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From Darkness to Light - Reflections on the Winter Solstice

Today, Tuesday 21 December 2010, at 11.38 pm GMT, the Winter Solstice will occur. This astronomical event - also known as Midwinter or Yule -  will mark the shortest day, the longest night of the year and the first day of Winter. After months of decline since June, the Sun reaches its lowest elevation, giving us in the Earth's northern hemisphere maximum nighttime hours before making its slow but steady come-back. All around us, Nature is dormant, resting, quiet and stil and has completely surrended to the recent cold, snow and ice. This is a good time for us also to rest, be still and quiet, a time to reflect on the year that is about to end and a time to honour the returning light, which will be a source of strength as we journey on through the coldest times of the year.

This year, a lunar eclipse occurred on the day of the Winter Solstice, a rare and special event which can inspire us to think about our place in the Universe and to become more introspective by going deeply "inside" ourselves and becoming more aware of who we truly are. This is connecting with our True Self, our Soul. The language of the soul and the heart is one of trust, faith and higher values, of inner growth, love and listening. Many spiritual paths cross in December, which offers us a great opportunity to strengthen our connection with our True Self...

Whatever your beliefs, appeal to all your senses with food, music, candles and decorations with the intention to make a spiritual connection with yourself.

In a festive season full of parties, presents and feasting, achieve balance between body and spirit, balance giving with receiving, food for your body and food for your soul. Listen to your body and take care of its needs.

Consciously mark the shortest day; notice and appreciate the returning light. Light candles. At Midwinter, use the darkness to dissolve outgrown attitudes and defences, allow the tough skin to peel away, become as vulnerable and sensitive as a newborn baby, allow yourself to feel, to be moved and transformed by the new light emerging. Symbolically release to the "Heavens" what is left over from the year which you do not want to carry into the new year. Over the coming weeks, make room for new ways by no longer clinging to your old ways. Allow yourself to be reborn by letting go of fear, anger and sadness.

Winter Solstice is one of the oldest Winter celebrations in the world. So in the true spirit of Yule, cherish and celebrate the truly important things: home, family and friends; celebrate each other and enjoy your family rituals to seal your bonds of love. Bring in mistletoe, ivy and holly, symbols of winter greenery and fruit, of life returning. There are many stories and legends about the symbolism of holly, ivy and mistletoe; read about them and discover for yourself if there is one that resonates with you. Singing carols with others may be a way of celebrating too. Sing and allow your voice to travel.

Notice the Winter sun and the clear blue skies which at this time of year are so precious. Rejoice in the way in which the light can displace the darkness, both literally and metaphorically. Just as the Winter sun can radiate surprising warmth for the time of year, so your inner light can bless you with positive energy and hope, even at the bleakest times.

Whether religious or secular, gatherings and celebrations at this time of year are often about witnessing the triumph of light over darkness, which brings us hope, peace and joy. May this article be an invitation for you to pause for a while and re-connect with your inner light, the essence of who you are:  give it the space it needs to emerge by being still and silent, allow it to shine, light your way and give you warmth. Welcome it, nurture it and appreciate it... a truly special gift from you to you, a spiritual treasure of immense value.

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