By Deb Avery
The season that is upon us can be one the most joyful, uniting and caring seasons of the year.
Or, it can bring about feelings of isolation, depression or despair.
Just as the sparkling lights that surround us illuminate and brighten the dark days of winter, they also cast shadows that can dull and darken our daily lives.
Whether it be the death of a loved one, a debilitating illness, or the chronic struggle that often comes with living in poverty—all of these can drain the happiness and joy right out of the season and the celebrations. This can leave us with feelings of loneliness or hopelessness.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, another type of celebration (or none at all) the activities that surround this time of year is one of peace and goodwill. It can be hard to reconcile this with all the terrible things that are happening in the world today and the anxiety over the year to come.
But in reality, no matter the custom or religion, the celebrations of this season are here to remind us of one thing:
No matter how deep the darkness, the light will always return.
The “return of the light” has been celebrated since ancient times, in every culture, in many, many ways. It’s always been a way of reminding us that the light has not deserted us, it is still there, even though it may be more distant than at other times. It’s still shinning just as bright.
And it once again will illuminate us with its brilliantness.
Have you ever noticed that usually the darker times are, the sooner and greater we humans try to compensate for this. Lights and decorations go up earlier and in larger or brighter amounts. Our minds seek to recreate or enhance the brightness during these dark times.
We equate bigger and better with feelings of comfort or satisfaction, when actually, the opposite is true.
One year, in an effort to “get in the spirit” during a difficult time in my life, I tried to do just that. I strung bigger, brighter lights, cooked more than we could ever eat and tried to get more gifts than we needed. The results were just the opposite. Instead of finding comfort in these things, it only seemed to accentuate, or rather illuminate, all the things that were wrong in my life.
Then a few years later, after much personal change, growth and deepening of my spirit, I found myself in the opposite position than the dark whole of existance of that year. Instead of money to buy gifts, baubles or more food than we needed, I found myself without means to do much of anything except barely to survive. But because of the growth and awakening I had been through, I had learned to stop trying to make the world outside appear brighter and fuller, and instead, learned to turn that energy inward and focus to keep the light within me shinning bright, no matter the circumstances.
This did not happen overnight. It took a lot of changes, courage and perseverance. But it was worth all the tears, pain and heartache of growth and awakening.
I have always loved the sights and sounds of the holidays. A song can take me right back to the simple joys of childhood in mere seconds. The lights, celebrations and joyfulness of the season also mean more to me now. And the difference is this; I now understand that the outward manifestations are not what makes us happy.
Happiness is found in the light that shines within.
There are so many ways to keep our inner lights glowing during sad, difficult or dangerous times. It all begins with us.
Here are four ways I have found to help me keep the light burning strong within. Maybe they can help someone else as well.
1. Love yourself. This one seems so simple, but we so often miss the mark. Many love themselves in a selfish way. But that’s not the point. To truly love ones you must become accepting of both the light and the darkness which dwells within you. It sounds so simple, and really it is, but it’s also one of more difficult things that we face in life. To love ourselves unconditionally, the good, the bad and the ugly takes time, practice and perseverance. Love yourself as the unique, odd bit of universal molecules that you truly are.
2. Make time to do what you love. Follow your passion. It matters not whether you are paid or not. You may have to work a regular job and do what you love at other times. Maybe you can work part time at a regular job and part time doing what you love. But never, ever give up on that which you love—that which makes you come alive.
3. Learn how to be alone (and like it). Sometimes this can be difficult. But nothing will dim your light more than being in a relationship that is draining the life out of you. Be it a partner, parent, sibling or friend(s). Trying to stay in a relationship where you are constantly being criticized, belittled or ignored will dim your light and your life. And once you begin to enjoy your own company and love yourself deeply, you won’t be running about constantly looking for that person to complete you. You will already be complete and the person you find to share life’s journey with you will only add to the joy.
4. Love others as you have learned to love yourself (This step is only possible when step #1 is mastered). Unconditional, unwavering love of others only comes as you accept all the parts of yourself with unconditional and unwavering love. Then that love—that unconditional love and acceptance—can flood over into every aspect of your life.
By following these steps we can learn to keep our lights glowing bright no matter the time of year or the darkness that surrounds us.
Just like the lights that twinkle on our trees or in the decorations we see along the wayside, when united these pure, brilliant lights of ours, can illuminate even the darkest of nights.
Editor: Dana Gornall