Excerpt from A Personal Journey into the Darkness of God
The Christian tradition emphasizes the connection between the Divine and light, but in trying to bring a balance to the dualism of light/dark in my thinking about my life experiences, I began to ask the question, “Is there darkness in God?” As a result, I found myself faced with trying to embrace darkness as a positive experience. For the first time in my life, I found myself seeking to better understand and embrace the presence of “darkness” as well as “light” in my life. I realized I needed to bring a balance to the dualism of light/dark in my thinking about my life experiences.
In one sense, I already had done this experientially. Since childhood, I have loved to spend time outside at night, embraced by the darkness and gazing up at the night sky filled with stars. I also actually prefer low light and even darkness to a brightly lit room. But previously, I never had brought these feelings into my conscious awareness of my attitude toward darkness.
I began to ask new questions about paradox, both in Divine and human experience. I began to ask questions about God’s presence in the “darkness” of suffering. I still grapple with these questions and others like them. However, an unanticipated transformative insight, which I was able to immediately embrace with certainty, came in new thinking about the birthplace of creativity.
The first place I was led in my attempts to “recover” positive Biblical images of darkness was to the Creation Story in the book of Genesis. The story begins with God hovering in the “darkness over the deep.” In my mind, I recalled the story and realized that I previously assumed from it that the first act of God was to proclaim, “Let there be light!” Throughout my life, in hearing that story, my attention had been drawn away from the darkness to the act of creating light. Suddenly, in pondering that Scripture passage with my new awareness of my questions around the positive side of darkness, I exclaimed: “No, creating light actually is not the first thing God did. The first thing God did was hover in darkness for a very, very long time, before ever coming up with the idea of creating light.”
This very new approach to the Biblical passage caused me to begin to think that perhaps being alone in darkness, literally or figuratively, is necessary for the birth of any new idea, just as with the idea of light within God’s own consciousness. I began to think in new ways about the relationship between darkness, creativity and the emergence of new life. I recalled with a new importance the fact that seeds spend time buried in the deep darkness of Earth before sprouting into life, and that humans spend time wrapped in the darkness of our mother’s wombs before coming forth into the world. Perhaps it is quite natural that ideas, I began to realize, spend time in the darkness of our subconscious, gestating for an appropriate period of time before they emerge into consciousness and begin to shape our reality.
The attitude of humans raised in Western culture toward darkness seems to stem from a deep, psychological fear. Blended into this experience of fear are our inability to see in the dark of night, a terror of the unknown, and the unsettling experience of chaos. I now recognize that this latent fear has caused us to overlook the creative dimensions associated with darkness.
Further study around the connection between darkness and fear is needed. For now, I simply want to end with an invitation to ponder a suggestion from Ursula le Guinn: “Praise then the darkness and creation unfinished.”On Growing Older
In the August, 2009 issue of Threads, The Center to BE newsletter, Executive Director Marjorie Wilbur, reflected on turning 60 and invited readers to share their own thoughts and experiences. Here are responses we have received.
What a timely subject to be talking about aging as I just made a decision at the young age of 67 y.o. to retire from work. I must admit that although it was the right decision, there has been ambivalence and fear coming up. Fear based on experiences from the past and the meaning our culture gives on getting older.
When my father was forced to retire from his teaching position which he loved at age 70, he lost the will to live. For him, all his worth and value came from what he did. So when he was forced to retire, he felt useless. As I am pondering on retiring and getting older, I didn't realize how I too had internalized this belief that is also profound in our culture. Articles and news reports are filled with stories of people getting heart attacks and strokes and Alzheimer's soon after retiring. Is it because they are heart broken and filled with grief from believing that everything they attached so much value to, their job, their youth etc. has been taken away from them and they feel useless, put out to pasture and therefore might as well withdraw from the world. Is that what their body through mind deterioration, or heart attacks or strokes is playing out?
Is this really true? If it is, it truly is a sad state of affairs. Is there another way to look at retirement and getting older? This is what I have been contemplating on as I face my own retirement.
I also am realizing how I have attached so much value to this body. There is so much emphasis in our culture on the body image; millions of dollars is spent on keeping the body youthful so we can keep on "doing" . I read somewhere that we are the only society in which its citizens are in denial of death.
But if we really think about it and ask ourselves, Who Am I? Are we really only our bodies, or are we more? When we die, what dies? Are we in truth spirit that lives eternal that chose to embody to learn about love, compassion, forgiveness? Isn't the consciousness of the Mind limitless and lives on forever? As I'm reflecting on the role of the body; it seems to me it's a vehicle that we use to keep busy and keep doing so we don't have to think about these deeper issues that connect us to a deeper truth. If we are more than a body and our body is a communication device through which we can extend our Spirit Selves to others, then don't we have a greater purpose. Isn't Love, Peace, and Joy aspect of our Spirit Selves? When we fear getting older; isn't is the fear that the body is getting older; However, as our Spiritual Selves, we never age. We are timeless.
Does my value come from what I do; from external sources like my career, my relationships etc. or is the Source of my worth and happiness inside of me connected to the Light inside of me which come from a Higher Power. A power that is eternal and eternally shines bright. It is from this Source that I can access an inner Wisdom that is the Source of all Creation and Creativity.
So as I face retirement from the busyness of the world, I am being led to turn inward to that deep and still place within me that will provide me with the answers to these questions and will reveal to me my deeper and higher purpose. It is from this wellspring of love, that I will experience the joy and peace and happiness that in my youth I desperately sought from others and from my job. These are God's gifts to me and I am coming to see that aging is a gift also. It's a gift we not only give to ourselves but how we approach it is a gift we can give to those who come after us.
I once read a quote: "As I live into death, I die into Life" This has become a guiding mantra for me as I journey forward. How exciting it is becoming to allow the Spirit in me to live and grow and express itself as I let go of the false parts of my self. What a beautiful journey this is turning out to Be.
Many thanks, Marjorie, for sharing your thoughts on soon turning 60. I turned 60 in June. And Marjorie’s story nudged me to share my feelings on getting older. When I was younger (say in my 30s), I thought I would take aging in stride. Yet, I could not understand why my mother-in-law felt negative about getting older. WELL, I have learned that the body does not feel the same as it did in my 30s and our 5 grandchildren, age 5 and under, continue to remind me. Fortunately, many holistic experiences that fed my body, mind and spirit, like Spiritual Direction, Reiki, Weaving Retreats, Capacitar training, and others encouraged me to celebrate entering the 6th decade of my life. Like Marjorie, older adults have inspired me as well. I remember reading about women in their 50s, 60s and even 90s who went back to school to get Bachelor degrees, MAs and Ph. D.s, and I said I want to be like them. So in 1999 I obtained my BSN in nursing. I have learned that life is about change and learning never ends. Learning also involves reflecting on relationships with significant others, especially God, and learning ways to enrich those relationships. The Center to BE is one of the places that I feel safe and comfortable sharing my thoughts and questions. As a retiree (former Parish Nurse), I enjoy the opportunities that come my way – more quiet time, more time with family (especially grandchildren), participating in continuing-ed classes/programs, and various volunteer opportunities. I am grateful to the Center To BE who has been my special companion for several years and has helped to nourish my body, mind and spirit, especially my relationship with the Divine.
M. Lynn Connolly, Milwaukee, WI
The Spiritual Gifts of
Fear is a huge obstacle in the lives of many people. It stops us going where we want to go. It stops us doing the right thing. It stops us from speaking out when something is wrong. Fear stops us reaching out to people, stops us trusting. It is a block to having free, open, loving relationships with others. Jesus knew this, and liberating us from this fear was clearly a vital part of his mission. In the gospels, we hear him say "do not be afraid" no less than nineteen times. Fear can be just as much an obstacle in prayer, in my relationship with God. I may be afraid of what I find if I look honestly at myself, or afraid of what I might let myself in for if I begin a conversation with God that I am not in complete control of. But God, who knows me better than I know myself, loves me passionately despite all my faults. I have nothing to fear from opening myself to God - I have only to reach out and accept God's loving embrace.
--Sacred Space website www.jesuits.ie
Worth / $20 Bill
"My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who DO LOVE you. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by WHO WE ARE. You are special - Don't EVER forget it."
Subject: GUIDANCE from an anonymous e-mail source
WHEN YOU THOUGHT I WASN'T LOOKING
A good question can open us to new insights and possibilities even as it can lead to uncovering things about ourselves we have not been able or willing to acknowledge. In I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova, many of the chapters are designed around questions for reflecting on our purpose and passion in life.. Here are several of her questions for you to consider with friends, pray over or journal about. She introduces these questions by quoting from author Rachel Naomi Remen: “We are not broken, we are just unfinished.”
My name is Leanore Rommelfanger. I was a member of the first group to go through the year-long Capacitar training with Pat Cane through The Center to BE in 2001. Before taking the training for Capacitar, my husband Alan and I attended two of the day-long workshops on wellness practices. I knew from those workshops that the training would be a challenge for me. I felt like I was stepping into territory where I was not qualified because I knew there would be people participating with degrees and qualifications that I did not have. I was a stay at home mom, worked part time and I did not feel I had much to offer. Even after the first weekend I felt overwhelmed. As part of the training we were required to start a group and share the practices we were learning. I was petrified of having to speak in front of a group. While in prayer one night just before we started teaching, I was praying that I did not feel that I was capable of doing what I was being asked to do. The Lord then told me that like Peter I should step out of the boat and walk to Him. I could see the reflection of the moon on the water. I cannot say that I never get nervous before one of our sessions, but I now know that the Lord is working through me and I am just His instrument. When I do Tai Chi with a group it becomes like a prayer for me and over time I have become more comfortable being with a group. Alan and others have commented that I have grown. I like to think that I am realizing my God-given talents, talents I did not know I possessed and have kept hidden from others and myself. Learning about the chakras has made me aware that I have been hiding behind other peoples' power and/or trying to use their power. I have learned that I have power within me that I can tap into and use and the Lord is showing me how to do that. Since completing the training for CAPACITAR, Alan and I have been working with Affinity Health Care, presenting two five week sessions incorporating Scripture, Tai Chi and other wellness practices in workshops here in Oshkosh and in Neenah. I have also helped Sister Judy, our parish administrator, conduct a weekend retreat for forty-seven women.
The Ten Commandments Now
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway….