12/18/2013 12:18 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2014

Nature's Winter Solstice Message

The shortest day of the year is fast approaching in the Northern Hemisphere as we continue to tilt away from the sun. Nights lengthen. Daylight hours shrink. The warming power of the sun is weak. Plants and animals (including us) seek refuge from the cold. For some, the lack of light and the long, cold nights lower our spirits, so humans have always needed parties, candles and light-filled festivities at this time of year to give us hope that the darkness won't go on forever.

It's wise to connect our sense of the sacred to what's happening in the rest of nature. And of course many traditions, including Christianity, have always marked the winter solstice turning point between contraction and expansion with ritual, ceremony and joyful celebration of rebirth.

So what does this yearly cycle of the death and rebirth of light have to teach us right now about how to live in harmony with the rest of nature?

One recommendation by many traditional and alternative health practitioners is to follow the rhythm of the seasons in our own lives. Long nights and our hibernating animal siblings remind us that winter is the time to curl up and go inward, spending more hours in sleep as we await the return of the longer days. But of course most of us refuse to listen to Mother Nature's good advice, fighting the night with endless 24/7 light and busyness, covering up the Winter Solstice and its message with frantic holiday activities.

But perhaps there are even deeper lessons of the season, especially as they relate to what we're experiencing on the planet as 2013 wanes.

Sadly, humanity seems to be utterly failing to find the collective will to do what must be done to protect our life support systems on this planet -- and the life support systems of thousands of other species. Climate disruption continues to escalate. Arctic ice melts. Extreme weather events and storms now seem commonplace occurrences. And stupid, cowardly international and national political wrangling prevents us from dealing effectively with our numerous planetary emergencies.

The darkness threatens us all.

As the shortest day of the year approaches, I take some hope from the fact that nature herself doesn't leave it at that. The day after the winter solstice there is just a smidgen more light than the day before. And the next day still more. Might it be possible that 2014 could mark the beginning of the longed for shift in collective consciousness that it will take for us to have any chance of reversing these awful trends? Perhaps 2014 will, like the night after the winter solstice, be only a tiny, tiny bit better than 2013, but might the year after that be lighter still, with more passion, fire and energy for radical change? What if we humans were to finally see the wisdom of coming into harmony with the rest of nature that we depend on for continued survival -- and then take vigorous action towards that end?

This is my prayer for winter solstice 2013: that we have at last reached the depths of the darkest night before the beginning of a new dawn.

Warm solstice season wishes to all, including our beloved animals, plants and planet, for the return of light in all of our lives.