“It’s a good time to meet nothing at the darkness cafe,” she said. It was many years ago and I had no idea what she was talking about… It was nearly Christmas and we were working on some of the initial Silent Eye lessons.
Our topic of conversation was the power of the winter solstice to invoke new feelings, new experiences… and new ways of looking at things. As we discussed at last Sunday’s Silent Eye Explorations Zoom talk (open to everyone, see References below), and written up, separately, by Stuart France, the longer days do not begin immediately after the day of the solstice, but rather three days later. For those three days, due to some complex solar system mathematics, the length of the day is suspended, frozen at its value on the 21st December.
There is a mystical Christmas tradition that we should use these three days to contemplate first the birth of Jesus in the manger; secondly, the visit of the shepherds; and finally, on the third day, the visit of the Magi – ancient magicians of great wisdom. Each imparts ‘layers’ of temporal and spiritual capability to the infant Christ at the start of its mission of love in the world.
We need not believe in these as historical or even actual events. It is sufficient to consider them as potent symbols. Ideally, we should meditate on them during the darkness prior to the dawn – not too difficult at this dark time of year. When the dawn breaks, we should open ourselves to the inspiration they have generated – without trying to think what that might be. An active intellect is the opponent of deeper contact with our inner realms; an active and freed imagination is its friend.
But my lady friend of the opening paragraph was intent on adding something to this; something involving the technique of ‘approaching nothing’.
We were discussing the idea of hooded robes, something made sinister by cheap horror films of the 60s and 70s. The origin of such robes was in ancient religious orders within monasteries, where monks signalled their desire for silence by ‘retreating’ beneath the hood so they could enter their religious contemplation. There never was anything sinister about these garments, but there is something spiritually effective about the use of a hood.
The period around the winter solstice is already one of stillness. We can augment this by an act of purposeful meditation that amplifies this stillness in the form of silence and a degree of restful darkness. To do this we need our own garment with a hood.
I’ve had the above dressing gown for years. It’s faded and familiar and is a great friend on a cold winter’s morning. I also use it for certain meditations, where I want to ‘withdraw’ from the immediate world of the day. It doesn’t work in the summer – it’s too hot – but in December, it’s perfect!
So, what do we do with this conjunction of garment and ideas?
By the time this publishes there will be three days remaining to Christmas, but the technique, here, doesn’t have to finish on the 25th. If possible, find a quiet place in your home and place there a comfortable but upright chair.
Just before you go to bed, return to the chair, calm your thoughts, and spend a few minutes thinking about the nativity images described earlier. On day one, therefore, we will fall asleep with the warm idea of the birth of a ‘saviour’ – a saviour of our lives, born into humble darkness. Once the image – and feeling – is clear, let it go, then go to bed, and drift off into a peaceful sleep. Don’t set an alarm but see if you can wake just before the time of the dawn.
On waking, return to the meditation chair wearing the hooded garment. Sit quietly and calm yourself. When this takes on an inner ‘glow’, pull the hood over your head and feel the warmth and protection of its presence covering this – the seat of your consciousness.
With your hood raised, think of nothing… This is, of course, a misnomer. We can’t remove the object of thought, but we can reduce the content to something different. In this mystical exercise, that something is the idea of nothing. In the beginning, this is a paradox… until we find there is something there beyond ordinary experience. Further work on this will reveal a deeply personal connection to it.
I can’t promise this will change your life…but it will change your Christmas.
Image: Author’s photograph and studio effects; from an original Christmas decoration belonging to Barbara Walsh.
References: The Silent Eye Facebook group ‘Silent Eye Explorations’ is open to anyone with a genuine interest in things mystical. Apply to join in within Facebook.
©Stephen Tanham 2021
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.