The Miracle of Light

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” wrote the prophet Isaiah 9:2 about the coming of humankind’s savior in the Old Testament.  It’s Christmas Eve, the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  According to Christian tradition, a brilliant star emerged from the dark sky on this night 2011 years ago to signal that the light of Christ had come into the world.  But it’s also time for the celebration of Hanukkah, the festival of light.  The menorah, with its nine beautiful candles, is the focal point for this special holiday.  The Hindu people also recently celebrated a 4 day festival of light called Diwali.  Each day of Diwali has its own tale, legend, and myth to tell.  My favorite is Amavasya, the second day of Diwali that tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell.  Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps in the hope of dispelling darkness and ignorance, leaving in its place the radiance of love and wisdom.  What a beautiful image!  I am comforted that there are so many paths to spirituality.  With so many different people and cultures, it’s not surprising so many different stories exist that we can choose to adopt as our “religion”. 

 

Why is light so central to all of the major religions?  I believe it’s because these stories of light represent the beautiful glow that illuminates our spiritual essence.  We’ve all heard that the eyes are the window to a person’s soul.  The eyes are where we see another’s inner light and love.  It doesn’t matter whether a person is young or old, sick or vibrant, or beautiful or ugly.  If you take the time to look, listen, understand, and truly connect, you can be blinded by another’s light.

 

I think it’s no surprise that these celebrations of light come at the darkest part of our year.  This can be a tough time to get through.  As a primary care physician, I’ve seen countless patients come in over the past couple of months with what I like to scientifically call “the blahs”.  All joking aside, human beings clearly do better in the presence of light.  Psychiatry has even formalized the condition with the cute acronym, SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.  But there’s really nothing cute about feeling the drop in energy, mood, and well-being that affect millions of people during the months surrounding the winter solstice.  So the creators of our ancient celebrations knew what they were doing when they placed all these celebrations at the darkest part of our year.

 

At Christmas time I seek out non-traditional Christmas music.  At this point I invite you to listen to my all-time favorite, “Mary Did You Know” by Clay Aiken.  Yes, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in addition to being a pop queen, I also like Clay Aiken.  Will the teen-age girl in my head ever grow up?!  I kind of hope not. 😉 

I find the music to be hauntingly beautiful, but the lyrics speak to me even more strongly.  I love the image he weaves of Mary looking down at the mystery of her baby boy, perhaps because I can so vividly remember those first tender moments with my own sons. 

 

I am touched by the love between a mother and her newborn child because I think this represents human connection in its purest form.  When do people stop loving each other so freely?  When do we learn to hide our tender side with sarcasm and games?  People put up so many barriers to intimacy in such a wide variety ways.  Regardless of your personal religious beliefs, no one can debate that Jesus’ teachings, with all their layers of symbolism and imagery, are powerful.  Jesus said, “Let the children come with me because the ones who are like them can enter the kingdom of heaven.”  I don’t care to speculate about what happens after we die, but I live every day with the goal of creating my own heaven on earth.  I believe loving with open hearts, like children do, is the best way to make this happen.  Don Miguel Ruiz says it best in The Mastery of Love, “When the heart speaks, even with the resistance of the head, something inside you changes; your heart opens another heart, and true love is possible.”

 

As a physician, I also gravitate to the image of Christ the healer.  But Jesus doesn’t heal with a prescription pad, he heals with love and forgiveness.  I also love the reference in the song to Jesus calming the storm with his hands.  Who doesn’t feel at times like they’re living within a storm?  Stop a moment and think of a person who was there to calm that storm for you.  That person allowed the God inside themselves to connect with the God inside of you.  I’m grateful that I get to do this for patients almost every day.  When a patient comes into my office in the midst of their own personal “storm”, if I know them well enough, I roll up on my chair and hold their hand as we talk and problem solve.  In these moments I can almost see my light pour out of me and into their scared and empty places.  I often can’t fix what’s wrong, but I know my patients frequently leave feeling a little more hopeful, a little more centered, and with a little more faith that they can navigate their next personal hurdle.  This is why I do what I do.  I know my happiness hinges not on the love that other people feel for me, but on the love I feel for other people.  I tell people that I’m a connection junkie.  The feeling of euphoria that comes after a true connection is made can’t be beat.

 

So when I celebrate any holiday, what I’m really celebrating is a festival of human light.  In these months of darkness around the winter solstice, we need to let our light shine all the more brightly!

 

 

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About Kara Nance MD

Kara Nance, MD FACP currently works in private practice in Rolling Meadows, IL. Dr. Nance approaches the care of her patients with a very holistic attitude that targets the many factors that contribute to overall wellbeing. She is a mother of 4 young children, and often brings her personal life experiences into play when helping her patients solve problems relating to life balance. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Nance is passionate about electronic medical records and the establishment of electronic health exchanges. She consults with local physicians, hospitals, and medical groups about transitioning over to electronic medical records. Kara also participates in advocacy activities relating to primary care. As a Fellow in the American College of Physicians and a member of the ACP's Northern Illinois Council, Dr. Nance frequently travels to Washington to lobby for important issues in health care reform.
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10 Responses to The Miracle of Light

  1. Wonderful discussion of the miracle of human connection and the role of light and religious beliefs. You truly are seeking to heal the whole person and not just the disease or symptoms, and this is just what is needed, and often lacking. Thank you for your enLIGHTened approach to medicine. Your patients are blessed to have such a caring physician. Merry Christmas.

  2. Christine says:

    Yet again, I have thoroughly enjoyed your writing and am impressed with the way you have woven ideas and current events together : )And thanks for sharing that song….it will definitely be added to "the list". It is a different style from say, Josh Groban, another big favorite of mine who has a voice that thoroughly moves you, but it definitely makes you take note and think about the big picture of this Christmas season. Those are the types of songs that I really enjoy…ones that take you deeper into the overall meaning of life and makes you forget about the more trivial issues, and even the not so trivial issues….even if it’s for just the three minutes that pass while you are listening to it : ). Merry Christmas!

  3. How To Be Healthy Kara Nance MD says:

    Thank you for the kind words from my readers. I’m excited to go get some Josh Groban music Christine. 🙂

  4. musicfan says:

    " I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in addition to being a pop queen, I also like Clay Aiken. " How sad that you would be embarrassed to like a talented musician. Yes, some people think its cool to tease Clay, however, he has a huge talent. Did you have a chance to see his PBS special last year on TV. Did you know that he is an Ambassador for UNICEF and has traveled the world for them.His "National Inclusion Project" is the face of inclusion for children with disabilities. He doesn’t just put his name of the foundation, he works hard to support all children.So…why are you embarrassed?? Because some idiots like to tease about him? Pretty sad isn’t it?

  5. How To Be Healthy Kara Nance MD says:

    You’re right. I shouldn’t be embarrassed about any of the things I like, but unfortunately that dorky adolescent still lives somewhere inside of me, causing me to be bashful about the things that aren’t completely in line with the what I think I "should" like. I fell in love with Clay when he was on American Idol however many years ago, and have continued to be an avid fan. This is one of the reasons I like blogging – it forces me to be braver than I naturally am, and continues to help me grow. I really admire people who celebrate the things they love, whether they’re considered universally cool or not. Your self-assurance, musicfan, is a great model for us all! 🙂

  6. Christine says:

    Your comment about "blogging making you braver" makes me smile because that it just what I wrote about in my blog post last night…..which was inspired your post by the way : ). You may want to check it out http://www.christinepagliaro.com (click n Christine’s Blog) at the top of the page : )

  7. Bill Greaney says:

    WOW! You sure have a way with words. I can visualize an image of you signing copies of your first book some day. I hope I’m around to see it.

  8. Kara – Your posts are really strike a chord. Stopped by after reading another great blog by Alex Lickerman

  9. How To Be Healthy Kara Nance MD says:

    <html><head></head><body bgcolor="#FFFFFF"><div>Thank you, Tinniam! &nbsp;I love Alex’s writing and often feel like we share a very similar philosophy, so I’m thrilled to hear that one of his readers is enjoying my work as well. Alex is a true inspiration to me!<br><br>Kara Nance<div><a href="http://www.karanancemd.com">www.karanancemd.com</a></div><div><a href="http://www.karanancemd.posterous.com">www.karanancemd.posterous.com</a></div><div><br></div></div><div><br></div></body></html&gt;

  10. Michelle Aragon says:

    The image of your light spreading to your patients in need moved me! At the moment I can’t recall who said something like this (perhaps the Dalai Lama) – "Truly listening to another person with an open heart is the highest form of love."

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