Why do we make more time to do inner work in the cold and dark winter months? Why should we sit quietly and meditate and make time for our body-minds to simply “be”?
During the winter season we are free of the many outdoors activities and can become more alive from the inside out and contemplate in stillness. Winter is the time for deep inner mendfulness and the best time for increasing our enlightenment by enjoying quiet, meditation, dreaming and imagining.
Let’s begin with an analogy. Shining a flashlight in a lit room doesn’t show as well as when we shine a light in a dark room. We can see better and discover new things when we shine a light into darkness. Darkness serves us well because it provides a good contrast to light, to the already seen world. The “dark” areas in our brains, areas we only seldom visit and unknown areas altogether, also provide a good contrast and a rich ground for new discoveries and insights.
We celebrate light in the dark winter months because the darkness naturally calls for it. Light is a symbol of hope and life, at a time not much is growing in the cold fields. We celebrate fire, light and heat that warm our bodies and gladden our souls.
Lighting Hanukkah candle for 8 days as a metaphor for our spiritual work.
We begin Hanukkah candle lighting with only one light and we grow the light each night by adding one more candle. At the beginning with one little light in the darkness we can see a lot. But soon, we become accustomed to the light and the thrill of “seeing anew” diminishes. We progressively light more candles each night because we need more light to see anew, to look deeper and farther. When we add lights, we create a change in the environment that enables us to perceive differently and with more clarity.
This process of adding more light is a good metaphor for a meditation practice. We practice different methods of meditation to add more awareness, more seeing and more clarity. We learn to focus and as a result we increase the ability to see clearly. Like increasing the light, meditation skills grow more each day we practice, and our ability to concentrate, stay calm and steady grows. We become deeper seers. Becoming skillful in meditation requires patience and practice. Like lighting the candles for eight days of Hanukkah, with meditation the light of awareness grows slowly and mending ensues.
I hope to meditate with you soon.
Light and blessings, Rabbi Sigal