Blog: Reflections on Endurance and Trust at the Summer Solstice

Blog: Reflections on Endurance and Trust at the Summer Solstice

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

As the Shelter in Place order continues to stretch into the foreseeable future here in the Bay Area, the days are stretching longer and longer into the night as we approach the summer solstice. June 21 is the longest day of the year and its night is the shortest night. The solstices and equinoxes are important moments in the Sacred Stream‘s calendar. This is a time where we come together at our quarterly drum circles to honor our relationship to the sun and its relationship to events on the earth. The marking of these moments of the year is a time-honored tradition in many cultures. Bonfires have been lit across the world for millennia in summer solstice celebrations. Native Americans celebrated with fire as well, and the Sioux people have the special initiations of the Sun Dance during this time. One aspect of the Sun Dance initiation involves helping initiates focus on the development of endurance and trust.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we cannot come together in person as we have for every summer solstice since 1995. However, we can still reflect about this moment in time together. Endurance and trust are two qualities that are helpful to reflect upon as we enter into our 16th week of Sheltering in Place here in California during a time of increasing social unrest. This is a time where our capacity to weather difficult and unforeseen circumstances is being challenged as the protests to demand racial justice uniquely highlight the complexities of our situation.

Many of us have already been struggling personally, and this affects us as we try to meet the emergence of the collective grief and anger being illuminated by the protests. Many of us are struggling with financial reversals that seem to deepen rather than end. Some are risking their lives to make ends meet. Others are battling the virus, both as health care providers and as patients – a battle which seems unrelenting and endless at times. We are addressing long-standing issues in our personal and social relationships that we might ordinarily allow ourselves to avoid or deny. We are reevaluating the ways we have cared for one another socially and collectively and are struggling to find new ways to relate to each other. Many of us are trying to discern new ways of finding meaning as we carry out a protracted reexamination of just about every facet of our lives. All of this promises to be a long and difficult struggle, not a sprint to a finish line which allows us to revert back to our old ways of doing things.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines endurance as “the ability to keep doing something difficult, unpleasant, or painful for a long time.” This is what initiates in the Sun Dance have always done as they pierce their skin and tether themselves to a stake during the longest day of the year, without water or food. To master this initiation, participants must hold steady in their faith in themselves to endure whatever is presented to them during this difficult passage. This initiation is designed to test the initiates’ ability to trust themselves, to reach within themselves to discover resources they may not have known they had, and to meet themselves in their places of weakness and find their way to strength.

This is not unlike the collective initiation of endurance we are all passing through together right now. We are challenged to trust ourselves and each other in new ways. We are asked to trust in our ability to navigate as so many of the structures that have supported our lives collapse or change. We are asked to find hidden strengths and stand in them as we face down problems we may have tried to avoid in the past. Like initiates of the Sun Dance, we may feel that we are being asked to walk into the heart of the fire. This is a fire that burns away anything within us that does not strive to meet the challenges of this time.

In order to meet these challenges, we can reflect on the nature of endurance. It seems to lengthen time and space. It asks us to expand to the furthest reaches of our capability. This is not unlike the way the light is extending to its greatest zenith at this time of year. We can allow this light to illuminate where we need to deepen our trust in ourselves, and we can develop greater faith in our ability to meet whatever challenges we must meet. In so doing, we can step through this initiation of endurance to be better prepared to trust ourselves so we can offer the best in us, helping to create the new realities which lie on the other side of this passage.