Today in Sweden we celebrate Lucia Day. This is a celebration about light: it’s the darkest time of the year and the start of Swedish Christmas festivities. Santa Lucia is borrowed from Syracuse in Sicily from where this saint of light, patron of the blind, originates. The Swedish words are not a translation from the Italian lyrics but rather an ode to Santa Lucia who walks with candles and lights up the dark. Since the daylight hours last only 6 hours and 10 minutes today in Stockholm, candles are a very good idea. But do they do the job in all our darkest hours? Perhaps there is something here about acceptance of the darkness too? In fact we may need to lean into the darkness in order to appreciate the light even more.
I was reminded of this at the Lucia service I attended early this morning at a local church where around 60 pupils from the city’s famous music school performed in the annual Lucia concert and procession. The singing was sublime – all young voices of perfect pitch and harmony. The packed congregation was noisy until the singing started and an expectant hush landed. Like others around me I was keen to “take it all in”. At the same time I was distracted, struggling to find my inner quiet to enjoy the beauty of the moment. How do you do this when all around you are scrambling for their iPhones to record every minute, jostling for a better position, getting annoyed at people blocking their view? A couple nearby stood out in the crowd, their faces soft with peaceful reflection, heads bowed and eyes closed.
If we can’t find the stillness in our surroundings, we can look within ourselves. It sounds easy to do, so why is it so hard? This is the time of the year of greatest stress in our busy lives, where so much is planned and the hopes are high for hosting the perfect Christmas gathering, while completing end of year tasks at work, making sure cards and presents are bought and all actions are marked “complete” on our ever-expanding lists. No wonder those nagging thoughts impinge on our wished-for moments of stillness.
So what helps calm our monkey minds? Tips from meditation practice are plenty – acceptance and letting go of perfection are helpful for me. What I keep coming back to is the “purpose question”. What is this all for (and for whom)? To give a topical example, Helen is lying in bed with flu and fretting that she won’t be able to organise her weekend Christmas gathering for around 80 guests. We conclude that the purpose of this gathering is less about laying on a huge buffet but actually about offering the space for friends and neighbours to meet and connect with each other. Now everything is manageable, with ease and grace. As with other bigger goals, achievement is as much to do with our mind-set as the detail planning. We can’t block what’s going on around us, but we can choose to focus on what helps. It may be the light. Or it may be accepting the darkness that is, knowing that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. And the tunnel isn’t always straight (but that’s another blog*)!
With our warm wishes to you as this year draws to a close and a year of new opportunities and connections is about to begin.
* https://nickbaines.wordpress.com/ “Closer to the Light”