Light amidst the darkness

Words: Janis Muir
Monday, September 12th, 2011
Candle and Light
In the Northern Hemisphere we are used to the apparent closing down of nature every winter, sometimes the dark mornings and lack of sunlight and warmth are often experienced as depressing. Many of us suffer from winter depression sometimes termed ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder'. This isn't a new phenomenon and our winter festivals were designed to evoke and celebrate some light in this darkness; to give hope and remind us of the spring to come.

Just like in nature, a depressed state of mind is energy gone underground. On the surface is a barren landscape, there is no growth. In fact the reason we often feel so tired when depressed is that much psychic energy or libido is invested in keeping things exactly as they are when in fact one's own inner nature is calling for growth. But change and revealing what lies beneath (being unknown) is scary, so we invest much energy in resistance. Reactive depression (a reaction to negative events) can also be seen this way, if, like the psychologist Carl Jung, we see outer events as an expression of an inner psychic reality.

Often the changes that need to occur are like Rites of Passage that shed the old to bring forth the new. Indeed many societies have rites of passage ceremonies to evoke, symbolise and confirm outwardly an inner change and they are of great value psychologically. It's as if something wants to be born; the energy goes underground and gestation begins. Winter as a metaphor for the state of depression or the ‘dark night of the soul' works for me in that beneath that apparently barren surface lie the seeds, bulbs and roots full of potential and waiting to burst forth into life but buried in the unconscious. But as always care must be taken if one explores this darkness, for our conscious ego is but a small part of the whole. Work with the unconscious requires that we explore with sincerity and respect.

Every time we give this potential the chance to be born into consciousness is a new birth. A divine birth is celebrated at Christmas and another ‘recession' Christmas represents a chance to discover the deeper meaning of this, which is that spark of beauty and divinity within waiting to be born. I read once about a lovely idea; that friends and family write down three things they love about all the others on separate bits of paper sealed in envelopes put on the Christmas tree to be opened and read on Christmas Day. When our true essence is reflected back at us this way we believe in ourselves. This present costs so little but its value is high.

Time and time again it has been shown that a positive outlook strengthens the immune system which often feels weakened in winter. I am reminded of a saying attributed to Cattwg the Wise (a 6th Century Welsh saint): Shouldst thou desire to divert a person from his fault, bestow on him a good word again and again; for a man will be better by being commended, he will become worse by being censured. I once walked along feeling quite well when a friend greeted me saying, ‘How are you, you don't look too well.' My energy plummeted along with my mood! I think Cattwig was wise, knowing that negative words can be absorbed and taken on board especially when we are young or in a vulnerable state. To find light in the darkness often involves sacrifice and letting go of what no longer serves our higher purpose. I read about an elderly lady who dreamt that she stood in a dark room looking out into the night with only a lighted candle on the window sill. All of a sudden an icy wind came and blew out the candle leaving the room in darkness. But on the other side of the window in the night darkness she still saw the reflection of the candle where miraculously the flame of the candle still burned. She died not long after. So although Christmas can be tinged with sadness especially when we get older, look at the symbolism of the red berries for sacrifice, the evergreen for life everlasting, the angel on the tree (to know we are supported) and the fairy for magic; and don't forget the lights in the darkness that represent our own inner light that once found again can never be lost; truly a Divine Birth.

Read more from Janet here.