You've probably noticed that many of the quotes I've been posting lately have to do with social critique, the problems associated with modern society, and afflictive emotions like grief, anxiety, desolation and doubt. As you might have guessed, there is a good reason for this. For me, the season immediately preceding the winter solstice - or the Advent season in the Christian calendar - is characterized by a personal and societal sense of inner poverty, stripping, and ego-death. This is also a time when certain bodily ailments surface that generally dissipate during the rest of the year. Viewed from a more cosmic perspective, all of this makes sense, since the light of the solstice that will arrive next week is born out of winter destruction and death. It also correlates to the Christ-child being born out of the darkness, self-emptying and No-thingness of "the Father" - i.e., the transcendent source. In Buddhist terms, this represents the process through which Form arises spontaneously out of Emptiness. In the cycle of the natural world, autumn's seeds have fallen into the soil, are embraced by the intimate darkness of the ground or by a blanket of snow, and enter their long winter "sleep" or dormancy. As Jesus points out in a parable, we might even say that a seed "dies" in its present form in order to be reborn as a seedling. This is also the time of hibernation for animals such as bees, snakes, skunks, groundhogs and bears. In my case, this season of stripping begins with my annual four-day solitary desert retreat, which always occurs right around the beginning of Advent. For me, the season ends on January 1st, which I always experience as a fresh beginning. In any case, it feels quite cathartic during this time to face both my own personal ills and those of society in preparation for the rebirth of the Light!
Photos: Arches National Park, UT, December 29, 2015
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.