The shortest and darkest day of the year is nearly upon us, and the political, environmental, and economic landscape is overflowing, by all accounts, with an abundance of unknowns. So it should be no surprise to me that my holiday cheer factor is a little lacking this year.
Darkness outside tends to make its way inside. And walking in the dark can leave one feeling a little lost. In these times, I often feel like an ungainly toddler moving through life, searching desperately for my inevitable next step. How I long to get out of the dark as quickly as possible and see a clear path laid out before me. I ache to find myself back in the land of ‘knowns’, and move out of the discomfort of unsureness.
At moments like this I find it helpful to ask myself, “Who do you want to be when you grow up, Jurian?” The answer for me today is, once again, Anne Lamott. I always find encouragement, humility, honesty and humor in her words. From her book Plan B, Further Thoughts on Faith …
“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”
As strongly as I long to escape the moments when I cannot see what comes next, whether it be for myself or for the world, I remember that I have little patience for know-it-alls. I shun teachers, leaders, institutions and schools that insist there are clearly defined dogmatic answers, preaching “This is the way.” This is how I found myself moving into Kripalu Yoga Center over a decade ago; because at the center of what I was taught then was something I had not heard before – “Now the inquiry of yoga.” This interpretation of Patanjali’s first yoga sutra empowers us to have the courage to find the answers within. It does not dictate those answers from outside but suggests a path, offers a way, and then says, “Go find out.”
From my own experiments, here are some things that help me bravely (and not so bravely) bear the darkness until the light returns:
- Nourish body, heart and That may mean kale and meditation, yes, but sometimes it also means Ben and Jerry’s and re-runs of The Good Wife.
- Turn off the computer, put the iPhone on silent, don’t be ‘productive.’ Rest.
- Whether it’s slow and meditative or fast and furious, a few minutes of letting my body respond intuitively to music that it’s drawn to, can be incredibly healing.
- Make something. Anything from soup to a poem to a handmade card or a scarf. Then share it or give it away.
- Call or see a good friend. Forget texting and emailing. Talk. Touch. Hear. See.
- Do something you don’t normally do. Eat a new food, take a different path to work, read a new author. Remember it’s a big world. Surprise yourself.
- Always my go-to, from Kripalu Yoga: Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow.
- Fetch wood, carry water. Take care of the essentials. Rest in the routines that serve, like flossing, laundry, going to the gym, walking the dog.
- Write down 10 things you’re grateful for today. Do it again tomorrow. And the day after that.
- Wait for it. In my experience, when I’ve been patient, the times of uncertainty have often evolved into the richest, most fruitful, defining moments of my life.
May the holiday season find you peaceful, healthy and happy. And as we approach the shortest, darkest day of the year, may we all remember that the light always returns,
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and a Joyous New Year to you,