2005-12-23 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Darkness And Light
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. nancy gahlesDR. nancy gahles Festivals of light abound internationally at this time of year. It surely tickles my Interfaith Heart that this year two of the major religions celebrate their traditions of the miracle of light on the same day. Hanukkah and Christmas, at last, synchrony! We will actually celebrate together this year. May it be the first of many seasons where we all come together to celebrate the Light in the Hearts of each of us, recognizing that we are all One.

It began in prehistoric times when the winter solstice was celebrated. The yearning for light and the celebration of it’s appearance coupled with the promise of it’s return.

The Hanukkah tradition began in 165 B.C. with a battle between the Maccabbees and the Syrians. The Jews won but went to their Temple and found that the Syrians had allowed their Sacred Light to go out. They had oil only enough for one day. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil lasted for eight days until a messenger could return with more. This is a message of faith and hope. Have faith that we will be taken care of. Hope that the light will return.

The Christmas tradition begins with the season of Advent when Christians wait in joyful hope for the Light of the World to be born. The Advent wreath has it’s origins in pre-Christian times. The Germans and Scandinavians would gather to celebrate the return of the sun after the winter solstice. The circular wreath made of evergreens with four candles interspersed represented the circle of the year and the life that endures through the winter.

The theme of the triumph of light over darkness is one that is pertinent to religious philosophy as in good over evil. It is also a theme of healing. Light therapies have been in use since the time of Hippocrates. Natural sunlight has protective properties for bone density by it’s vitamin D stimulation. The natural spectrum of light has been used therapeutically as an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent. Sunlight seems helpful in relieving depression (darkness). We are often told to “lighten up” in response to bad news or ill feelings (darkness).

Laser light beams are being used in surgical procedures for better precision and reduced healing time. Light boxes are used for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a deprivation of light causing mood changes, fatigue and insomnia. Phototherapy utilizes different colored lenses to stimulate or depress physiologic functions and behavioral disorders.

The natural spectrum of light has always been a source of healing and so we often mourn it’s loss at this time of year when the days are shorter. We have a tendency to keep light on all the time, even into the wee hours of the morning. Some people can’t sleep without a light on. Recent research showed that nighttime exposure to artificial light stimulated the growth of human breast tumors by suppressing the levels of a key hormone called melatonin. The study also showed that extended periods of nighttime darkness greatly slowed the growth of these tumors.

The much-maligned Darkness also has healing properties. In the darkness lies the opportunity for silence. In the silence lies the opportunity for introspection. Introspection allows us the freedom to explore the terrain of our inner depths. Darkness yields quietude. In the silence we find peace. When we dwell in peace we are healed. And remember, there is always the light of the moon, the sun’s reflection. It may wax and wane but it is always there. A symbol of faith in it’s consistency and hope for the return of fullness.

We need a balance of dark and light as we are creatures of cycles, called circadian rhythm. This is an internal biological clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, endocrine functions, and a number of disease processes including heart attack, stroke and asthma. “Evidence is strongly emerging that disruption of one’s circadian clock is associated with cancer in humans, and that interference with internal timekeeping can tip the balance in favor of tumor development”, said David Blask,M.D., Ph.D., a neuroendocrinologist with the Bassett research Institute and lead author of the study.

Balance is the key word. Balance light with dark. Balance temperament. Balance tolerance. Balance positive and negatives in all situations. In the light is the grain of darkness that will tip back into the darkness with a grain of light. The Yin and Yang principle. Everything contains a seed of it’s polar opposite. It’s the balance of life. We don’t need to howl at the moon and wish for more light. We need to stay in this season and live it. Learn to slow up in the darkness and utilize it’s potential. The days have already begun to lengthen. Never be afraid of the dark for surely daybreak follows. Go slow, follow nature’s cues. Look at the trees. They stop producing and drop off the heavy growth so to lighten their load in preparation for the weight of the snow and ice on their limbs.

We, too, can go into a period of dormancy in winter. We can become temporarily quiescent. A state of biological rest. Latent yet capable of being activated. We don’t need to have the “lights on” 24/7. Indeed, as these studies indicate, that is an unnatural state that can cause disease.

May The Lord shine His face upon us, Light in the darkness, so that we all recognize this Light in the faces of everyone we meet!

May The Blessings Be!





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