Embrace The Dark | Emily Hightower

Issue #11

This week’s Solstice is an undeniable bookmark in the seasons. It’s a holiday that doesn’t require any stories or religions to understand. We’re in the darkest week of the year with the 21st being the longest night. Every living thing in the North knows it’s time to hunker down. Except us.

We keep the lights on and the cities humming! We fight the dark with pills to give us energy and calendars to keep us ‘on schedule’. Meanwhile we miss an opportunity to go with the dark, and in the dark there is power.

Darkness gives everything a chance to go inward; to slow down, be more silent, and tune in to our real needs. All of nature aligns with this strategy. What grows and survives in the spring belongs. If we don’t take time to tune into the darkness we risk investing in and growing things (ideas, behaviors, relationship patterns) that do not belong anymore in our lives. Rest and reflection is vital to create awareness and balance.

The work of Dr. Thomas Wehr challenged everything about our beginnings into the avoidance of the dark in the 1990’s. In his study after 3-weeks of removing all artificial light people returned to what we thought was lost or did not exist; a type of sleep that must have only existed during our paleolithic times. A deep reset into our biology, something we seek now through various interventions.

Our Hightower family marks the Winter Solstice with friends at a ranch nearby where our buddy collects enormous piles of deadfall all year just for the occasion. He’ll make a bonfire as big as a house. Dogs and kids will play in the snow around adults and elders and tables of food. No one can stop themselves from casually adding logs (and trees) to the fire. As it grows beyond reason, the contrast expands between the blaze and the dark winter night in every direction around us.

If people want they write down something on paper for the Solstice fire to take to the winds; as if burning it will digest it into form. But there’s no formal ceremony or rules to follow here. People just naturally start burning things, including ideas, emotions, habits, regrets. Some use the fire to mark what they are letting go of, some to claim what they’ll grow in the spring cycle.

We encourage you if you haven’t already to go inward this week. Start by noticing your artificial lights. If you dare, use candles and fire at night and let go of the screen time especially before bed. Be bored like the seeds hibernating in the soil right now. You might get tired sooner, wake up more rested. In the morning, let the dawn light come when it’s ready instead of rushing it in with screens and houselights. Be with the natural darkness and tune into yourself. Breathe. The morning darkness is an especially sacred time to reflect and write.

What would you like to ‘burn’ and let go of when you sit with the shadows? How would that make more space in your life?

What would you like to focus on and build with the coming lighter days?

No matter what your process is these shifts come through our nervous system. If you can pause and be with the dark long enough to listen your body will show you what it needs and wisdom percolates through. Being in deep states of meditation, sleep, or Yoga Nidra can facilitate these connections without words. Just trust your body, give it the dark inward time it craves. Allow what you choose to keep with you to grow slowly and surely with the coming light.

Enjoy Your SOLSTICE and HOLIDAYS!

Emily and Brian

Emily Hightower

Emily Hightower is an explorer of human potential at SH//FT.

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