Winter Holiday Blues: Light Into the Darkness

In this season of light and dark - where the daylight is shortest and darkness longest - we have three festivals of light: the miracle of light known as Chanukah; the miraculous birth of the master of Christianity known as Christmas; and the celebration of the light of African American communities and traditions known as Kwanzaa.

At the outset of the Genesis of creation it is said, “Let there be light.” The revealed light of creation pierced the formless darkness. Light into the dark gave us this magnificent creative world.

The eruption of light into dark created life. Why then is this season of miracles and light so fraught with such sadness, sickness, suffering, and suicide?

I don’t think there is one encompassing answer; there are multiple factors I’ve discerned in thinking and researching about this topic, including these three:

First, is the primal fear we all encounter as young children around the age of three is the fear of the dark.  The descent of darkness casts a shadow over some people’s lives and reawakens that wave of fear that washes over us and we shudder. Some experience this as what is labeled as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Second is we cry in the dark, calling out for love and to be loved. We call out to be cared for but no one’s there.

Some of us once had that nurture but we don’t have it any longer as our once adored family is no longer. Some of us may never have had a loving family, which is even more painful to bear than the loss of one.

Either way, we are crying, and it is no wonder that clinicians see a profusion of colds and upper respiratory infections occurring during this season, reflecting our grief on a physical/physiological level. It is during this time also that the number of suicides increases as people despair.

Third is the unintended burden created by the season of giving. Foremost is the commercialization of the holidays suggested we provide eight days of gifts for Chanukah and too many under the Christmas tree (presumably a tree of life).

Here we are urged to change our conditioning from having to get to having to give. We are habituated from early life onward to take, to keep, to hold onto. Now we become more concerned with giving, sharing, and charity that haven’t been in our consciousness for the other 364 days of the year. Our energy and strength are faced with quite a challenge not to be worn out, made weary and weak through the “burdens” of this emotional, physical, and financial trial.

There is an unexpected up side to this season. For many, it can come as an unexpected relief and joy as people give and share from their hearts even as they remain aware of the struggles we collectively face.

The lights of Chanukah and Christmas remind us of the hope residing in the hearts of humanity for a future of love, truth, and peace for all of us. Light is the symbol of hope.

With that in mind, here are some imagery exercises to bring the light of hope into the world.

 Descend to Love

Frequency: Repeat as needed when feeling blue.

  • Close your eyes and breathe out slowly, a long, exhalation, followed by a normal inhalation.
  • Descend into the deepest layers of self and find there the foundational layer of love upon which all the sadness and suffering rests.
  • Breathe out one time. Know this love is shared by everyone in the world, just as is the suffering.
  • Sense and feel this love absorbing and removing the sadness, suffering, and pain.
  • Breathe out and open your eyes.

 Imagery Exercise for Kwanzaa

Knowing Ourselves Through Seeking and Finding

Frequency: Repeat once a day before lighting the Kwanzaa candles each day of the holiday.

  • Close your eyes and breathe out slowly, a long, exhalation, followed by a normal inhalation.
  • Feel and know that to be a seeker is a blessing.
  • Feel how it affirms the wholeness of our identity.
  • Breathe out one time.
  • See, sense, and know why and how the restoration of our wholeness is possible.
  • See, know, and feel how unity is the destiny of man.
  • Breathe out one time.
  • Live the homeward journey back to your roots.
  • Know and live how returning to unity is the basic human longing.
  • Breathe out one time.
  • Recognize why this unity is so far away in time and space and opposite to our human daily realities.
  • See and know how we can make this world into a paradise of fellowship and love only by living in harmony with one another.
  • See and sense yourself drinking from the kikombe cha umoja, the Unity cup, and sharing it with family and friends, past and present.
  • Breathe out three times.
  • Know and live how the quest for transforming your destiny is the reunion of you with yourself and your community.
  • Breathe out and open your eyes.

Imagery Exercise for All Three Holidays

The Channels of Light

Frequency: Do this every morning for the eight days of Chanukah, the twelve days of Christmas, and the seven days of Kwanzaa.

  • Close your eyes. Breathe out one time slowly, followed by a normal inhalation.
  • Imagine you are the warmth and song of the planet and all the lights of the Milky Way.
  • Breathe out.
  • See, sense, and feel in this space your liberation and after knowing and feeling your freedom. 
  • Breathe out.
  • Physically sense in yourself channels of love, courage, and mercy that are filling you with light.
  • Breathe out.
  • Physically sense and see a point of discomfort in yourself becoming a larger space where discomfort, discord, incompleteness are diluted until light fills every place and all the space.
  • Breathe out and open your eyes.

Imagery Exercise for the Sacred Season

Frequency: Repeat once a day upon rising during the eight days of Chanukah, twelve Christmas, and seven days of Kwanzaa.

  • Close you eyes.
  • Breathe out one time slowly, followed by a normal inhalation.
  • See, sense, and feel God guarding you as “the protective shade at your right hand.” Psalm 121:5
  • Breathe out once and open your eyes.

Imagery Exercise for SADs (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Healing in the Twilight

Frequency: Repeat three times a day for twenty-one days.

  • Close your eyes. Breathe out slowly, followed by a normal inhalation.
  • Imagine that you are going from noon to twilight walking on a meadow bordered by a river and by a wood.
  • See and feel each change in the light until you see the light of the day glowing into the night.
  • Sense how the glow of this shining light is making your organs and your entire being more alive.
  • Breathe out once and open your eyes.