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  • Annelisa MacBean

Light and Dark

Recently being with my fourteen-year-old god-daughter I have been reminded of my deeply-seated bias, and perhaps a shared bias in our culture, toward being “up” or “all good” or “fine”. Often when I meet with someone, particularly a child or adolescent who is feeling down or hopeless, empty, angry or afraid I can feel that old impulse to quickly slip into an interpretation of their experience as something that is “wrong”, that is “broken,” and that I must act urgently to "help" or "correct" or “fix”. I can feel myself wanting to “put them back together”, to “remind them of all the gifts in their life”, impart spiritual techniques and philosophies to them, or even suggest that they just “focus on the positive,” reassuring them that everything will be better soon, and that it will all turn out okay. It feels so natural to want to help, to lessen their suffering and pain. And there is nothing wrong with this inclination nor with employing whatever skillful means I may have to help, to bring relief. But I am also sensing into the subtle aggression of this impulse. There can be an unowned insistence that they come out of their immediate experience and into the one I believe they should or could be having instead. I can see how much of my “helping” intention arises out of a disconnection with the darkness, the wound, a sense of lack which remains unmetabolized within me. These precious, suffering children are teaching me again and again, that the kindest thing I can offer is to sit in the darkness with them – holding their hand and staying close – removing from them any burden that they change, transform, feel better, or heal in order for me to stay close and present. With them, I turn toward my own unmet sadness, grief, and despair. I remove the projection of my unlived life from them. I lift from them the weight of any expectation that they take care of my unresolved anxiety in the presence of grief. As I learn to trust and to rest in the wisdom-field of my present, embodied experience, I see that LOVE is moving in and through the totality of experience. LOVE is whole, never partial or fragmented, and is utterly and absolutely alive in the darkness. It is the movement of LOVE that brings the sadness, the grief, the despair and the illusion of separation into high relief, to be felt, seen, known and accepted. This runs counter to my personal, cultural and spiritual expectations of invulnerability; the imaginings that being whole and healed means the end of pain.


My dear God-daughter is showing me that the movement of LOVE will never conform to the projections of my personality . . . things will never turn out the way I thought they would and this is not evidence that something has gone wrong! Rather, this is evidence of how alive and unprecedented each of us are. From this perspective, every experience can be held as utterly valid, totally workable, and an expression of each persons unique path. From this point of view there are no obstacles or unwanted events.


From the center of my being, I can see that being human is not only about the joy and the sweetness. Being human is a full spectrum experience that includes the darkness. Noticing the absence of light I find myself ordering and reordering my world, remembering parts of myself, remembering loving myself, remembering the light that is possible . . . As all the dimensions of being human are included, the true nature of my experience is more easily known; I feel authentic and real. Darkness and pain are portals to the presence of light . . . the womb is dark and we emerge as embodied, infinite possibilities. May I remain always close to my own sense of lack and separation, to the suffering that results, and to the suffering of others. May I be careful not to dismiss the pain in myself or others too quickly; may I be curious and available to the wisdom of LOVE as it unfolds in unexpected ways. May my heart be open to the full-spectrum nature of LOVE, to the jewels secreted in the dark so that I can see, hear, feel, sense what it is that they have to say.




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