“I Love the Darkness of Winter”
I love the darkness of winter. The dark evenings and the dark mornings of November and December draw me inwards, so that quiet reflection and contemplative rest seem a natural part of life at this time of year.
As each Christmas and winter holiday approaches I find myself making a conscious decision that I am not going to get caught up in the busyness and consumerism that can so easily come between me and my good intention to allow serenity take priority over compulsive activity. I settle in to my deeper sense of self for at least some part of each day. This then sustains me during the more frenetic and “out there” times which are part and parcel of engaging with the holiday festivities and fun. Sometimes I’m more successful than others. I manage to maintain my sense of equilibrium and steadiness amidst the insanity and anxiety of the “Black Fridays” and the latest “must have” fads and gimmicks that invariably promise a lot more than they deliver.
What is it then that makes the difference between the times when I am in touch with my sense of agency, empowerment and depth, and the times when it can feel like I am set adrift in the maelstrom of shopping centres and materialism? With blood pressure and stress levels rising, and in the haze of jostling crowds and ever lengthening lists, I remain perhaps quite unaware that I have lost touch with what my deeper self longs for and needs. Or perhaps I am painfully aware of something feeling not quite right. One of the challenges for me is to hold onto a sense of myself as “more than”. I am more than the many roles with which I identify. So for example I am more than a wife, mother, psychotherapist, teacher, sister, daughter, neighbour etc. Yes it is true that I am all of those people. But when I sit quietly in meditation I quite often touch into that sense of expansion – a clarity and spaciousness that can at times move me to tears, such is the sense of gratitude I feel. The fuss and irrelevance of the shopping and hard work that can be foisted upon us during this season of “good will” become more apparent to me, and I feel better able to settle into keeping it simple and discerning who I am amidst it all. I ask myself what I need for sustenance, replenishment, fun and celebration.
Of course there are the needs of other family members to consider also. Children, elderly parents and partners have needs and wants too. However, increasingly I find that when I attend to my own deep need for stillness and presence, the more available I am in an authentic and generous way to others. I feel less resentment and more of a sense of real Christmas spirit. For example I try to let go of expectations and control as I attempt to model for my children the difference between needs and wants. I attempt to hold as my default position the question, “What is really important to me?”. And I fail miserably at times!! At other times I am rewarded by all the joys of the festive season – peace, relaxation and comfort. I remind myself that life is a process. My intention is to engage with, as Mary Oliver says, this “one wild and precious life” that I have been given as fully and genuinely as possible. I am interested in progress, not perfection, support and encouragement rather than criticism of myself or others. And at these times when I manage to surrender to a softer, deeper and less ego-driven experience of myself, I reap rewards far greater than I could ever have imagined.
– Kate McCarthy