Traveling the Dark

To go into the dark with a light is to know the light.

To know the dark, go dark

Go without sight

And know the dark too blooms and sings

And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

~ Wendell Berry

Recently I had the privilege to facilitate a five day program for the Center for MIndfulness. It is an intense five days and some people are meditating for the first time and fear can arise. I read the poem above prefaced by a story I love, “The Monster in the Closet” by Mercer Mayer. In it a little boy says to himself, “enough”. He is tired of being scared of the monster in his closet and decides to eliminate it. He prepares himself to do so, puts on his pith helmet, takes out his toy gun and opens the closet door. His monster has big purple polka dots and is cowering in the closet crying. The little boy sees his distress and has compassion for him and takes him into his bed to comfort him. There is a drawing of them snuggled together each helping the other. The book, however, doesn’t end there. On the next and last page the little boy is looking at the closet again and another monster is peeking out. The boy says, “I think there’s another monster in the closet but, I’m not ready yet.”

I wonder, are we ever ready to face our monsters? Can we believe that doing so will have a positive effect and lead to a sense of confidence and freedom: peace? Visitor Frankl who survived a concentration camp wrote in Mans Search for Meaning that “the one thing that can not be taken from man is his ability to choose his attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

As I write a good friend of mine is dying. For over twenty years she has struggled with cancer. She entered the darkness of pain, treatments, and uncertainty but she travelled it courageously and with a zest for life. It did not stop her from raising her children, making delicious meals, being kind to friends, doing pottery and enjoying trips with people she loved and enjoyed. The darkness of cancer couldn’t be denied or even fully accepted gave her a deeper appreciation of life.

What attitudes are helpful? What is our intention and our willingness to explore what we experience as heavy and hard; dark? I too live with cancer. I feel well and am active but just recently a new malignancy was discovered. It is small and I will take care of it but once again I find myself taking a breath and appreciating this moment and my mindfulness practice. I don’t want a biopsy or having to be a patient again and perhaps not feeling well but...I will and I feel peaceful. Mindfulness is not a matter of mind, it is bigger. All the years I have spent practicing and teaching mindfulness to help others has been helpful to me. Attitudes such as trust, patience, curiosity, effort, letting go and letting be, even what I don’t like but acknowledging it and facing my internal monsters helps me face the external ones. They are easier to access and have become a part of me. Kindness and love exist in darkness and light. I am traveling on feet and wings of both shades. Sadness co-existing with joy. New discoveries and deep gratitude for what is already

To be continued...