Friday, June 14, 2019

Light in the darkness

In speaking recently with a friend, I was reminded of the great bias in our culture toward the light and away from the darkness. When we meet with someone who is down, feeling hopeless, empty, or otherwise not beaming and joyful, we can become quickly convinced that something is wrong, that they are “broken,” and that we must act urgently to “fix” them. We scramble to put them back together, to remind them of all the gifts in their life, impart spiritual techniques and philosophies to them, suggesting that they just “focus on the positive,” letting them know that everything will be better soon, and that it will all turn out okay.

It is so natural to want to help another and to lessen their suffering and pain. There is nothing wrong with this intention and with employing whatever skillful means we have to help, to bring relief. But we might also see the subtle aggression in this, this insistence that they come out of their immediate experience and into the one we believe they should be having instead. We can start to see how much of this “fixing” activity arises out of the disconnection with that which remains unmetabolized within us.

It is possible the kindest thing we can offer our suffering friend is to sit in the darkness with them – holding their hand and staying so close – removing the burden that they change, transform, feel better, or heal in order for us to stay near. As we turn to embrace our own unmet sadness, grief, and despair, we remove the projection of our unlived lives from them. We lift the weight that they take care of our unresolved anxiety for us.

As we learn to trust and to rest in the wisdom-field of our present, embodied experience, we see that love is a movement of the totality. It is whole, never partial, and is raging and alive even in the darkness. In the core of the fire, the sadness, the grief, and the despair is something very real, breaking through the dream of partiality. But what this is may never support our cultural and spiritual fantasies of a life of invulnerability. Here, you are being shown that the wild, untamed, creative movement of love will never conform to your hopes and fears, and that things are unlikely to ever turn out the way you thought they would. This is not evidence that something has gone wrong, but of how alive and unprecedented you are.

From the perspective of this radical sort of wholeness, every experience is beheld as utterly valid, totally workable, and an expression of the path itself. Here there is no obstacle. From the center of your being, it is seen that life is not only the joy and the sweetness, but at times will arrive raging as the darkness, in order to reorder your world and to remind you or something you have lost contact with. In this surging of your inner family, the true nature of your experience will be revealed, and the portals to presence will be shown as they are... as infinite.

May you stay close to your suffering and the suffering of others, careful not to cut it too quickly, curious and available to the wisdom as it unfolds in unexpected ways. Open your heart to the golden, full-spectrum nature of love and the jewels hidden in the dark before you discard them, and finally see what it is that they have to say.

Befriending Yourself - you are invited to join me and my friend Jeff Foster at our new online membership site at the intersection of spirituality, meditation, and depth psychology. Video-based teachings, live meditations, question-and-answer videos, and a moderated online support community. 

The next retreat - The Deep Rest Retreat: Slowing Down and Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times - September 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado - registration open 

My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. 

My next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True in 2020.