Embracing the Light & the Dark

So many great thinkers and spiritual teachers have spoken and written about the light and the darkness, the mud and lotus, joy and sorrow. Knowing that both can be held and that perhaps, more to the point, one can’t be known or felt in the absence of the other, allows us to embrace two seemingly conflicting experiences at once. This is my experience with this concept:

My Grandmother became ill recently and without much delay it became clear that her death was near. I wondered aloud, what will I do with this? Enter into it, engage fully in the process of her death or turn away and seek distractions. Before the question was entirely out of my mouth it was clear that I didn’t really have a choice.

So I rolled up my sleeves and leaped, head first, into new territory. I spent overnights at the hospital with her. When she came home on hospice, I learned about her medications, how to keep her comfortable and how to recognize the stages of death. In short order, the signs emerged. As she took her last breath, I was at her side, holding her hand, telling her with clarity and deep, deep love, that it was okay to let go and go towards the light of the full harvest moon that shone that night.

In the weeks since her passing, there have been other deeply tragic events that have affected our community and the world around us – natural disaster and human disasters resulting in immeasurable grief. Simultaneously, there have been incredibly joyous and sacred spaces and events. As the fullness of the Harvest Moon waned, there were rituals to mark the coming of the darkness, along with celebrations and fortifications of the light and strength that it is within each one of us. Not only is the light from within a guide to carry us through dark times, but the dark times themselves create an opportunity for us to become aware of the inner light.

While I hope it isn’t the case that we must all know the darkness associated with death and disaster to know the light, joy is available to us as a product of our suffering. Like a needle that penetrates the skin to deliver medicine, when we engage in full awareness with our suffering we lay open our hearts in a way that reveals and makes us vulnerable to love, anger, compassion, fear, and joy. When our sensitivities are heightened we become more aware, awake and available to things like signs and the right path. Sacred spaces and rituals become more sacred, meaningful and integrated.

As the days grow shorter and the light fades, we can use this time to find the light and strength within. We can see where our own light casts shadows and make choices about what we want to illuminate. I’m reminded of a verse by Danna Faulds that Tara shared this past spring: “A hundred daffodils lift their faces to the sun, never noticing their own golden light.”

What will you choose to illuminate during the dark days ahead? When spring arrives will you be depleted from the long winter and looking outward to be rejuvenated? Or will you be prepared to greet the sunshine as a friend, in full possession and awareness of your own golden light? 

Karen Holmes, WholeHeart Board Member