A few days ago, I walked into the forest. It was already dark. Or it was still dark. These days it’s hard to tell. It has been very gloomy thus far, this December. If the sun makes a short appearance, she usually stays behind the mountains.
Even though this particular forest was not a stranger to me, the darkness made it feel that way. The way the path meandered deeper into woods, added a distance unknown to this place. The way the wind whispered between the leaves, made me unsure about my location in the dark. Even though I very well knew where I was.
Everything feels so different in the dark. Curiosity for the unknown, but mostly fear, fighting for attention. Being in the dark feels like losing one of your senses. But I don’t think it is losing a sense, or the darkness, what evokes this fear per se. I think it is the loss of connection.
Losing the bridge between your inner and outer world. It’s a form of separation. Doesn’t all our fear dilute to this? Being alone, being separated from everything else?
I probably think too much, when walking alone in a dark forest. But then again, I love to live my life in metaphors. And the darkness here in northern Europe is giving me a big one. At the darkest time of the year, the days around the winter solstice, I love to visit fear and what it means to fear. What is fear? Fear is to love, what darkness is to light, what separation is to connection.
So, let’s take a moment and reflect. Here, under the darkest skies of what has been a very dark and difficult year. And even though the winter solstice marks the darkest, gloomiest point, it is only the beginning of winter. The effects of 2020 do not end here. We are standing in front of a mountain of economic and mental recovery. Let the acceptance of darkness be the starting point. By recognition, by ceasing the avoidance, the coping strategies, we can walk the path to rebirth.
No wonder we celebrate the light, every year during these December days. Whether it is Yule, winter solstice, Christmas or another holiday that is most important to you. All celebrate light, love and connection. A reminder that is most welcome this time of the year.
This brings me to my favourite topic. Something I keep coming back to harp on, every year when the festive period draws near. Something that has the amazing ability to form that bridge, to create connection, when there was incomprehension, maybe even fear, to begin with.
The magic word is empathy. However, empathy is rarely a feel-good story, as empaths could very well tell you. Because empathy is not sympathy or god forbid, pity. Nor is it respecting a different point of view or the dreaded ‘agree-to-disagree’. A beautiful explanation would be to translate the Dutch verb literally to ‘in-feeling’.
It is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, while taking their personal truth, the societal reality of their upbringing, into consideration. It is seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, however big the perspective shift. It is to feel what they feel.
Empathy is to risk your inner world, your emotions, for the sake of connection. It is to put yourself out there, to whatever you might find. To know the unknown and to bring the dark into the light.
This exercise; and it is exercise because it will leave you emotionally exhausted, should be done with yourself too. For as within so without, as above so below. What about yourself do you fear or reject? What have you shoved away in the dark woods of your unconscious, alone in the dark, only to haunt you in the night?
Empathy is acceptance and understanding. It is the emotional investment of taking someone else’s happiness as part of your own. And as empaths can also tell you, this is best not practised in a room full of people. Instead, take advantage of the current social restrictions and let the arms of connection reach beyond.
Remember, there are no shadows in the dark. The darkness gives us the opportunity to sense the hidden and bring it into the light. Then I wish you a very warm celebration of light. Be brave enough to exercise the tools to rebirth. I will see you there.
Text: Ellen Wild