I write to you from the edge of the jungle in the blue zone of Costa Rica. My room is in the thick of green canopy, lush with the fragrance of ozone and buzzing with birds, crickets, and howler monkeys. This is earth as it was meant to be, as it once was. The ocean is close enough for me to hear tonight as I write, the crashing of waves just barely audible over the crazy racket of night animals.
I am here with nearly 100 yogis who have come to celebrate the solstice with Shiva Rea, one of the visionary teachers of our time. We are gathered to practice together. We will bring our prayers, breath, humanity, and intentions onto our mats from the early dawn until the late night for the days to come.
Retreat. We are often caught in the busy of the holidays without having the equilibrium balance of retreat. But if we reflect on the deeper currents of this season, solstice is the root of what we are celebrating. Both Christmas and New Year fall just about at solstice, and this is no mistake. Many biblical scholars say that it is likely that Jesus was not actually born on the 25th of December; based on historical research it is more probable that his birth was in the autumn.
Early church leaders tied his birth intentionally to winter solstice and the festival of Saturnalia, or return of Saturn, because the prevailing culture of paganism at that time would have resonated with Jesus symbolically representing the return of light on earth at the darkest time of year.
Today we tend to celebrate the light and love returning to our hearts and the planet (Christmas) or the beginning of the new year and the resolutions we make without tending to the other piece of this spiritual puzzle- solstice.
Solstice is the forgotten child of the season. As a culture, we do not like to dive into the dark and we have lost familiarity with ritual. But solstice has much to offer us in the renewal of our hearts as we move towards the light of Christmas.
To move into the darkness we follow the breath into stillness, and quiet the mind. The invitation of this time of year is to shed the husk of the personality and the chatter and superficiality- to return into the dark, to the quiet soul.
Will you join me? Do you also need to take time in stillness? To unclench? To cry? To grieve? To let go? To surrender? I know, I know. I’m in retreat. I get to really dive in. But can you dive in just a little bit? Can you move consciously into the dark and allow the fertile ground of the long nights press upon you what it is to become wise?