Thanksgiving has come and with it a deeper look at all I have in my life. Much of this trip has been about letting go of the loss that followed my breakup with my boyfriend of two years. On the plane ride to New Zealand I wrote a poem called Sweet Darkness by David Whyte in my journal:
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
I have returned to this poem many times since as I learn to expand instead of contract in the space of loss. Darkness itself is a thing I have written and meditated on for over two years. It often seems that we spend so much energy on light that we forget the truths the darkness holds, but when you sit in the night and let your eyes adjust you see it holds everything.
There is a line in the Tao Te Ching, as translated by Steven Mitchell, that says:
Darkness within darkness
The gateway to all understanding
Something resonated deep inside me the first time I read these lines, though I really understood them for the first time this October when I visited the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The night before I had written in my journal: Universe, help me heal. Help me let go. Help me go deeper and deeper until I reach the other side. Thank you. I walked into the caves through a vault door in the earth with a group of ten people and one guide. Slowly we weaved through untouched limestone illuminated by hidden lights on the ground until we reached a part of the cave called the Cathedral. There no lights shone, and I walked into the blackness, looking without being able to see. I felt the space around me; I walked slowly as if I might fall but knew I would not fall. A feeling of sureness and safety alive with calm, steady energy washed over and engulfed me. In that moment I held everything and nothing; I went to a place where understanding is beyond words.
When the tour guide flipped the lights on, the high ceiling and steep walls of the Cathedral were illuminated and the feeling left me. We then walked further down to the water and boarded a small boat that floated us through the caves. Above us millions of tiny glowworms smaller than stars emitted a green light. No one spoke, and in the silence and speckled darkness I finally understood what it means to go deeper. There, below the layers of soil and rock, is a light that will only shine in darkness. A light that does not take over, but blends quietly with the black and allows one to blend with it, too. My prayers of the previous night were answered in the caves: I did go deeper and deeper, and I did find the other side, and I was alone until I wasn’t. This shared experience allowed us all to be alone in the same boat, but we ended together as we emerged from the cave into the afternoon sunlight.
In the month and a half since this experience there have been moments in which I held sadness and loss, and I still have a lot of letting go to do, but the heavy pain that weighed me down has lifted. Now, as I reflect on these past few months, what I see is the incredible network of support weaved together from all facets of my life that caught me as I fell. In the midst of my aloneness I found myself cradled in the love of my family and friends, and I stand in awe at that love that surrounds me.
I say thank you everyday for my family and our blessings, but this year I say it more deeply. It is their support that has kept me going and reminded me that I am love. Now I am beginning again, growing out of emptiness to find all that brings me alive.