According to NASA, an unusual astronomical drama will play out tonight when a full lunar eclipse will coincide with the winter solstice for the first time in several centuries. The last time this happened was in 1648 and astronomers believe that this is only the second such occurrence in the last two millennia.
The winter solstice is the beginning of winter and marks the point when, here in the northern hemisphere, we are tilted furthest away from the sun. This gives us the shortest day of the year and gives rise to the longest shadows.
Meanwhile, a lunar eclipse happens when the sun, moon, and earth align, with the earth sandwiched in the middle. At this time the earth blocks the sun’s light which has the effect of making the moon appear a beautiful coppery red. Unlike a solar eclipse that lasts just a few minutes and is not safe to view with the naked eye, a lunar eclipse is on display and can be safely viewed for several hours. This particular lunar eclipse will be seen on four continents with the best views from North and Central America. The eclipse begins at 1.33 am EST on Tuesday 21st, 2010, and will last for just over 3 hours with peak viewing being at 3.17 am EST according to NASA.
In Chinese philosophy the winter solstice is significant because it is a time when yin transitions into yang. Yin and yang are said to be in dynamic balance. The short days and long nights of winter are particularly yin and as these give way to longer days our world becomes more yang. The solstice, when the nights are longest, is the moment each year when we experience maximum yin and thus and a pivotal point in the transition from yin to yang. This exact point of transition is thought to be a moment of perfect harmony brimming with potential for rebirth and new beginnings. Some traditional herbal formulas were thought to be more potent if brewed at this time and acupuncture at the solstice was said to tap into this potential for change and be particularly powerful.
The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar cycles so the lunar eclipse is important in Chinese astrology and, like the winter solstice, is associated with new beginnings, endings and major changes. You will read some dire warnings about this rare double whammy on the internet but I prefer to see it as just a transition from yin to yang and thus a time full of possibility.
So tonight I’ll be taking a break from the frenetic holiday season to do something yin. I’m going to meditate on shaking off the old and inviting in the new by practicing a Taoist meditation called Inner Dissolving which focuses on embracing then gently dissolving what no longer works. Tomorrow I intend to greet the day with positivity by practicing the Inner Smile Meditation which we looked at earlier in the year. In spite of the more apocalyptic warnings on some astrological websites, I believe that life is change and that all change ultimately serves us. Some of the most painful changes in my life have, in retrospect, been important and even helpful. People who have left my life have done so for a reason and out of failures have come great triumphs. I don’t know whether this rare astronomical event has astrological significance but if it does I’m inspired by the words of my friend and mentor Neale Donald Walsch:
“Change is an announcement of Life’s intention to go on.
Change is the fundamental impulse of life itself”