Discovering the light in the midst of the dark

In the months surrounding the solstice, as the external light and warmth of the sun decline, we’re invited to turn our attention inward to discover the eternal light that’s never extinguished, no matter how much apparent darkness accumulates. Among exoteric religions, Judaism commemorates the flame in the temple (signifying devotion and truth) that had barely enough oil for a day but miraculously lasted for eight days. And Christianity celebrates the birth of the Christ child, who illuminates the world with his embodied divinity.

Instead of projecting this light outward onto some external figure or story, we have an opportunity at this time of year to recognize and celebrate the all-pervasive, all-illuminating light of awareness that is an essential aspect of our own true nature. Awareness brings the world into being; without it, there would be no experience. Though it seems to originate here, awareness doesn’t belong to you or me–it’s an essential quality of reality itself. Yet the recognition of the light as having its source in the heart we all share signals a powerful awakening.

In the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, this light is known as radiance or luminosity, and it’s one of three inseparable yet distinct facets of the jewel of rigpa, our nondual true nature. The other two facets are emptiness and compassion. In the pointers I offer during satsangs and intensives, I tend to emphasize the aspect of emptiness, openness or space, as an invitation to step outside the limited frame of ego and experience the limitlessness of who we really are. Yet when we fully embody it, we discover that this openness is also luminous, radiant, innately happy and joyful. Consciousness is not only aware, it delights in itself and in its expressions in form. Until the realization of this happiness and de-light, awakening can seem somehow serious and dry.

This holiday season, I invite us all to bask in the light of our natural state of inherent happiness and peace. No matter how much apparent darkness surrounds us, this innate radiance is always available, undimmed and undisturbed. May your holidays and new year be filled with love and light!

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