This year we are collectively focused on the light at the end of the tunnel of this COVID-19 shutdown experience. But the winter solstice is a time to focus on a different kind of light, the inner light that shines most brightly in the darkness of winter’s quiet solitude. Over the years, I have led many solstice celebrations in my Marin Insight Women’s Sangha, and before that at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Here are ideas of how to celebrate the Solstice I’ve offered over the years for your own celebration.
Of course, this year is different in many ways. Celebrating with my class on Zoom had some technical challenges. We weren’t able to sing ‘This little light of mine’ together, but we listened to the recording we made of ourselves last year. It was on a lark we made that recording, but aren’t we grateful for it now! You could use any recording of the song you find online and let everyone sing along, muted. But be sure to check the Zoom box that lets you share your computer’s audio! I didn’t know about that when I shared my illustrated solstice poem that has been part of solstice gatherings around the world for the past 25 years.
Though we weren’t able to gather around our collective candles, we were still able to light our candles, saying what we were lighting them for. Since we were in our own homes, we could keep them lit as reminders to ourselves. If you plan to do that, ask people to go get their candles beforehand.
One other way this year’s solstice is different has nothing to do with COVID. December 21st in the Southwest sky just after sundown there will be a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that will be the closest since the year 1623 and the closest observable since 1226! So if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and the skies are clear, go outside after sunset and check it out. Get out your binoculars or a telescope if you have them. (Thursday night the crescent moon and the two planets, close together but not in conjunction, made a beautiful vignette.)
Stargazing reminds me of the awesome immensity of being. Growing up, I loved to lie on the grass looking up into space until it felt more like looking out into space, and then looking down into space, feeling gravity’s embrace keeping me from falling into the vastness. When I was a teenager, I would say to myself: “The whole universe is a tiny cell in a cosmic cow’s leg.” I have no idea how I came up with that, but it comforted me, making all my challenges seem minuscule and fleeting.
Meditation is another way to gain perspective. Instead of focusing on distant stars, I focus on the sensate nature of being alive here and now. The senses are like gravity. When thoughts encroach, focusing on my breath or other sensation anchors my awareness, and I am grateful for the joy of this moment, just as it is.
Meditation allows us to see a light in the darkness, a light in the window of our homecoming to being fully present in this moment, never to be repeated. Welcome home.