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Bringing Light to Darkness

I write this column the day after winter solstice as we are coming out of the darkest days of winter; emerging into more light and less darkness. In this column I want to share a few thoughts about how to support our path towards spirituality, towards the "light" and most importantly how to bring the light of our spirit into the darkness that's part of being human.

Now bear with me as I reflect on our political scene for a moment. When looking at our emerging government since Trump was elected, the leaders in our country are moving towards darkness and less light, taking major steps backwards in so many ways.

I was reading in the LA Times this morning how those who didn't vote for Trump are suffering from a depth of dread and anxiety that is unprecedented from previous Democratic presidential losses. Even George W's win over Al Gore didn't invite this level of dread or fear. I've been feeling my fear that's connected to a depth of uncertainty about our future as a nation.

However, when listening to a panel discussion the other day responding to Trump and his cabinet choices, one commentator said that one good thing that is emerging from Trump's victory is an interest, an involvement and a passion regarding politics and ethics amongst people. This is the good news; people are speaking up and taking action in a way that has never happened so fully before.

Personally, in all the years that I've been writing columns for my enews (I think its about 8 years now), I never wrote about politics. This is my third column in three months where I'm attempting to bridge personal and spiritual growth with our political scene today.

We are living in uncertain times. This basic Buddhist reflection on our existence, that everything in our world shares the common denominator of impermanence, change and lack of certainty and that our resistance to this impermanent and unstable reality is what contributes to our suffering. Well here we go, we're being served up a big platter of uncertainty right now and an opportunity to grow spiritually.

For many of us (myself included) our default reaction to uncertainty and instability is fear. This is my work right now, befriending my fear, working with fear, bringing the light of awareness and acceptance to the darkness of fear.

Can we feel fear our fear within our body itself? We can locate it (maybe in the heart area or belly) and really land our awareness in the felt sense of our fear and stay with its felt sense as we bring acceptance to it as a feeling. In this activity we are cultivating a basic kindness and compassion to a place of discomfort or pain and truly is a spiritual exercise.

When I was first introduced to the use of spirituality within the Body-Centered Psychotherapy work that I was trained in at Hartford Family Institute 18 years ago, I was a bit surprised by one quality that is part of the world of spirit. The teacher was sharing how oneness, compassion, open-heartedness, unconditional love or acceptance as core elements within the dimension of spirit. Then he included taking responsibility for our darkness as another key element that connects us to our spiritual nature.

This has many implications. First, this necessitates coming out of denial that we have negativity within us. It means being humble as we acknowledge our darker human elements. It also means not opting for a path of spiritual transcendence where we move away from our darkness in our efforts to "find the light" and stay there!

We jettison past the dark emotions like hatred, terror, manipulation, shaming, violence, rejection etc.

Over the past 18 years I've been working on this integrative journey where we can take the light of open-heartedness and awakened awareness and guide it towards the places of darkness that live within us-where we may know how to terrorize and how to feel terror, where we may know how to be violent and how to feel annihilated, where we may know how to reject and how to feel rejected, where we may know how to criticize and judge and feel criticized and judged. Where we can inflict pain on ourselves and others, and then become lost in our suffering! I've included a moving poem by Thich Nhat Hanh that profoundly captures the truth of our light and darkness here:

Please Call Me By My True Names - A Poem By Thich Nhat Hanh

This means I've had to come out of buckets of denial and see without judgment (on a good day) the places within me that can terrorize, manipulate, reject, be violent and critical.

To bring it back for a moment to the political theme I started with, we have a political leader, Donald Trump, who is painfully disconnected from this spiritual principle of taking responsibility and who blatantly acts out his darkness through his rhetoric and what many of us are dreading, through policies and actions he may take as a leader with a Congress that may support him.

We ALL have darkness! This is part of being human! Moving into the spiritual world is not about denying our human world but acknowledging dark emotions that live within us. Then, the more we take responsibility by seeing and acknowledging (without self-criticism) our places of darkness, we find our way back to our spiritual center and can embrace our human depths!!

May this New Year bring us closer to a place of balance and wholeness within, where the awareness and insight of our spirit heals the areas of darkness and pain within. And may the growth of our inner world radiate through our words and actions into the world around us, helping to create balance in these unstable times.

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