Today is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, marking the day with the longest period of sunlight. Since ancient times, solstice has been celebrated by many different cultures around the world.
Solstice is when the planet’s tilt reaches its zenith. It happens at the same moment everywhere on Earth – for those in the southern hemisphere, today is winter solstice. It’s a powerful reminder that we are part of a global community, all intrinsically linked to this planet.
It is also a reminder that light and dark exist in equal measure in our world. As the north celebrates its longest day of light, the south experiences its longest moment of darkness. And when we come to our winter solstice in December, the reverse will be true.
The dance of polarities
Life is a constant interplay of brightness and shadow. Its joys, beauty and euphoric moments co-exist with challenges and difficulties of all kinds. And of course, there is every range of experience in between bliss and suffering.
It’s natural for us to want only the light, the bright and the ease. We spend much of our lives in the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, as well as the denial of the ‘neutral’ and seemingly uninteresting moments of life. Our minds are constantly categorising our experiences as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Yet in truth, all have their place. Life is complex and multifaceted, and its darker threads are all part of its tapestry. There is no life without polarity. Honouring this, rather than resisting it, can help us to meet every aspect of our experience with grace and strength.
This also goes for the parts of ourselves that we might prefer to keep hidden – our shadows, fears and the things we’re not proud of. Sometimes it may seem that pushing these things down will make them go away. But actually, the opposite occurs. Denying our shadows only gives them greater power over us, leading us to act in ways that are unconscious and detrimental to our wellbeing.
So how do we hold steady within the vast multiplicity of experience?
Of course, there is no one answer. We all have to find our own way. But one thing that can help is finding our centre through meditation. Reaching the still, quiet place that exists at the deepest ground of our being enables us to better hold with all that life can bring.
Through meditation, we find another way to perceive the world. We cultivate a mental clarity and inner awareness that helps us to become aware of our obsessions and compulsions and frees us from identifying too strongly with the pushes and pulls of experience. In this way, we reach a more profound understanding of life – a level of experience that is beyond good or bad. This state of clarity and insight allows us to be at peace, no matter what comes our way.
The awareness we cultivate also allows us to see ourselves as we really are, without illusion, judgement or resistance. As a result, we are more able to embrace our wholeness and to meet our shadows. Meditation helps us to be clearer, more insightful, compassionate and loving. It gives us a steady foundation to work with what we need to heal inside ourselves. In doing so, it transforms us from the inside out.
Of course, these things aren’t easy. Meditation is a practice, a skill that we develop over time, through careful and consistent intention. But its effects are worth it. By committing to a practice of meditation, we hone our ability to live peacefully and well in a complex world. We relate differently to ourselves and everything around us. And over time, we find the calm space within that allows us to surf the waves of existence, to understand and be with things as they are, and to enjoy all the vast range of experiences that life holds.