Almost too soon the winter festival season is upon us. On December 21 at 1:19 PM PST, the sun will reach its southernmost observable limit in our earthís annual orbit of that great star. Everything has its limits, even darkness.
"I donít have time to get that done," "I just canít take this anymore," "sorry, our resources are limited" -- there are few that donít experience the frustration of limitation on almost a daily basis. However, the greater limitation is of our own ability to take notice of the boundaries of our own scarce personal resources.
The Yule season is a particular time of year where limits can be easily strained. Not just financial assets, but more importantly, emotional and spiritual resources that become exhausted beyond their ability to regenerate themselves in a healthy way. Who has not experienced the fatigue of the Christmas or Yule season? Who hasnít been pushed beyond their limits by familial togetherness or too much loneliness?
Because these examples are more dramatic, they are easier to predict and perhaps prevent. But what of the quiet limitations of life, the ones that have become so chronic that they are not easily noticed?
Quiet limitations take the form of jobs, careers, or relationships long outworn, that are maintained simply because they are familiar. They take the form of exhaustion that becomes so common that it is simply overlooked as "just the way it is." They take the form of grief, lived for so long that it is mistaken for life.
Unlike the passages of our daily lives, seasonal festivals do not become timeworn. There is good reason why festivals occur on an annual basis -- we need the reminder of their messages to reorient and refresh ourselves at regular intervals through the year and throughout our lives. And the festival of the winter Solstice is no different.
As the saying goes, "it is darkest before the dawn." We are all on a path, some rushing headlong, some taking it slow, one day at a time. But inevitably the path becomes a rut and one finds oneself in the darkest of places. While it is easy to feel how one got there, it is not so easy to see how one will go on. The year, like our lives, winds itself down into this dark, quiet place in the underground or in a wild forest where the voices in your head can drive you mad.
And there you are. And there is no where else to go. The pushing beyond oneís own limits can be done no more. Change is upon you. The weakened Holly King lifts his arm in defense at the glinting sword of the Oak King. A deep understanding comes upon you as the battle rages. You must let go, you have got to let go, you must surrender to change. Feeling your growing resolve, the bright Oak King vanquishes his opponent.
Falling to his knees the Holly King cedes his energy and his reign to the winded, but still standing Oak King. The dawn has come, the dark energy has not been killed but transformed into a new way of being, a new solar year that may seem the same, but is so very different from the last.
The duel is over, the limits of the withering of the world and the psyche have been reached. A great battle ensued in its natural time, not according to the time we may or may not set aside to deal with our "personal issues." The inner and outer worlds are in accord. There was no slaughter, only recognition and transformation. The newborn sun, the new way, will grow nestled in an awakening world until it is able to shine forth over the vegetative year in coming months.
And in due time, that brilliant new light will itself yearn for darkness, for mystery and change and so again we will meet our Holly King in the midst of a beautiful summer day. But that time is not now. For now we try to feel where in our lives we have stayed too long and await the transformative light of the coming winter Solstice. May peace and health be yours through the coming seasons.