Since Vedic times the sun has been venerated as Lord Surya. In every sort of way, the sun supports and sustains us. With each new morning, it unfolds the world anew. Its life-giving rays warm us and nourish the plants that feed us. Its all-encompassing presence in our lives inspires us through the reliable rhythms of its coming and going, through its uncompromising generosity and steady brilliance.
On our planet’s annual journey circling the sun, there are two specific moments that particularly inspire reflection and celebration—the solstices of June and December. Given the way Earth tilts, there is an exact moment in December when the South Pole comes closest to the sun, signaling the advent of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Conversely, when the North Pole comes closest to the sun in June, the advent of summer and winter is experienced in the opposite way in each hemisphere.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice takes place on December 21. Up to then, the days have been getting shorter and shorter as night encroaches on daylight. In the moment of the solstice’s perfect alignment of planet and sun, a reversal takes place. The days begin to lengthen again—indeed, a cause for celebration.
The word solstice from its Latin origin gives us insight into how this moment has been perceived through the ages. In the Latin, sol means “sun” and the root stit means “standing,” suggesting that in these moments the sun seems to be standing still.
It’s as if Earth were breathing in consonance with its sun, and this pause of the solstice is not unlike the sacred pause between the in-breath and the out-breath—that moment when our mind settles in meditation and we find entranceway into the experience of the light of the supreme Self.
I invite you to reflect on these verses from the Rig Veda as a way to honor the glorious radiance in the sky that is Earth’s sun—and also to honor the radiance that is your own Self, an inner “sun” that is revealed in the meditative pauses of your breathing. Both embody the great sustaining Light that ever nurtures and inspires.
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