“There comes a time when the bubble of ego is popped and you can’t get the ground back for an extended period of time. Those times, when you absolutely cannot get it back together, are the most rich and powerful times in our lives.”
~ Pema Chodron
I have lived on this remarkable planet for 60 years and have spent a fair amount of that time guiding others…often in underworld type experiences like quests, journeys into nature, etc. So often I feel hugely grateful after sessions for all that I learned from the courageous people who say yes and dive in to their deeper truth, their terrifying darkness, and their unknowingness.
In the last days and weeks I’ve been dwelling in my own underworld…my spaces of darkness, doubt, disassembly and not knowing. Some days have been dismal, tearful and smothering, and other days I’ve worked diligently to dig around in the ghost stories of my past, trusting that it is in these times, that I learn the most. I accented this process by an embodied process of cleaning out many of the stored boxes from my shed, full of years of old letters, photos and memorabilia.
Even when some aspect of me trusts this kind of a dive, it is never easy. Times came and went when I felt mired in the thick black goo of a bottomless abyss that I feared would last forever and that surely no point of vision, or state of active hope would ever return. Shame and doubt arose when I began to see my life and my old patterns as troubling efforts to be loved, over and over again. Seeing things I’ve claimed and done that seemed so good at times, now appearing from this vantage point as merely an aching attempt to be good and to belong. Though completely understandable and in fact instrumental in change in others, my critic sees this as childish and embarrassing in my own story.
When I am able to get my eyes just above the trough of the endless black waves of doubt, and I can again see and smell the natural world, something remembers. Something finds its way to trust again . . . .
This morning as I walked over the untracked thin layer of snow that had fallen onto the streets through the night, and I looked up at the bare branched deciduous trees whipping in the cold wind, I heard myself whisper the word hibernation.
“They are in hibernation” I said of the world around me, “and so am I, and I must trust this”.
Whether or not we live in conscious relationship with nature or not, we are deeply rooted in nature. We are seasonal beings, like it or not. Our pumping rivers of blood, our shaping and reshaping genes, and our intricately marrowed bones have their own nature and are ruled and swayed by the Nature of Life. In our bodies and even in our psyches we remember that we are made to hibernate, to transform, to be born again when certain conditions arise. We are undeniably a part of the never ending cycles of life and death.
We are NOT made to be on the move constantly though our culture
seems to encourage that.
There is a hidden fertility in stopping, in breathing mindfully,
in finding stillness, in waiting in patient darkness not knowing the way forward.
Meditators, artists, theologians and more will tell you that it is in the space in between, that can be so utterly uncomfortable, that bears new life. Right now, if you live in the northern hemisphere, endless numbers of seeds are waiting in darkness for the right conditions. One day, after untold hours of darkness, they begin to imbibe: to absorb moisture and nutrients that will have them swell and then send down an anchoring root. Then finally and undeniably, if they are lucky, they germinate with right temperatures and light and as if secret messages were sent on silent whispers suddenly a quickening begins and transforming unfolds.
This is our way as well, as humans….physically, but also metaphorically.
We too go through the exact same process in terms of our need for stillness, our need for darkness and space and dreaming…our need to be undisturbed and alone in order to one day come forward again with new ideas, energy and vision.
Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chodron, reminds us that this is a rich and powerful time….these times of darkness where life suddenly falls apart and we can’t find our ground. She also teaches us that “We always have a choice, we can let the circumstance of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder.”
I hear a resonant voice of pain and confusion and disturbance from so many these days.
Will you choose to trust it?
Can you surrender and allow the darkness to have its place and its task?
In this moment, from this edge of darkness, I can assure you that it is our nature to grow from these times…to allow our shape to be changed as unconscious patterns are revealed and in their place we make visible a new way forward.