Off the Mat: Dark Days
Driving his die cast metal school bus ‘round its pressboard wooden route, my kiddo hums under his breath. Tune recognition takes a while to reach my conscious mind.
Do you realize you’re humming the Darth Vader music?
Oh. Mama? What’s the music for the bright side?
Setting the clocks back messes with my head. Don’t get me wrong, I relish the extra hour of sleep. I can even appreciate how the “earlier” sunrise means we can stand in sunbeams not shadows while waiting for the bus. But the darkness is challenging. Over the years, I’ve tried exercise, high dose Vitamin D, natural light bulbs, to mixed effects. Mold allergies leave me head-achy and spent by mid-afternoon. Now mid-afternoon grows dark.
Do I rage against the dying light, pressing on full tilt through the December schedule? Hunker down and hibernate, slowing my pace to baseline functions only? Or seek a middle way – look for the light?
A few years back, one of my yoga teachers introduced me to this meditation tool. Let your eyes seek light: morning sun on treetops, candle flames, distant stars above. Collect light in your imagination. Store light in your memory to illuminate a future dark day or bright idea.
Growing up, church was my parents’ community, therefore mine, too. I still appreciate the ritual – the patterns of the year, liturgy matching the seasons of the natural world. Traditions I now know reach back farther in human history than the church. December’s gloom is mitigated by Advent’s themes of hope, love, joy, peace. Candles and hymns in minor key to mark the darkest days, longest nights, and anticipation of the light returning. A favorite includes this verse:
“What can I offer, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I’d give a lamb. If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part. What can I give now? Give my heart.”
In one particularly dark period of life, a bathroom wall (no kidding!) introduced me to this quote from Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Neighbors mark the longest night of the year with fire and hope. Fold their wishes for the New Year into an origami boat. Set it afloat in the nearby pond, small candle passenger. I wonder which succumbs first – paper to water? Paper to flame? Flame to wind?
After breakfast, my boy got out a rubber stamp and began to cover his arms with green peace symbols.
I’m putting these on because Donald Trump won and we need peace…yes, Mama, you can post that. Tell people why.
Every December, we make a paper chain to count down days until Christmas. Each link includes a simple gift we give: cans for the food pantry, feeding the meter for a stranger, a donation for the toy drive. This year’s chain includes calls to our Senators and a contribution to the Mosque among other acts of civic engagement. We give with gratitude for what we have and with fervent hope that shining our little lights will help the bright side prevail.
[Photo credits: (c) Ben Townsend; (c) Ginny Hamilton]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ginny is a yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, gardener, activist, and middle aged Mama. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily, she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. She believes our natural state is to be balanced in body and mind so spirit can flow freely. Because modern life gets in the way, she offers self-healing bodywork to unravel imbalances and restore energy flow. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.