The Winter Solstice is one of the most powerful and mysterious times of the year. It signifies the moment when the Sun is most distant from Earth in the Northern latitude, coinciding in the shortest day and longest night of the year. However, it also marks the beginning of the returning journey of the Sun’s light, culminating at the Summer Solstice.
Symbolically, in terms of our inner-world, it signifies the moment of utter gloominess, unconsciousness and shadow, when our psyche is shrouded in darkness. How often have we found ourselves at such moments, when all seemed lost, barren, hopeless? And yet, it is often those moments when some kind of luminousity appears, seemingly out of nowhere, in the radiant hand extended from a friend, or a beneficial circumstance that helps us pull ourselves back into the boon of our own illuminated consciousness to shed light on what befalls us, offering ways out of a lost situation. Such is the returning current of aid in our lives. Those who have faced the most intense adversity testify to this--that often when all seems most lost, when we are bereft of resources, does help come. It is mysterious in that sense: it's as if adversity is testing us by taking us into such trials, over and over again, to cultivate our faith in the breakthrough that always comes. This is much like the Winter Solstice: as we endure our longest period of darkness, the Light appears distant. But it is everthere—indomitable, relentlessly illuminating, inextinguishable. The Light will never go out.
Sometimes we resist the aid, and tragedy expands, but always there's an opportunity to embody courage and to find nobleness in our suffering. Even if circumstances are so grave to snuff out our light of life, we think of those heroic ones in the face of imminent doom who display courage, as if even going down fighting they remain faithful to the eternal light. One thinks of the courageous Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, or those that battled imperial tyranny alongside Gandhi, or countless others who, though they perished in the face of insurmountable odds, transcended into victory nonetheless by the unwaveringness of their heroism.
So often when we encounter dark nights of our souls, we writhe in agony, abuse ourselves with shame and judgment, feel unworthy, fucked up and beyond repair. It is precisely those moments when we need to evoke and embody that most distant light. This is the work of fierce compassion.
Compassion is a word that too frequently exudes a sense of meekness or even naivete. Yet, true compassion is like the inexorable light of the Winter Solstice--even in our darkest hour, it is there, relentless in its burning. We as a species have been through incredibly harrowing suffering and yet we cannot allow our suffering to turn our hearts cold and to loose on those that oppress us and violate us a reaction of our own violence and vileness, even if that is what has been perpetrated upon us. I think recently of some of the sexual predators who have been all over the news in the last couple of months and though their behaviour is reprehensible to be sure, it's disheartening to see the callous judgments levied on them. The truth is, all who commit 'evil' are deeply wounded, traumatized beings who were not bestowed proper compassion to allow them to illuminate their shadowy depths where noble urges then became distorted in repression. We would rather look away and let them rot in their own pain. But the questions haunts us: what of our own pain and oppressions unto ourselves? True, the degree may be much, much different, but when we harm ourselves with negative thinking, judge others and even abuse others in subtle or gross ways, are we courageous enough to inquire lovingly after ourselves, why are we doing this? What pain is burning at the root of our 'misbehaviours'? What lurks in our shadows that needs the compassion of our light to illuminate and integrate it?
“May we not succumb to thoughts of violence and revenge today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion. We are to love our enemies that they might be returned to their right minds.”
I have learned that my inner-voice can be a tyrant, can do much psychological harm to myself. Subsequently, my inner-tyranny often projects unto others and my own inner-violence assaults those around me. This has been said to be the workings of the ego, that part of ourselves that crafts our self-identity but which has dominated our personality unhealthily, making us breed more separativity and isolationism. For years, I have worked with many spiritual arts to heal the ego, to dis-identify from its dominion so that the more ultimate unity consciousness that lies at all of our foundational, authentic selfhood can have more reign over my being. But I had never really offered my ego compassion.
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
The ego was never supposed to rule over us. It was an integral part of our personality that was to keep us consolidated as a sovereign individual. And yet, as civilization moved further away from mysticism and spirituality into its now pervasive material culture, the ego became much more important, as the American Dream (the pinnacle of Western culture) sought to champion the heroic quest of the individual to ultimate riches. This was a necessary part of our evolution of our species. However, it has gone to an extreme and now we live not only isolated from each other but from the Earth itself and the consequences have been profoundly grave. We are all being called now to not kill the ego but skillfully re-integrate it into its proper orbit around our more authentic, or ultimate self, which is a multi-dimensional marvel.
To that end, I have discovered having compassion for my self (the little 's' self or egoic consciousness) allows me to inquire and be curious about where my wounds are and to truly understand what ego is. One of my favourite quotes embodies this energetic: “All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love” Leo Tolstoy. It’s a radically positive practice to consider: anytime we feel discomfort or are in conflict to another to start from a place of simply offering love—a compassion that fiercely pushes through all the murky emotions to establish a bridge for unity to occur; for connection to flourish. This stymies the ego’s tendencies to divide things, bolstered by the cool divisiveness of the intellect. Here, we go to Heart instead, honouring it’s ability through warm unifying feeling, to support us in transcending divides and bridging gaps.
To foster such fierce compassion, however, doesn’t imply we use aggressive force as we normally understand it. Fierce does bring that to mind but here I’m referring to fierce in a different way. To move from Heart instead of head, we need to dip into the soft arts of meditation and presence. For example, instead of reeling from urges in myself that make me feel ashamed (such as bouts of anger, addictions, etc.) and shaming myself with negative inner-dialogues, I bring myself into my breath (gateway to presence) and step toward my ego with arms extended to embrace. My embrace is not meek. It is fierce and this is where ferocity comes into play because the embrace will potentially be resisted as ego is not so easily convinced that unity is the safe way to go. Ego, in fact, has become overly separate because of its pain—it wishes to isolate itself and feel its hurt alone. I’ve discovered this is actually a noble urge of my ego not to harm other aspects of my personality, much like someone in pain can often wear a veil of anger or callousness as defense against people getting close enough to their vulnerability.
If we can hold in presence and continue embracing ourselves no matter what comes up, something magical happens. The ego begins to trust there is safety in this embrace, safety to express our most wounded, acting out and vile aspects, because intellect is not directly involved to levy judgement. Heart extends a field of unconditional love—a fierce compassion that will not waver, no matter how disgusting things may get; a ferocious love that will hold all of our fragility.
We no longer seek to run from our shadow aspects where parts of our personality have isolated themselves in rigid compartments where the pain can be sustained. We want to melt those compartments down by the heat of our Heart’s light to feel the pain, ask of it what teachings it has, and eventually to ask for those disparate parts to join in the mission of holistic integration into a much more powerful expression of our being. No longer running from the demons, but turning around, to run toward them, with a lion-heart gleaming in our chests, to love them, understand them, unite with them, ferociously, sit with the murk, create the space where darkness can dance with light…
“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”
I ask my ego to join me in the adventure of the bigger Self, the Self that wants to unite the world and all the little aspects that make up my own. I am that light in the dark night of the soul when all seems so lost that we have no more within us to draw from and, thus, look up, finally, and ask for divine aid. That speck of light will appear, in fact has never gone out. Perhaps I simply forgot to look. But there it is and here I am. My Heart whispers to me to go within and there in my chest I see that same light and I know that it is me, it is all of us…
Do you feel that? A sparkling within, gleaming forth from your centre, where Earth and Heaven are laying down in the wedding bed of your Heart? Let that be where everything you are comes from.
Turning now to the demons hunting us down, to run right toward them, with Hearts blazing like sun-lions. We’ve become the hunters now and no shadow, no demon will escape this radiance. Love will not be denied.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe,
deserve your love and affection.”