Let Your Heart Be Light

December 19, 2018

“The windows of my soul I throw
Wide open to the sun.”
~ John Greenleaf Whittier

 

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Friday, December 21 marks the Winter Solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year.  The term solstice comes from the Latin words “sol” for sun and “sistere” for stand still.  At 2:23 pm, PST, the Sun (from our perspective) will stop moving southward, pause, and then begin moving in a northerly direction.  This movement of our Sun is an optical illusion, of course.  It is not the Sun moving, but the Earth moving, relative to the Sun.

Since the Summer Solstice, the length of days has been steadily decreasing.  After the Winter Solstice has passed, the Sun will regain its power and the days will get longer until our next Solstice in June, after which the night begins again to increase in length and the reflective moon takes over the starring role in the sky.

The longest night of the year represents a metaphor for dark nights of the soul: those times in life when melancholy, doubt and fear take over and happiness, faith and hope seem but a memory.  Grief and sadness are part of life on Earth, but so are joy and love.  Darkness is inevitably followed by light.

Now the dawn is breaking.  This week’s Winter Solstice is not only an astronomical event, it represents a metaphor of hope.  For what directly follows the night with the most hours of darkness is a morning of expanding light.  After the Winter Solstice, the Sun will shine longer and longer each day and soon spring will be on its way with all of its newborn life and possibility.  The Summer Solstice will eventually return and with it the longest day.  The wheel of life is ever turning.

The brief pause that is the Winter Solstice is also an opportunity for us to rest, reflect and meditate, between the previous year and the one ahead.  Below are instructions for a simple mindfulness exercise that will help you focus your awareness in the present moment and shift your inner gaze toward the growing light, making your body and mind a living metaphor for the increasing illumination that begins at the Winter Solstice.

 

Breath of Light Meditation


Sit in a comfortable, upright position, either in a chair, with feet on the floor, about hips distance apart; or seated directly on the floor, with legs gently crossed.  You could even try this meditation lying down, perhaps before bed or just before you start your day.  Bring yourself fully into the present moment by becoming aware of the sensations of your physical body and the movement of your breath: feel your feet evenly resting on the floor, your seat rooted to the earth; lift up from the top of your head, letting your spine lengthen and your abdominal muscles gently tuck in toward it.

Now begin a conscious breath (in and out of the nose, if you can), slowly, steadily, deeply; fully filling, then fully emptying your lungs.  Close your eyes and focus your attention on your mind’s eye: that point above and between your brows.  Now, using your mind’s eye, see an image of the Sun with rays of light shining out from it in all directions.  As you inhale deeply, see its bright, golden light move toward you, melding with your breath as the light enters your nasal passages, throat and chest, filling your lungs with light.  If you’re not “seeing” the images clearly, that’s fine; simply say to yourself as you breathe in, “My breath is filled with light.”  As you exhale, send the light into your right foot, imagining your right foot filling with golden light.  See each part being touched by light: your toes, top of your foot, the sole, heel and ankle.  You can visualize it or say to yourself, “My right foot is filled with golden light.”  Now focus your awareness on your left foot and imagine the light filling each part of it as you release your breath.

As you continue to breathe and visualize yourself drawing the light of the Sun into your center, move up each leg, exhaling and sending sunlight to fill and illuminate the right calf, then the left; the right thigh, and its opposite.

Now bring your awareness up into the area of your pelvis, seat, hips and associated organs.  Fill and surround them with your illuminated breath.

Let your awareness continue to rise, breathing light into the lower abdomen and lumbar area, then each of the abdominal organs.  Think, “My abdomen has become light.”  Let the light enter your lower spine.  Again, say to yourself, “My spine is made of golden light.”

Imagine the light filling your upper abdomen and mid-back, then your chest and rib cage.  Feel your heart and lungs expand with the light.  Let it fill the front of your chest and your upper back and shoulders.  Then feel it in your right arm – from the upper arm, past the elbow, all the way down to your fingertips and thumb.  Inhale more light and send it to flow all the way through your left arm.

With every breath, draw in more light from the Sun and exhale it into another part of your body.  Let the light rise up through your neck into your jaw, teeth, lips, nose and eyes, inspiring a smile.  Fill your eyebrows and forehead, softening the skin and muscles there.  Send the light up and around the back of your skull.  Feel your brain completely illuminated by the golden light, finally returning to its point of origin: the sun at the center of your mind’s eye.

Now allow your breath to become effortless and automatic.  Continue to sit quietly, for a few more minutes, seeing yourself completely filled, head to toe with bright, golden light or alternatively, verbally affirming to yourself, “Every cell and membrane of my body is filled and surrounded by light.”

Turn up the corners of your mouth and give a silent thanks to the Sun for the life and warmth it brings to all of us on planet Earth, daily, seasonally and always.

 

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Linguini with Lemon and Crab, made with pastured butter, is both healthy and delicious.

Your heart will benefit from choosing butter made from the milk of pasture-raised, grass-fed cows.  Essential fatty acids, created in the green leaves of plants, have been linked to protection against coronary heart disease.  The greater percentage of a cow’s diet that comes from grass, the greater the amount of unsaturated fatty acids, the lower the amount of saturated fatty acids, and the more optimal the ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 acids in the milk.  Look for the words “grass fed” or “pasture-raised” on your dairy products.

Linguini with Lemon and Crab
My neighbor’s lemon tree hangs halfway over the fence into my driveway.  Its delicious heirloom variety lemons ripen at both the Summer and Winter Solstices.  They are thin-skinned and super juicy, like a Meyer but with a classic lemon flavor.  This year there is a bounty of them, so I am making lemon ice cream, lemon bars, lemon cake and this simple seafood pasta.  It is both easy to prepare and elegant to serve.  The recipe is for two, but it is easily doubled.

8 oz linguini
3/4 cup salted butter
1 clove of garlic, lightly smashed
6 oz cooked crab meat
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Zest of half a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, for the table

Boil water for the pasta.  Meanwhile, make the sauce.

In a medium saucepan, stir together butter and garlic over medium-low heat.  When butter begins to sizzle, discard garlic.

Note: if you’re using canned or packaged crab meat, drain the liquid from the crab and add liquid to the pasta water.

Add the crab to the pan with the butter and stir.  Stir in lemon juice, zest and chives.  Simmer for a couple of minutes and add freshly ground black pepper to your taste.  Reduce heat to low.

Boil the linguini in well-salted water until al dente.  When linguini is almost done, add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the pan with the crab sauce and stir.  Drain the cooked pasta and add to the sauce.  Toss for a couple of minutes to mix together well and coat the linguini with the sauce.

Serve immediately.  Offer plenty of grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the top.

Serves 2

 

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