people, all intent on a 3 night, solo vision quest. We spent the first three days in preparation, and then each went out on our own. For those three days of solo time, we fasted, contemplated, and prayed.
On the last of the 3 nights out, the task was to stay up the entire night in vigil, tending a fire and crying for a vision. The fire taught me many things, and one of them was to stay focused on it. In the pitch-dark of the desert, it’s hard to see anything beyond a few feet around the fire’s perimeter. It’s very quiet and still, yet occasionally there are soft noises, near or far. Without being able to use my sense of sight to see beyond the fire’s light-circle, it was easy to stare out into the darkness and let my imagination loose. I could believe that I saw many things dancing outside of my stone circle – many of my fears.
But the task required both an awareness of anything I sensed outside the circle, yet a primary focus on the light – tending the fire. It truly took most of my energy and attention to keep the fire going the entire night. The maintenance of the fire wasn’t just a task assigned – it was essential to keeping me warm. It also provided comfort and inspiration.
Light in the Midst of the Unknown
Our inner light – which is our Spiritual Self and connection to the Divine – is like that fire. It requires tending – attention and energy. And for it to continue to steadily burn, we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by what might be hiding in the shadows around us, in that darkness of the unknown.
There’s a lot of unknown right now, and a lot of strange noises snapping and crackling in the media, in conversations at work or on the street, in the papers or on Facebook. If we allow our energy and attention to be sucked into the fear and imagination of what might happen, in that darkness of the unknown, we can lose sight of the inner Light and the fire is at risk of going out.
Your Attention Can Determine Your Destiny
Recently, I watched the 30th anniversary service of Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, live-streamed on my computer. Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith (who is a great inspiration to me) said something that really stuck with me. He reminded us to be “aware of situations, but you don’t allow them to determine your destiny.” This is like being aware of sounds that may arise around the campfire, but to remain clear about what really needs your greatest attention – your inner Light, the connection to the Divine.
Our experiences in life are affected by our thoughts and where we put our attention. Yes, we need to attend to problems we are faced with. But if we dwell on them, obsess over them, worry about them, and spend all our energy and attention on the problems, then we’ll likely experience more of the problems. However, if we turn inward to the connection with something Greater and allow That to bring the light of new ideas, possibilities, and empowerment, then we shift to solutions and creating something positive out of the situation. That brings light to darkness.
Especially When It Is Dark
This inner connection is what sustains and guides us through tough times and also fills us with inspiration and joy in the good times. When we focus our attention on That, it shows us what is possible. The light of a candle can fill a whole room, even when it’s dark – especially when it is dark.
So, light some candles. Tend a fire. Find your inner connection to Spirit, even if it is just a spark. Watch a sunrise, the moonrise, or bright stars on a cold winter’s night. There is light out there, and right inside your heart. Trust in it and put your attention on it; allow it to lead you to brighter days ahead. Your true nature is that Beacon of Light.
Copyright © 2016 by Rev. Connie L. Habash