This dispatch comes to you at an auspicious time, the Winter Solstice, described by my Solstice-born friend and songspinner, Pauline LeBel, as a time when “the womb of darkness reaches its fullness…when we rest, when our dreams are seeded, when we ready ourselves for the lengthening days.”
Traditionally this is a time when we make resolutions for the coming year – to get fit, get out of debt, quit smoking, finish the manuscript, learn Spanish, etc. Such resolutions have a notoriously poor success rate – 10% according to one source. (That’s probably a generous estimate.) And yet year after year, many of us keep making them, hoping that this time the outcome will be different. But as Einstein has said, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”
Maybe it’s not a fatal character flaw that prevents us from keeping these promises to ourselves. The calendar is after all a human creation, not a natural one. Maybe Jose Arguelles, author of the international bestseller, The Mayan Factor, is right when he says, “It is largely dissynchronous timing standards that have kept human beings off-balance and alienated from the natural cycles of the Earth they inhabit.”
What if we were to attune to the darkness of this time of year instead? What if we were to heed these words of the essayist, Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams: “real beauty is so deep you have to move into darkness to understand it”? What if we were to follow the example of David Whyte, as expressed in his poem, The Willingness to Rest:
In my tiredness
and willingness to rest
I slipped so far down
I felt the earth
and knew me once again.
Perhaps instead of soldiering on and doggedly resolving to better ourselves in the coming year, we need to allow our emerging self to meet us in the sweet darkness of these winter days and nights, and to whisper its secrets.
the dark buds of dreams
In the center
of every petal
is a letter
(from “Dreams” by Mary Oliver)
As this year ends and the new year dawns, hold this question in your heart: “What is my dream?” Maybe you have several of them. Allow them to emerge out of the bounds of time. Take note of them as they occur to you.
Pay attention to your dreams on these long winter nights. They have more potency now than at other times of the year. Write them down if you can.
And in the coming days, when you have some moments alone, you may want to try this Eric Maisel exercise that I adapted from his book, Fearless Creating:
Light a candle and sit quietly. Have paper and pen and/or a musical instrument close at hand.
Attend to your breathing without trying to change it. When your mind starts its inevitable ranting, gently tell it to “Hush” as you would a restless child. As the thoughts keep recurring, keep hushing them. The intent is to descend to the place of no thought. This may take time. Be patient.
When you’re as quiet as you can be, gently say, “Deeper” and wait. As you feel your breathing deepen, go silently into the darkness. Be as still as you can be.
Pay attention to what comes to you – images, words, gestures, melodies… Gently hold these messages until they begin to come into focus.
When you feel ready, write, draw, play, or dance these images, words, phrases in whatever way feels natural to you.
Be patient with yourself. The silence may not come at all. You might not get a single idea – this time. It’s not about doing it right. The effort alone is a balm for the soul.
In the coming year, beginning on January 26, I am offering a series of Wednesday evening workshops, “Stoking Your Creative Fire,” to support the kind of creativity that gives your life significance, richness, and intentionality. It is for artists or would-be artists of every description who wish to create more authentically, more frequently, more deeply. Or for anyone who wants to live with greater, passion, and joy. Be prepared to encounter your deepest yearnings and to discover practical ways to make them a reality. Discover how you might have sabotaged your creative intentions in the past, and learn tools and approaches to advance them instead.
For those of you living in the Vancouver area or close by, “Stoking Your Creative Fire” could be your chance to give form to those dreams that beckon to you in these dark winter days and nights.
For information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Each person has access to a rich creative world that demands expression. Without it, life becomes a single note longing for its melody.”