Solstice of Samsara

I’ve been told that the Winter Solstice is a week of more or less longest nights in northern hemisphere. So it’s not too late for a Solstice post. Barely.

Since returning to North America two decades ago, the Winter Solstice has grown in meaning for me. The night-day proportions are much different in Wisconsin than they were in Surat Thani, from where the Equator was just down the road in Singapore. Friends, here, have been celebrating the Solstices in ways that I gradually warmed to. And this year I have a bit of comment to share.

Guided by Tan Ajahn Buddhadasa’s teaching in Seeing with the Eye of Dhamma, I’ve explored how everything is samsara. That is, everything is spinning, recycling, passing & returning. Change is constant, often through patterns and cycles. Solstice is samsara: a night, a day, a week in the yearly recycle. Solstice is revolution. The earth turns, the seasons turn, our minds and hearts turn. And society turns, albeit with lots of wobbles and contradictions. Will the turns be destructive? Or constructive? Or some confusing mix of the two? I don’t really know, do you? But I watch these turnings, as they turn in my mind and my heart turns with them.

The long nights of this solstice are good opportunities to zoom in with the present moment and zoom out to the larger revolutions taking place: seasons and years, climate disruption and ecological breakdown, power hoarding and social conflicts, fear mongering and violent tempers, clingy beliefs and stubborn ideologies, birth and death. Are any of these more real or more important than the others? Only, I think, when personal concern or advantage is tied into it. With perspective they are all revolutions revolving according to the forces at play in them and that bind them in complex interactions.

The powerful forces churning around us and colliding within us can confound and overwhelm us. Grounded contemplation of how it’s all samsara helps relax the overwhelm, fear, anger and bewilderment enough to find something to do today, some piece of inner work, some contribution to the outer work, something that we are meant for.

We don’t have to be revolutionary heroes. We can be kind, decent, intelligent, forgiving, courageous awakening beings each day, each activity, each breath.

May this solstice foster inner disentangling from the powers of fear, greed, hatred, and confusion.

May we welcome the Prince of Peace in each other.

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