During this Advent season, we reflect on the hope that is to come through Christ’s birth while remembering the feeling of hopelessness that exists for many during this season. On December 11th, Emily Bartlett, a leader at The Open Table, led us in a beautiful meditation that we’d like to share with you.
Before beginning the meditation, you may want to prepare yourself by taking some deep breaths or by taking a moment to just look at these images of light in the darkness, the northern lights.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
“Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.” — Michael Strassfeld
If you are like me, you probably have a few days of darkness now and then — you know those days when, for various reasons, it seems difficult to overcome that sense of separation from life, meaning and purpose. I believe those times come to us all. That sense of void can arise from within in times of great loss or sudden, unexpected and, perhaps, unwelcome change. Often, those who are going through the grieving process experience periods of feeling isolated and shrouded in the shadows of sadness. Then again, sometimes that sense of darkness and separation seems to show up out of the blue for no apparent reason whatsoever.
Irrespective of how or why, the key is to try to stay as conscious and proactive as possible when emotional darkness sets upon us rather than be swallowed up by it. Sometimes the tendency is to deny, resist, or otherwise try to avoid the darkness by numbing ourselves with substances or activities that divert our attention, thinking we can outlast the darkness, which only exacerbates the problem. Other times we might try to stand toe-to-toe with the darkness and attempt to push against it, as if we can sweep or chase it out of the room with a broom. The wisdom of the ages tells us that what we resist, persists; we only give it more power over us.
Teachers from many of the great faith traditions have taught that darkness is simply the lack of the awareness of the presence of light; that when light is introduced, darkness fades into the nothingness from which it came. Light has always symbolized the presence of Infinite Intelligence, God, Spirit, the Self, Presence, Being, the Beloved, or any of the many other names humankind has used to describe the Life Force behind all creation. Regardless of how we refer to it, the important thing to remember is that this Life Force is always present, even in our darkest of times — we just have to remember it is there and call it forward in our interior awareness. We don’t have to create the light, we have to reveal it. As it says in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light and there was light.” Let there be light: In other words, allow the light that is already there to reveal itself; we need only open to its presence. No struggle, no pushing or forcing, no denying or avoiding the darkness… just allow it to reveal itself from within.
When we remember the presence of light in our mind and heart, it brings an awareness of our connectedness to life and all sense of separation dissipates, followed by an inner peace that brings balance and a renewed perspective. This is when we begin to see the moment through new eyes; eyes that can see beyond the darkness and into a new day where a revitalized spirit, mind and body await us. This may sound easier said than done when we are immersed in emotional darkness, which is why we need not over complicate the process of remembering. If you resonate with these words, I invite you to experience a process that will help you internalize them. I offer you this mindfulness practice which, over the years, has pulled me out of that dark place more than once. I encourage you to do this slowly and mindfully, truly allowing yourself to open to the experience:
- Take an unlit candle with you into a dark room.
- Sit in the darkness for several minutes and breathe mindfully; allow yourself to feel immersed in the darkness. Think of that dark room as how you feel inside. If appropriate, you can associate that darkness with any challenge you may be currently experiencing in your life.
- Now comes the proactive part: Light the candle and watch how the flame casts a gentle glow that naturally dispels the darkness filling the room with a soft light. Again, think of the room as your interior being. Breathe in the light that so softly illuminates the room. Feel yourself internalizing the light and allow it to fill you.
- Finally, bless whatever the darkness represents to you and let it go — surrender it unto the light. Be it grief, disappointment, resentment, or whatever else it might be — feel its release and the “lightness” of being that fills its void.
- Note that you didn’t have to chase the darkness away, struggle with it, bargain with it, curse it, or fear it… you simply had to call forward the presence of light and, in the process, the apparent darkness faded into the nothingness from which it came.
- As you bask in the light imagine that you have done nothing more than remember the radiant presence of the Beloved One in that sacred moment and allowed it to envelop your entire being. Thus the saying, Let there be Light.
The practice is to remind yourself that in those unavoidable moments of darkness that come with the privilege of living in a human skin, it is the nature of the light to give itself to you unconditionally; you don’t have to resist or push back the darkness, you just have to remember to light the candle, to let the light of the Beloved dispel the darkness.