For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. After today, our days will start getting longer and lighter again.
I’ve been noticing the late sunrises, the early dusks, and the way in which my body downshifts in response.
I want to sleep more, rest more, read more.
I feel less social. My attention wants to go inward.
And, I also find myself reflecting on the themes of dark and light.
We talk about the light of awareness, the light of consciousness, the light of the soul or spirit, bringing light to dark spaces.
So, what does it mean for people to be a light in the darkness?
For me, living from my inner light means living a life in which my personality serves the deeper calling and promptings of my soul. It means being willing to wake up and become aware of what lies inside of me, refusing to live a lie. It means rejoining “soul and role,” as the writer, speaker, and activist Parker Palmer puts it.
On the ground, this is not so easy to do.
As children, many of us learned to protect ourselves by hiding, by creating secret lives to protect our fragile, authentic selves from the judgment and criticism of others. When we felt vulnerable, we buffered up and defended ourselves often by sending our true feelings, our true desires, our deep wishes into the underground. Over time, we can become habituated to the painful gap between our true selves and the roles we learned to play to gain approval from others.
Masked and armored with these roles, beliefs, and judgments, we can get lost in the wilderness, in the darkness.
We feel empty and lonely.
We sense that something is missing.
We fear that we aren’t good enough.
We aren’t sure if we’re lovable.
And here’s the thing: The more dividedness I have inside of myself, the more unsafe and less sane I feel in my relationships. The more I hide my true self from you, the more I find myself wondering:
Is what I see what I get?
Is this person the same on the inside as they are on the outside?
When we don’t know who or what we’re actually dealing with, we ourselves become more masked and armored, and that in turn makes our relationships even less safe and trustworthy.
When our outsides match our insides, we experience more self-trust, more inner peace.
When our roles are informed by the truth in our souls, general levels of health, well-being, trust, and togetherness increase around us.
Palmer writes about the various things that happen when we live a divided life, and I’ll summarize a few of them here.
When we live from our defenses and our armor, our light doesn’t get out to serve others. When we speak from fear and defensiveness, it’s simply not the same as speaking from clarity, love, and connection.
When we’re defended and armored up, we cannot let in the light from others. We project our self-doubt, dividedness, and anger onto others, keeping them out with fear, criticism, and judgment.
Others can sense the dividedness, the defensiveness that lives within us. They can sense the gap between appearance and reality, and they become wary and guarded around us. They keep us at arm’s length, and we can get caught in a Hall of Mirrors in which we aren’t sure: is it them, or is it me?
“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
For me, this Leonard Cohen lyric is an invitation to authenticity, an invitation to live what Palmer calls an “Undivided Life.”
After today, the days begin to get longer and lighter.
In the spirit of letting more light in, let’s make a commitment to lowering our metaphorical masks.
Let’s crack open our armor and peel away our defenses.
Let’s get vulnerable with one another and give voice to what we deeply desire, feel, and ache for.
Let’s do it gently, with kindness and clarity.
These are the relational ingredients needed to begin cultivating a more integrated, compassionate, light-filled world.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey.
As always, I’d love to hear from you.
What’s stirring for you around the Winter Solstice and the idea of living a light-filled, undivided life?
I’d love to know; leave a comment below.
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Thank you for this beautiful essay. Perfect for Solstice!
Thank you, Yvette for this article. "Light" has so many ways of showing up……movement, speech, and energy…….The holidays are all about light, and I have needed some inspiration……….