I don’t know about you, but there has been plenty going on of late that I’d much prefer were otherwise. This includes struggles on the global, national, and personal front; they take turns, it seems, in weighing most heavily on my heart. I notice how the extended darkness, and cold, and pervasive, and, at times, forced gaiety of the season can seem to amplify the weight of the challenges we face individually and collectively.
Part of my family’s tradition is the celebration of Christmas. We put up lights–lots of them–outdoors, indoors, on trees, wreaths, stars, mantle. They are a large part of the delight of the season for me, bringing as they do, such cheeriness, warmth, and illumination. Lately, my practice has been to sit in the wee hours of the morning, with the glow of lights in front of me. The deep darkness outside becomes a cloak that I draw around me for support and comfort. In the stillness, I settle, opening to the pangs of grief for the pain in our world that manifest as tension in my chest, a tugging heaviness that pulls just above the solar plexus. I follow the breath in and out. Filling, emptying. I hear the words: “This is what ‘whole’ and ‘complete’ looks like right now.”
It was Melissa Blacker (www.melissablacker.com), former co-Director of Professional Training at the UMASS Center for Mindfulness, Zen priest, and long-time mentor and guide, who said this to me several years ago while I was in the midst of intense distress and a flare-up of what had not yet been diagnosed as chronic Lyme disease. It landed as a powerful instruction, reminding me of what is so easy to forget when in pain, grief, despair: I am already larger than the distress I am experiencing. I am larger than any emotion, thought, illness or loss that is arising. From this largeness, wholeness, it might be possible to hold what’s here, and not feel diminished by it. It might just be possible to enter, again, into full engagement with the world, with all its’ sorrows and joys, and do what we can to alleviate suffering, injustice, hatred and confusion, out of kindness and with love.
As we head into the holidays marking the close of one year, and the brand new start of another, my wish for you is to come back, again and again, to the felt sense of your own vast heart. Stillness and silence are reliable doorways in. So are singing, laughter, walks in nature, the sight of snow. Re-entering this spaciousness, may you know, again, who you already are: radiantly whole, and utterly complete, whatever that might look like right now.