Deepening through Darkness

05-deepening-through

The world is full of movement

Bathing us in change

~John Millar

Each day I am given the opportunity to genuinely embrace whatever I’m experiencing in life, which is an easy affair if I am experiencing something pleasurable. However, our interior world, like the natural world, has its own seasons and “weather patterns,” if you will, including periods of contraction, darkness and pain.

Consistently over the years I’ve discovered tremendous wisdom in Thomas Moore’s well known book, Care of the Soul, which includes a chapter entitled, “The Gifts of Depression.” When I first read these words over 10 years ago, I must confess I was confused — as the words “gifts” and “depression” clearly did not belong in the same sentence. They didn’t have anything to do with each other, or so I thought at the time. His orientation was foreign to me, as my approach to myself at that time of life had been one of resisting pain or whenever I was going through what might be called a “darker” experience in my life.

But Moore introduced me to the power of loving acceptance, of adopting a healing attitude towards those all-too-human experiences of pain and disturbance inside….


“Because of its painful emptiness, it is often tempting to look for a way out of depression. But entering into its mood and thoughts can be deeply satisfying. Depression is sometimes described as a condition in which there are no ideas — nothing to hang on to. But maybe we have to broaden our vision and see that feelings of emptiness, the loss of familiar understandings and structures in life, and the vanishing of enthusiasm, even though they seem negative, are elements that can be appropriated and used to give life fresh imagination.”

~ Thomas Moore


A central focus in my day-to-day counseling practice is assisting people to access their heartfelt compassion as they traverse through painful passages in their lives. Like the clouds of low fog moving into the green valleys and up the spine of mountains in the gorgeous photo above, I consistently find we are well-served whenever we allow, witness, and embrace the darker seasons of our life. Speaking metaphorically, the mountain is truly being blessed by the fog — just as we are being given an opportunity to deepen whenever we are walking through challenging periods in our lives.

Tenderness is often my most valued presence in this process of embracing myself right where I am. Whether these “foggy visitations” last minutes or hours or days or weeks or months — I find they always have much wisdom to reveal to me, are often a prelude to a new flow of creative expansion, and like a storm front they rain upon me and then move along their way in their own natural timing. Just like the natural cycles of nature, a season of winter in our lives is, in part, preparing us for the coming of spring.

One of my most powerful mentors, Abraham Lincoln, gave himself tremendous permission to experience his own vulnerability and suffering throughout his life. His intimate relationship with his own melancholy deepened his connection with his humanity, and contributed to his extraordinarily wise leadership of our country through its darkest hours.

I find great comfort and strength from these words about the alchemical process of discovering meaning from pain:

THROUGH DARK EMOTIONS

by Miriam Greenspan

Pain invites us to change our lives and ourselves,

to transform the way we look at the world.

Though we may want to push out

of our discomfort zone immediately,

despair asks us to slow down, take our time, be still.

Sometimes it compels us to stop everything

in order to painstakingly remap our world.

It is through surrender to the unwanted

that we embrace our vulnerability.

Our helplessness teaches us humility.

When we are humbled by pain, we see

our smallness in the vastness of the cosmos.

The ego gives up its hold on reality,

its paltry attempts to control and to dictate

its terms. It lets go of its agenda.

Its grandiosity thus diminished,

there is an opening, and a larger vision can emerge.


Amazingly, this letting go,

which is a kind of death,

is also one of the great joys of life —

an effort that is the end of all effort.

When we unfurl the gnarled fist of control,

letting the hand open up to receive and to give,

our smallness — once the source of our agony —

becomes a source of comfort.

Whether we listen to them or not,

the dark emotions will emerge.

Once way or another,

they exert their call through the body —

as an act of grace or an act violence,

a cancerous growth or a surge of creative energy.


Dark emotions don’t go away.

They simply come to us in

whatever form we can bear.

When we master the art of staying

fully awake in their presence,

they move us through suffering.

We discover that the darkness

has its own light.

With Love and a faith-filled embrace of right where you are just now,

Gavin

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