Excerpt from A Personal Journey into the Darkness of God
Patricia M. Bombard’s blog, March 28, 2010

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.

Marjorie,
Thank-you for giving us all a forum through which to ponder and share these deep questions.

In peace and joy and love,
Linda Wisniewski, Plymouth, WI

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
Wisdom, Strength, Compassion
Growing older causes me to be more
Aware of these in Myself
Which Encourages Me to be more
Aware of them in Others
And in all forms of Nature

Mary Wright , Waukesha, WI

The Rules of Being Human
  1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period.
  2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full time informal school called LIFE> Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned, you can then go on to the next lesson.
  4. A lesson is repeated until learned.
  5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you “are”, there are lessons to be learned.
  6. “There” is no better than “here”. When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here”.
  7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
  8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
  9. Your answers lie inside you. The spirit of the infinite is within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
  10. You will forget all this.
Unknown author; submitted by Sarah Newport

Do not be afraid
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
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the $20 dollar bill up. He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. Well, he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.

"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 I meditated on the word guidance, I kept seeing "dance" at the end of the word. I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing. When two people try to lead, nothing feels right. The movement doesn't flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky. When one person realizes and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music. One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another. It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully. The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other. My eyes drew back to the word guidance. When I saw "G," I thought of God, followed by "u" and "i." "God, "u" and "i" dance." God, you, and I dance. This statement is what guidance means to me. As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life. Once again, I became willing to let God lead. My prayer for you today is that God's blessings and mercies be upon you and your family on this day and everyday. May you abide in God as God abides in you. Dance together with God, trusting God to lead and to guide you through each season of your life.

WHEN YOU THOUGHT I WASN'T LOOKING
(Written by a former child)
A message every adult should read, because children are watching you and doing as you do, not as you say.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one. When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals. When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.
When you thought I wasn't looking I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God. When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don't.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we have to take care of what we are given. When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't feel good and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it's all right to cry. When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I learned most of life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up. When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, "Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking."
Each of us (parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher or friend) influence the life of a child. How will you touch the life of someone today?

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.”

  • What’s unfinished for me to give?
  • What’s unfinished for me to heal?
  • What’s unfinished for me to learn?
  • What’s unfinished for me to experience?

A Personal Experience of Capacitar
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
1st Honor and respect everyone and everything as perfect manifestations of the UNITY which IS - Our Creator.
2nd Accept all living beings as they are, neither harming them nor restricting their freedom. Do not kill or harm any living being needlessly. Give thanks and honor to living beings which make sacrifices for your well being.
3rd Use your talents creatively, doing what gives you genuine joy. Each of us has unique talents that we must use to be truly happy. Using those talents will in turn bring us abundance.
4th Embrace, heal, strengthen, and discipline your physical body. It is the clay that manifests who you are, and can be shaped at will. You are what you think, and what you eat and drink.
5th Explore the possibilities life offers to the fullest. Choose adventure over boredom, love over safety. Make mistakes and learn from them. Suffer and thereby deepen your capacity to love.
6th Provide service to your fellow beings and your community. Use your time and talents (not just your wealth) to make life better for others and for your larger social network.
7th Strive to improve yourself. Based on your understanding of yourself, set personal goals to develop old and new talents, overcome your weaknesses, broaden your understandings, and enhance your wisdom.
8th Accept what is. Recognize that what surrounds you is perfect and cannot be otherwise. Accept responsibility for the fruits of your actions, and seek harmonious and honorable ways to negotiate the challenges.
9th Protect and further the natural world. Each of us must do our part to maintain and enhance our planet and its riches in a state of balance and beauty.
10th Seek the stillness of the Void within yourself. What we see as nothing is the source and context of all things - pure potentiality. When we become empty, we are filled with the abundant blessings of the universe, and flow into our true natures.
Sylvia Reed

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
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….