“Surge like an ocean, don’t scatter yourself like a storm”

Search the Darkness

Sit with your friends, don’t go back to sleep.
Don’t sink like a fish to the bottom of the sea.
Surge like an ocean, don’t scatter yourself like a storm.
Life’s waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, don’t run from it.
Night travelers are full of light, and you are too:
don’t leave this companionship.
Be a wakeful candle in a golden dish,
don’t slip into the dirt like quicksilver.
The moon appears for night travelers,
be watchful when the moon is full.

-Rumi

We are moving toward the dark half of the year, and unlike those who love summer’s endless days, I find myself invigorated by this season.  I find myself wanting to search the darkness as Rumi invites us, to receive the life waters flowing from it.  The moon becomes my guide on this dark pilgrimage and I am initiated into the deeper mysteries of life.

In the process of writing my next book on lectio divina, I have been hungrily reading books on the contemplative life, on the Eastern Orthodox practice of hesychia, and on the apophatic path.  Apophasis is the way of darkness in Christian spirituality and has a deep and rich tradition among the mystics including Meister Eckhart and John of the Cross.  When we enter the wisdom of night we discover that all of our certainties about God are like sand easily scattered by the wind.  Darkness teaches us that God is so much larger than what we can imagine, that many of our beliefs have become idols, and that the call to a mature spirituality has more to do with surrendering our attachments than in gaining enlightenment.  We live in a world where certainties about God are the impulse behind violent acts and the violation of people’s dignity.  Perhaps if we all recognized that the way of unknowing was the necessary complement to the way of images and knowing, we would act with more humility and be less willing to speak for God.

This is the call of the monk in the world: to live in the paradox of knowing deeply the indwelling presence of the sacred in the heart of each person and of recognizing our absolute inability to ever know the  fullness of God who transcends time and space.  As an artist, I will always be called to honor the holy in art and poetry, celebrating the multiplicity of God’s names.  As a monk, I am called to stand humbly in absolute awe before the One who is beyond names, who is even beyond what I understand by “beyond.”

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5 Responses

  1. There is such freedom and inner spaciousness when we finally realise that the journey to the Divine is one of letting go, unlearning, waiting, always waiting…in a stance of deep inner silence.

  2. Thank you, Christine. This is my favorite season too. Last week marked the one year anniversary of my 14 day “Underworld Journey” vision quest in a remote, pristine canyon in Utah. The focus of the retreat was to welcome and invite darkness in all of its mystery, terror, and power. During my 4 day fasting Solo, there was a full moon and I marveled at the dance between darkness and light. I have always deeply loved the “gloaming” (must be the Celt blood in my veins!), but found this one of the hardest parts of my Solo. The woods surrounding my Solo spot became very dark and ancient at twilight. It was during this time that I discovered a secret underground spring and a tiny, still pool. The veil between the worlds felt VERY thin. I felt compelled, invited, AND resistant to something deeper than was present in the full daylight. My dreams and other occurrences during that period have been life-transforming. I recall it now, with tears in my eyes.

    1. Oh Melissa, what great reminiscing of your vision quest. Mine still continues to inform me in deep ways more than three years later.
      Christine, you are probably familiar with Belden Lane’s book “The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality” where he speaks of the apophatic and cataphatic paths?..that book was nourishing to me and I highly recommend it. Blessings to you…I too love autumn best!

      1. Thanks Melissa for sharing part of this beautiful and powerful journey. I can imagine how that experience must keep rippling across time.

        Lynne, Lane’s book is one of my favorites. I read it in graduate school and loved the way he wove the narrative of his mother dying in with his more scholarly reflections. That book made a big impact on me both in terms of content – the material is so rich, as well form – the integration of personal story with the academic research really spoke to my heart and how I wanted to write.

  3. As someone who intentionally works at night, I take time to go outside and look up at the night sky as often as possible. The beauty of the night, its stillness, its mystery always reminds me of the its symbolic womb-like nature.
    Thank you for Rumi’s work as a reminder of the richness of the night, as we approach darker days & the incarnation of the Light

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