An Antidote the the Soul’s Dust and the World’s Darkness

With a gentle smile and a calm demeanor, the Japanese Zen priest spoke to his largely Western sitting group – in English:  “Westerners seem to bring an extra challenge when engaged in meditation.  When the dust appears – as it inevitably does in the form of distraction, you Westerners have a tendency to bring in a broom and try and sweep it out.  And all it does is kick up more dust.”  He paused.  “Let the dust settle.  Get to know the dust.”

I was part of that weekly sitting group in Kyoto, Japan, nearly fifty years ago.  His advice still sits with me, as I continue wrestle/struggle/fight with the dust, which over the years has morphed from an image of dust to an experience of an enveloping darkness.

The world is getting darker.  Literally.  Where I live, in southern New Hampshire, the lights need to be turned on at 4 pm.  The nights are getting longer.   And the temperature is getting colder, which has the psychic effect of deepening the darkness.  And the avatars of darkness, who are regularly referred to as “conflict entrepreneurs”, inevitably show up from every corner of the world’s landscape, flooding the airwaves and the social media platforms — and exploiting the darkness by preying on our individual and collective fear of the darkness. 

Like many, I try and fight the darkness.  Which has the effect of binding me up in more darkness, as those agents of darkness inevitably take up residence in my psyche – taunting, tempting and ridiculing.  As I try and sweep them out, I can almost see their vengeful smiles, because they know they have ‘got’ me.  And they end up swirling around in the cavities of my soul, threatening to suffocate me with their predatory venom. 

Our spiritual ancestors were familiar with darkness.  They didn’t fight it.  Instead, they worked to get to know the darkness.   The prophet Isaiah knew the darkness of despair and oppression, isolation and dislocation.  And he challenged his audience to see the light:  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  (Isaiah 9:2)  The writer of John’s Gospel speaks of the light’s power:  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  (John 1:5)

Isaiah and John knew that light exposes darkness.  In many cases, light destroys darkness.  In the Christian tradition, during the season of Advent, one candle is lighted the first week, two the second, three the third and four the fourth.  Adding more light to the earth’s deepening darkness; and kindling hope.

As Martin Luther King spoke more than a generation ago:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.”

Sit with the darkness.  Get to know it. And then invite in the light – which, in every faith tradition, is always offered.  Shine the light on the darkness.  Learn when and how it shows up.  Discover how it works – in your soul and in the world.  And then – accept its invitation and become an avatar of light.  It is a grace each of us has the capacity to claim, a gift that can dethrone the darkness.

 

 

 

Whose Land is It?

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this passage from my daily reading:     “From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates,all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory.   No one will be able...

Ep 12 – “The Church Cracked Open” with The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers

Amy shares about her journey of faith, path to ordination as an Episcopal priest, passion for and vocation of studying scripture, and the blessings and challenges she has experienced along the way.

Dealing With Fear

Tornados of fear are swirling around the world, many of them invading our psyches.  Wars in Ukraine and Gaza, not to mention Sudan and Myanmar; escalating climate change; unrelenting gun violence; immigration crises.  To my mind, the storms of fear are particularly...

The Different Layers of Campus Anger

I lived a block away from a campus protest that erupted in November, 1974.  I was a teaching fellow at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, and the campus was about to be shut down in opposition to Gerald Ford’s visit to the city, the first time an American President...

Campus Protests: What We Bring to What We See

In the past week I have had several conversations with friends about our respective opinions on what is happening on college campuses across the country, as students have set up encampments to protest the war in Gaza and insist that their university divest any...

Passover and the Importance of Remembering and Honoring Pain

I write this post on the first day of Passover, an annual commemoration of the Exodus story, when the Israelites escaped their slavery in Egypt, traveled through the parted waters of the Red Sea, spent forty years in the Sinai wilderness, and crossed the Jordan River...

Cherry Blossoms and the Denial of Death

While Spring is officially on the calendar, it is still inching into southern New Hampshire, where I live.  Some daffodils are emerging, taking their time after a surprise snowstorm earlier this month.  This long wait for spring calls to mind my two-year sojourn in...

Scams: Preying on Vulnerability and Violating Trust

I fell for a scam last week.  My computer froze, a pop up alarm appeared and said needed to call Microsoft immediately to protect all that was stored on my desktop, lest foreign hackers steal my data, documents and identity.  The Microsoft number was prominently...

Easter: Breaking Through a Contraining System

He broke out.  He got up.  In faith Christians proclaim that Jesus rose from the grave:  Alleluia!  Christ is Risen.  What follows are hymns of praise, expressions of joy, a profusion of flowers – all offered to gatherings that are double the size of a normal Sunday...

Ep 11 – “Passion and Patience” with The Rev. Dr. Amy Peeler

Amy shares about her journey of faith, path to ordination as an Episcopal priest, passion for and vocation of studying scripture, and the blessings and challenges she has experienced along the way.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!