I’m trying to break the habit of writing solely about despair. And I don’t tend to write about hope, as a matter of principle.
That doesn’t leave me with much to talk about this year, on a year marked by despair, at a time when all we can do is cling to hope.
The challenge facing us right now is this: we must find a way to keep going while we hold the suspicion that everything in our lives will get worse.
If there’s anyone who has learned how to keep going in the absence of “hope”, that person is me. I have done it, I keep doing it. I must know, somewhere, how it’s done.
And I know that the only way to keep going when you cannot see the path in front of you is to follow inner guidance.
For some of us the world has not been making sense for a while now. For some of us it has all been crisis, our whole lives. We know how to navigate crisis, if nothing else.
Here in the UK everything is going to get much more challenging for most of us. I cannot shake that knowledge off, I can’t close my eyes to it.
That means I must find another source for hope, another reason to “keep going” outside of “things can only get better”.
First, letting go
I draw inspiration from Michael Meade’s words when describing the old Roman rituals around the New Year.
“The old idea was not simply to turn the page or change a number on the calendar and simply start over again; that way leads to the next world being just like this one. Rather the world had to be symbolically dissolved before it could be created anew. Time has to be not just stopped, but broken open in order to break the spell and the hold that the dying year has on life.
Timelessness is the obliteration of time and in timelessness is the forgiveness of time. And, there can be no meaningful change without letting go and allowing ourselves to be touched by the timeless, without feeling free enough to forgive ourselves and thereby be released from the need to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
He says “there can be no meaningful change without letting go”.
What if there are parts of the way the world is that keep on repeating not because we want them to repeat but because we simply cannot let them go? What if we hate them, but we are so fixated with them that they stay, in our discourse, and in our consciousness, and therefore in our political world?
How do we learn to let go? What do we let go of?
Let’s try it right now. Here’s mine:
Then, we are touched by the “timeless”. We are touched by the light
Michael Meade calls this “being touched by the timeless”.
But of course, this isn’t easy to do. And what gets in the way is mainly our own broken-heartedness, whether it’s shame, guilt, or grief. Our rage at the world for being what it is, our shame for wanting it to be different. Our fear that it can never be something else, certainly not within our lifetimes. Our difficulty with coming to accept that evil can be so common, and so effective.
We grow afraid of the light, convinced that our own brokenness, our own woundedness, our intrinsic “fuck-up-ness”, dark-and-twisted-ness, will not be worthy of the light.
All of these stop our heart from turning to the sacred. And it’s a perfectly understandable response.
The secret isn’t to replace our grief with a stretched hand to God. No, we must grieve when terror strikes.
But we must do it skilfully. We must turn our very grief sacred, and in doing so, it becomes touched by the divine we long to be joined to.
In essence, we grow our hearts, so they can hold the grief and sacred.
When we can’t find the light out in the world, we must make it ourselves out of that longing for the light itself.
What does it mean? What do all these pretty words mean???
It means that if you’re hurting, because you cannot find a reason to keep going, because wherever you look you only find more pain, you hold that pain with kindness, and look into your heart. There you will find a small part of you who says “I don’t want to be hurting”, and that quiet, small part will be all you can cling to for dear life. For a while.
So you treasure that part, and let it burn, quietly and steadily.
So long as there is a part of you that doesn’t want the pain, there will be in this world something that isn’t pain. It may be small, it may be inside you, but it exists. And it’s what will stop you from being consumed by the pain.
What does it mean to let the light touch you?
Well, we can start with the physical light. We can go out and let the Sun reach us, like it was trying to do today to me, through rain, hailstones and snow.
There’s nothing like the real, concrete light to remind you that yes, light exists, and yes, you are worthy of it.
Then, we practice.
We look for the longing in our hearts for light, for warmth, for goodness.
And we remember: if it’s something we long for, it’s something that lives within us.
That’s how we find the light inside.
And then, we practice some more.
Witnessing the light. Sitting with the light.
Lighting a candle and saying “hey there light inside me, I see you”.
Then maybe we can add “I would like to feel more light, please”.
And who knows. Perhaps in time it will grow.
And it will be strong enough to keep us going.
Strong enough to share with others, like I’m sharing my light with you.
Onwards and inwards, dear friends.
We have something precious inside us.
We just need to bring it out to the world.
It is rich and nourishing, and it gifted me this idea:
To be afraid of chaos means to be afraid of creation, because chaos precedes creation
How can we learn to live with the chaos, and prepare better for creation? How can we trust in the chaos, and the creation that follows?