Jonah S.C. Muskat-Brown is a licensed social worker from Toronto, Canada and Author or “Unfolding Potential: A Jewish Journey of Self Development. Last December, Jonah shared his insights on thanksgiving in a guest blog which you can read here.

In the guest blog below, Jonah shares his reflection on how while he was reminded that when darkness comes, we must choose to create light and keep moving forward, during his Chanukah celebrations this year.

“I feel it. And I think most people do, too.

Actually, it’s been going on for some time now – ever since we changed the clocks to “Daylight Savings Time”. Instead of my evenings beginning around 8pm, it feels as though they’ve been kicking in around 4pm. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always loved winter and am not one to pass up the beautiful outdoors and the majesty that snow brings. Evening possesses a romantic nature that doesn’t exist during the daylight hours, and over the years I’ve come to appreciate the stillness that darkness brings.

But this year feels different than others. This year feels as though we’re somewhat and somehow stuck as humans in the darkness of evil that seems to continuously reveal itself in expounding capacities. The list is long, and from my daily newsfeed, it seems as though it has no end.

But Positive Psychology trains us to view our realities differently – not to deny or ignore them, but rather to looks at ourselves, and the circumstances of our lives, in unique ways. The late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson looked at the Chanukah candle lighting customs and developed a 3-step formula to help us get through the darkness of winter. And even though the holiday of Chanukah is behind us, those lights still shimmer in our memory and their messages can still be taken with us as we continue the journey towards the end of that darkness.

Step #1

Life is about continued growth – it’s important to be reminded of this to keep from growing weary or falling into darkness. It’s easy to become too content with who we are, the things we’ve done, and the relationships we’ve developed – to feel dull, stale, or stuck. Chanukah is all about adding light. Each night we combat the darkness of winter by adding an additional light. Personal transformation is challenging and usually scary…if it weren’t, we’d all be flawless. It takes courage to begin any journey, to kindle a flame not knowing what its outcome will be.

Step #2

To be human is to experience ups and downs; we will all have dark days, make no mistake. Sometimes we believe in ourselves, and our abilities, more than other times – and that’s okay.

In keeping with Jewish tradition, we can only light one candle at a time. In order to continue to grow and improve, we also must focus on one step at a time to accomplish our goals.

Write down your goals and create an action-plan…and stick to it! During the days that you feel extra fabulous and perceive your daily tasks as effortless, celebrate your successes. During the days that you feel sluggish and powerless to achieve what’s on your to-do list, push yourself.

Step #3

How often do we look at the onset of winter in despair and think to ourselves how bitter and dark the coming months will be? When we step out of the sunshine of summer, the days start to get shorter, the temperatures begin dropping and we know that there’s nothing we can do to prevent what will be. But we must remember that in the end we will light all 8 lights; that one small flame begets another, and another.

Each task that we accomplish towards our goals empowers us to complete another task and perhaps even set new or additional goals. We can never doubt our ability to reach the destinations we’ve set for ourselves – even if it takes one small flame each night. Life can feel overwhelming at times, but we must take one step at a time towards our goals. Never let your surrounding darkness prevent you from believing in the process and your ability to gradually progress through it.

Bringing it all home

Darkness will come, but how will you brighten it? Tragedy is a part of life, but how will you defy it and not let it overpower you? Schneerson’s formula isn’t simple or easy, but it works in the long run because none of us were born programmed to only think and act in particular ways.

There were miracles then, and there can be miracles now – because each of us is a miracle and each success we accomplish has a tremendous impact on our overall journey. The world may be a very dark place right now, filled with immense hatred and confusion, but we can work together to empower each other. We can illuminate the world we share: one day at a time, one light at a time.

More About Jonah:

Jonah draws inspiration from a broad scope of sources and theorists and utilizes all to see the inherent worth in each individual.Jonah is passionate about breaking down barriers between people and strives to inspire others to become their fullest selves possible, never settling for the lives others envision for them or limit them to. He is the author of “Unfolding Potential: A Jewish Journey of Self Development

Jonah can be contacted at j.muskatbrown@gmail.com and can be found here, on Linkedin.