Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Bringing Light to the Dark Places

“Where there is darkness, let me bring light.”  -Saint Francis of Assisi

I am writing in the pre-dawn darkness of the Winter Solstice, surrounded by the light of several star lanterns and the flicker of light shining through the window of the wood stove.

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This is the shortest, darkest day of the year, and this year is darker than usual. It is drizzling outside, and the cloud blanket is thick. Looking eastward during early sunrise, I notice a very faint band of pink stretched across the gray-blue sky above the horizon that probably wouldn’t register as sunrise unless you were looking for it. Despite the cloud cover, the sun is still there, ascending as it does every morning even though it is more difficult to see this particular morning.

This has been a challenging week for a number of reasons, and midway through it, when I felt like I was at the end of my rope, it occurred to me that this is literally the darkest week of the year.

Every ray of sunshine is precious at this time of year. Sunrises this week have held extra significance. When we ordered Chinese takeout Thursday evening, my fortune cookie message read, “You will always see light after darkness.” How perfect.

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Sunrise during Solstice week

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Today is finally Winter Solstice, the turning point at which the light begins to grow in the Northern Hemisphere and the days become longer again. It is the point at which we cease traveling further into darkness – for we have reached the darkest point – and turn around and take a first step closer to the light. This week, I have been contemplating how to bring light into the dark places, particularly given that three people close to me are navigating the greatest challenges of their lives. I look to the sun at the beginning of each day to draw strength and light and to give thanks for all of the sources of light and inspiration in my life. But I am also listening to the voices arising from the darkness and silence of this time of year – the voices that have been ignored and need to be heard, for they show me where healing is needed and assure me that, in the end, all of our challenges are gifts. The question is: What will we do with these dark gifts we are given? How will we shine light on our challenges and through the alchemy of love turn them into blessings, wisdom, art?

Last week, I came across a video that was like the light of a hundred suns during this dark season. It is a TEDx talk given by Anita Moorjani, a woman who was dying from end-stage lymphoma nearly eight years ago. Her organs were shutting down, and doctors told her family that she had only a few more hours left to live. In the video, she describes what happened to her that day and what she learned. She is still alive today and was cancer-free within five weeks of the day on which she was supposed to die. But that’s not the part that spoke to me the most. The most amazing part is what she learned that day and how it has changed her life.

Email followers: Click HERE to watch video. Note: She begins by describing in detail her deteriorated physical condition until 2:40, when she begins talking about her near-death experience.

Anita Moorjani’s message resonates deeply with me. I was moved to tears by her metaphor of an enormous, dark warehouse in which we flash our tiny beam of light and see only what our light falls on, and what we are looking for. Our understanding and perception of life are extremely limited. There is so much more beyond what our little flashlight reveals to us. We have no idea how powerful our mind is in terms of both limiting us and liberating us from the prison we (with some help from those close to us and society) have created for ourselves based on what we believe to be true about the universe – which is based on our very limited experience of it.

I have been feeling this so strongly lately. There is more. So much more. I want to align my intention with spirit and experiment with the laws of the universe. Many spiritual teachers whom I respect talk about this, and I know in my heart that what they are describing is true. I have had enough experiences myself that cannot be attributed to mere coincidence to know that there is so much more than ordinary consciousness leads us to believe. I have received so many “signs” – uncanny, unexplainable events – that I envision a small group of angels shaking their heads in somewhat amused exasperation, wondering why I still don’t get it enough to risk stepping out of my comfort zone and dreaming outside of the box. (Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I haven’t done it before. I have experience with facing my fears, taking one step at a time in faith, and eventually experiencing the thrill and fulfillment of attaining my goal. But it’s time to fashion new goals.)

Why is it so difficult to live according to those higher laws? What is holding me back? I see the image of a wall. A wall of fear. A wall built from my own limited understanding of the world. I know in every cell of my being that infinite possibilities exist on the other side of this wall. Why, then, do I confine myself to this small prison, thinking it’s the best I can do? It makes no sense.

I want to break through the barrier of fear and allow love to pilot my life. I want to live a fearless, authentic life. I want to like I’ve never wanted to before!

And this is where the self-love that Anita Moorjani spoke of enters in. Not the narcissistic kind that bolsters the ego, but the kind of love that supports the fullest expression of the higher Self, which is interconnected with all life. Loving oneself enough to follow our innermost joy and experience the fullness of a fearless life – to find out what is on the other side of fear. Loving oneself enough to step outside of our personal prisons. This message is really taking root in my heart, and I’ve been reflecting on what self-love means to me. It might mean something different to you, but here are some ideas I have come up with:

Self-love is spending as much time as possible in an environment(s) that values and accepts the gifts you have to offer.

Self-love is surrounding yourself with people who make you laugh and feel good.

Self-love is limiting as much as possible the time you spend with people who bring you down or judge you based on criteria that is completely meaningless to you. 

Self-love is making time for activities and relationships that bring you joy.

Self-love is asking for help when you need it.

Self-love is getting enough rest, exercise, and good nutrition.

Self-love is caring enough not to consume the thing that is unhealthy for you.

Self-love is forgiving your weaknesses BUT not employing forgiveness as a means to excuse or continue to indulge them.

Self-love is being impeccably honest with yourself and taking responsibility (without blaming or beating yourself up) for your life and happiness.

Self-love is knowing where to let go with love and allow others to take responsibility for their own life and happiness.

At the core, I believe we are all made of love and light, and our mission is to manifest these qualities in this world of shadows and help our planet evolve.

In a Facebook post, Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote,

“A half-lived life, as Herman Melville describes it, is one in which we do not get to that inner place of peace and joy. Perhaps the most devastating scenario imaginable is to face death knowing that because of some imagined fear, you have always chosen a half-lived life in which you avoided doing the things your heart beckoned you to do. I urge you to change the scenario now. Start living your life with the courage to follow your heart.” 

I hold these words in front of my little beam of light as I form an intention on this Solstice day and feel the truth of Anita Moorjani’s words: “In the end, you will always find that your challenges are a gift.”

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It is now 12:11 p.m., the moment of solstice, as I hit the “publish” button. Happy Solstice!

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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