Monthly Archives: December 2014

Falling Into the Abyss

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The days are getting longer, and the moon falls these days into the Pacific Ocean, right over the Golden Gate Bridge, from the kitchen window of my house, in a place called View. From the vantage point of the Northern Hemisphere, we are facing into winter, that time of darkness, and already the days – one moment at a time – are longer and longer.

I have fallen into the Abyss, and I am grateful – yes!

We are conditioned to not fall into the Abyss, either the Abyss that is out there in the world, or the Abyss that is our-selves:

“Do not go gentle into that good night…

rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953

 

To choose, to accept, even to welcome the falling into the Abyss is counter-cultural.  To choose to go deep, to go into the deep, the deepest and darkest place, is something we humans do anything to avoid.   Unless we have learned – through practice and experience – that it is in the deep, in the darkness within, that we find greatest light – Light! – we will use our precious energy on all things to avoid that darkness, and finally, that Light.

What are the things we choose?

Some of us choose drugs – alcohol, and other things.  They work, for awhile.  Some of us put a on cheerful face , like pancake makeup, before we leave our house.  After awhile, the cheerful face fools us, more than anyone else.  Some of us work way too hard, staying busy, to avoid the deep and the dark.  Some of us fill our calendars with more dates and more activities in order to stay away from the edge of our sadness and grief.  Some of us eat.  Some of us subtly – or not so subtly – control the people around us.  We tell them what to do, we manipulate the relationship, until the relationship is a web of unexpressed feelings, anger and rage.  Some of us worry, keeping our minds occupied so that we can focus on the worries and not the reality of the moment.  Some of us try to save the world, while we remain unsaved, ourselves.  Some of us are cheerful, maddeningly so, smiling and giggling through the worst of events so that no uncomfortable feeling can emerge.

As communities, we too avoid darkness.  In the days following 9/11, I remember vividly and with great sadness how talk soon turned to war and retaliation.  A loss of that magnitude requires a journey into the depths, the depths of grief and despair, before our minds and hearts are on solid enough footing to know the next best action.  Wisdom and true action, clear action, arise out of the ashes of despair, not out of the best clear thinking – and the best clear thinking is not even possible without a grimy journey through the ashes of despair.

***

I have taken this journey before, and mostly, I have gone “ungently.”  In other words, I have fought to stay positive, to remain as happy as possible, to stay busy, to not say the truth:  “I am lonely.  I am sad.  I am afraid.”

What my long and deep journey has taught me, however, is that it is the dance with despair itself that begins to have a rhythm.

Now, I fall.  Then, I will rise.

Now, all is dark.  Then, all is Light.

Now, I control.  Then, I am free.

Now, I am in chains.  Then, I dance!

***

In my reflections, I have written before that the only right action, the only possible action we can take, is the action of surrender.  Surrender to what-is.  Surrender to what presents itself.  Surrender, even if it doesn’t feel good.  Surrender, even if all is lost.  Surrender, even if this is not what I want.  Breathe, let go, allow, avoid a fight.  Breathe again.

In my experience, the only journey worth taking is the journey into the darkness. I have been to some very dark places, and in those places I have learned that I am not alone.  I have learned I am not alone only because I have been to those dark places.  Unless I had gone, I could not say “I am not alone.”  In those dark places, I have learned that there is hope, and hope is more powerful than you and I can ever, ever suspect.

Now, when grief arises, I fight to stay away from grief, just like you do.  I fight to stay happy, like everyone else.  That’s always the first way, the socially acceptable way, after all.  Then, I begin – slowly, like a toddler learning to stand, carefully and awkwardly but with determination – to accept. I fall.

Then, I  am grateful.

 

Happy, happy and blessed New Year, all! 

 

“Storm-waiting”

American Robins are fairly large songbirds with a large, round body, long legs, and fairly long tail. Robins are the largest North American thrushes, and their profile offers a good chance to learn the basic shape of most thrushes. Robins make a good reference point for comparing the size and shape of other birds, too.

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“Storm-waiting”

You are silence on the branch

outside my front window – you and your beloved,

hidden one.

You  shrieked all morning,

calling me to the window, bewildered.

You are silence on the branch

in the storm-waiting air.

Occupied now with waiting,

we sense the approaching storm.

You have disappeared into this vast,

eternal,

rich,

full – moment of waiting.

The air.  You.  Me.

We are full-of-waiting.

 

meb/12/2014

 

Into the Darkness

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The days are still growing shorter, people in colder climates are dressing with warmer clothes, winter-proofing cars, and carefully navigating days when the temperature hovers around 32 degrees Farenheit. Here in the warmer climates, those of us who come from colder places have a longing for colder days!

This time of waiting – of waiting for the light, the longest night and shortest day, which will relentlessly move into longer days, one moment at a time – is a time, as I wrote in an earlier post, to go into the deeper, darker places of ourselves.

Maybe we do this naturally, without guidance. Many women in particular confide that as the days grow shorter, they do some “cocooning,” going inside, baking, cleaning the dark spaces in the house, taking care of things that in the sunshine days did not seem important. In this season of darkness, there is time and space for taking care of these things.

What do we find in those cobwebby, shadowy places in ourselves? We often find tears there. We discover grief, even grief that has been forgotten, or set aside. We may find things we didn’t ever want to see again. We find things we didn’t want to remember, perhaps. We see the faces and the memories of those who are no longer with us – how we wish we could see them again, one more time! Words may arise in us, things that were said; perhaps those unsaid things arise in our thoughts, as well. We have carried those unspoken words with us, hanging in the air between us and another.

When we go into the darkness of ourselves, we may find things we don’t want to find – or to see! We may discover some feelings we wish we didn’t have: jealousies, hates, fears, terrors. We may remember someone who abused us, someone who tried to keep us from becoming our truest selves, because their own dark places were never explored.

Or we find confusing things, things we will never understand.

Sometimes when we go inside ourselves, we may discover something with complete clarity, something we’ve always known. There, touching it again for the first time in many years, our knees on the hard wooden floor of our memory, we begin to see it glimmer. Maybe that clarity is something we need desperately, now. We are grateful.

During this season of this year, there is much talk about the system of racism that pervades us as a country, as a people. Liberal or conservative, socially progressive or longing for values that don’t seem to exist anymore, we seem to be having a conversation we have needed to have for a long time. We may be hopeful, we may find hope as a people in those under-belly places of our collective psyche, or we may find even more hopelessness than we have now. As you think about the happenings of these past few months, I invite you to listen to the Bill Moyers’ interview of journalist Ta-Nehisi as he frames the nation’s history of slavery and white supremacy in challenging terms.

Sometimes when we go within – as a people, as individuals – we may find unresolved things that cannot, will not be easily resolved. We may cry or shout or rage again and again, and this may never end.

***
It is interesting that this season of darkness that brings us face to face with the light is associated with hope. Maybe it’s more appropriate to call it Hope, with a big H. We all need this hope, and it’s something we can’t buy at the stores, at the busy malls. I think maybe Hope arises from that journey into the darkness.

“All shall be well, all shall be well, all shall be well.” Julian of Norwich, mystic.