I step out onto the deck in the early morning darkness. It’s balmy today and I’m comfortable standing there in the calmness before dawn. The world is quiet, not much stirring yet, though I hear a rustle of squirrel in the woods and I can just make out the broad, shadowy side flanks of two deer nibbling in the backyard. Today is the shortest day of the year and the longest night, a pivotal point for all of us as the season changes into winter. I wonder what this day will bring.
On one level we have already been feeling the intensity of this time, the build up to some kind of breakthrough, the feeling that something must give way prevalent for weeks now. Each of us must face within ourselves what that might be. Perhaps this is the day that we will be rewarded for our deep inner work, for our ability to withstand the tensions of our psyches, our bodies, our inner world being confronted by our outer realities.
Last week my 92-year-old aunt said to me: “I wonder why I’ve lived so long? It must be so I could relive my life and see it from a different perspective, because that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing a life review and as I go back into different scenes and phases from my life I now see myself as arrogant, judgmental, boastful, mean, and stupid when in the past I saw myself as right, smart, and having all the answers. This is meaningful. I’m being offered the opportunity to change, and that’s good. It must be what life is about.”
She realized, as we talked, that her life review, her recapitulation, was teaching her new lessons. In looking at every action and situation in her life from a new perspective she was shedding her ego’s need to be in charge, to control, to be right, and to judge. She softened as we spoke, the awe of her inner process clearly showing on her face and in the words she used. She understood how our self-righteous attitudes and our judgments hold us caught in old places for most of our lives, until we face them and soften, with compassion for ourselves and others, and finally let them go.
Although she is old now, her demeanor that day was refreshingly young, innocent and alive. As she talked she became lighter, her face glowed with new life as her awareness shifted. The next day she called me and told me that she had more energy than she’d had in months and that she was certain this recapitulation work was so necessary for her evolution into new life, so near that on some days she wonders if she’ll make it to the end of the day.
We talked about death as being no different than life, a day like today, a solstice, a passage into new life and new awareness. The ocean doesn’t end just because you can see the horizon, I said. The sky is not finite just because we only see a small part of it. Life is the same; the energy of life passes from one reality to another, from one phase to another, through solstices and seasons, through times of turmoil and conflict, through times of great understanding and revelation. Through recapitulation my elderly aunt was preparing for her death, preparing to ride the solstice and accept the energy of new awareness.
No matter how old we are, no matter where we are in our lives, what our circumstances are, we always have the opportunity to do a life review, to recapitulate our lives in a new way. On this day, on this solstice, we are offered transition to new life. As my aunt sees it, she has a great future ahead of her. We all do. We can face it with awareness, as my aunt is electing to do, or we can go fighting, resistant and resentful, but in the end we are all going.
We are offered moments of solstice every day, though we may not see them as such. It’s often easier to embrace them when they are pointed out to us, made significant by tradition, ritual, and feast, by predictability and seasonal alignment. But in reality, every day offers us moments to shift our awareness. It’s time to embrace all of those moments as significant, to make everyday life a sacred ritual, as if we are all 92 years old and facing our deaths.
I honor my aunt on this day. I honor all of you. I honor myself, and I honor those closest to me, as we all take our next steps on our journeys.
The dawn begins to lighten the dark sky as I finish typing this blog. I breathe in its first energy and send it out to you, wishing you all happy solstice, and happy holidays,