“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
The longest night of the year happens this Sunday on the Winter Solstice, after which the days begin growing longer and brighter. I was born on the night of the Solstice and have often reflected on what significance, if any, this has for me in my life.
The relevance dawned on me this morning during meditation (see what I did there?) A few weeks ago, as an exercise from my men’s group, I committed to journaling about my mission in life to clarify/refine/redefine it. But, I had been putting it off. Ironically, the terminology we use in my group to describe the part of ourselves that sabotages us or the part we keep hidden is “shadow.” Well, my shadow seems to have grown pretty long this time of year.
Grace unfolded as I sat on my meditation cushion and realized that a primary part of my mission in life is to bring light where there is darkness, both in my own life and in the lives of others. Looking back, I see this truth has been under my nose all along. Whenever people ask me what brings me the greatest joy in life, I always answer in one of two ways. I either talk about how I find joy in inquiring deeply to discover the truth, or I talk about the satisfaction I get in seeing “the light-bulb go on” when I share my ideas with others. Both of these movements relate to illumination. In the first instance, I discover freedom by shining light on the dark places within myself that have caused me suffering, and in the second way I endeavor to spread the light by sharing with others what I have found in these dark corners. This path is brilliantly expressed in my favorite quote from Nisargadatta, which I have shared with you before:
When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I look outside and see that I am everything, that is love. And between these two, my life turns.
So how does the love that Nisargadatta speaks about tie into my mission? Over the past year, I have traversed some dark terrain. Last year, around this time, I visited my mother to say goodbye to her. She passed away the day after my birthday in the same hospital where she had given birth to me on the Chicago lakefront. Since that time, throughout 2014, I have passed through a series of other losses and challenges, during which time my lamp has become very dim at points. There have been many times during which I have had great difficulty seeing my way through.
Today, I asked myself, “what was it that got me through these tough spots?” The answer that appeared was this: The fuel that kept the light shining within me was love itself. Love is the source that becomes transmuted into light. I think of how in the darkest moments, my friends and loved ones were there for me, nourishing me with their love. I think of how my love for my daughter and the other loved ones in my life gave me the strength to endure the difficulties I faced. I feel immense gratitude in my heart for the challenges that I have weathered, because they forced me to come face to face with what matters most in this life. I have to come to realize that what sustains me on the deepest level in life is love. I have immense gratitude for those who love me and whom I love… those who remind me of who I am, reflect my light back to me, share their own light, and show me the light that surrounds us.
The Eleanor Roosevelt quote above is poignant for me, because it reminds me that I always have a choice to either play the victim of circumstance and “curse the darkness,” or to “light a candle” and see that I create my life by choosing the lens through which I choose to view it. Some days are easier than others to remember this choice. In this moment, I choose to see myself as blessed beyond measure.
This holiday season I wish you LOVE and LIGHT in the most profound and truest sense.
Yours in wellness, love and light,