Sunday, 30 November 2014

Advent: Travelling Light & Travelling Dark

A man was walking home late one night when he saw the Mulla Nasrudin searching under a street light on hands and knees for something on the ground. "Mulla, what have you lost?" he asked.

"The key to my house," Nasrudin said.

"I'll help you look," the man said.

Soon, both men were down on their knees, looking for the key.

After a number of minutes, the man asked, "Where exactly did you drop it?" Nasrudin waved his arm back toward the darkness. "Over there, in my house." The first man jumped up. "Then why are you looking for it here?"

"Because there is more light here than inside my house."

I love cold dark Tuesday mornings at this time of the year. That may sound like an odd thing to say, but I do love Tuesday mornings at this time of the year. Every Tuesday morning I attend a shared meditation. It begins at 7am in total darkness. Myself and others sit in silence and darkness and after a while we share one by one as the light begins to appear. By the time the hour is up, so is the sun and we go out into the world and back into the light and life. This Tuesday morning gathering is vital to my personal spiritual connection, it feeds me in ways I will probably never fully understand.

This week during the hour the phrase “travelling light” began to float around in the soul of the group and in me. “Travelling light” is one of those interesting phrases that can have several meanings.

When I heard the phrase the first thought that came into my mind was the idea of travelling without too many belongings. I remember a friend once recounting his many pilgrimages along “Camino de Santiago” and how on this beautiful and spiritual journey it was essential to travel with few physical belongings, he also told how through the journey he left behind things that had been holding him back spiritually in some way. He travelled light.

“Travelling Light” also makes me think of the need to tread carefully through life, to live but to do so without causing harm. To step lightly like a Jain monk might do…”Step lightly, stay free” as Mick Jones once sang.

"Travelling Light" also brings an image of a light that travels itself, that might move across the skyline.

“Travelling Light” also brings another image to mind. A light by which the wanderer and journeyer may travel by. A loving light that guides, holds and sustains them through what may trouble them as they wander through life.

And then my thoughts turned to the opposite of “Travelling Light”, it brought to mind the phrase “Travelling Dark”, which happened to be the title of an album by “The Palledino’s” who my brother had once played and toured all over America with. I am sure we have all spent time travelling, feeling lost at times in the dark. We ought not fear this you know. We need the dark just as much as the light. The dark allows us to prepare for the light, to be still and silent and to truly take root in the light. Sometimes it is the dark where the keys are to be found and not where the light is shining.

We should not be afraid of the dark times of life, of our being. They are a part of life just as much as the light. Rainer Maria once wrote:

“I Love the dark hours of my being” by Rainer Maria Rilke

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that's wide and timeless.

So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots

a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.

Sometimes it is the in the darkness that life’s riches are discovered. Sometimes we need to journey in the dark and sometimes we need to carry our past with us and draw on the riches that were sown and planted their, that have yet to be harvested. There is a time and a place for everything under the sun. Or should it be under the moon?

Today the season of Advent officially begins. Yes I know Christmas seems to have begun very early this year. As soon as the Halloween masks were put away or the final bonfires went out on firework’s night” Christmas seemingly began. I don’t really like it you know. I love the Christmas season and the spirit that lies within it, so rich in spiritual meaning, the problem I have is that we let the light in or perhaps out too early and as a result it loses some of its magic. We need to wait for the moment of magic, we need to be patient, we need to prepare ourselves so it can fill our spirits properly and we can carry its light into our wounded and ever wounding world. By golly it needs it. We need to be ready for Christmas and this requires preparation. Thus the need to truly experience Advent.

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin “Adventus”which means “coming”. It is a time for waiting; waiting in anticipation and hope. It is also a time for preparation. A quiet time when we are meant to patiently wait for the coming of a new light in the darkness.

Christianity teaches that 2,000 years ago angels heralded the news of a child who would be born who would save humanity. Prophets had prophesised this and wise sages and humble shepherds journeyed to great him. The wise sages travelled from afar following a star. This was their “travelling light”. There journey was not an overnight one, it took patience and time and did not end until what we would call the 12th day of Christmas, what is known as the Feast Day of Epiphany, or so the story goes.

 Christmas does not actually begin in early November regardless of what the shops and tv schedules claim, it actually begins on sunset on 24th of December. What we enter now is the period of anticipation and preparation that is Advent. A time that asks us to wait, a time that requires patience. A time when we need to allow the love that is the core of the Christmas “Mythos” to form in our hearts and to be born again in our lives and made manifest in our actions.

Advent is a beautiful reminder that the hope of all of humanity is reborn and renewed each night a child is born. For as Sophia Lyon Fah’s so beautifully put it “Every night a child is born is a holy night”. Advent is an invitation for every one of us to be both the child and traveller the prophet and the promise of what might yet be. Advent is the time to prepare ourselves spiritually to journey within and become the blessing of hope that we all need. That hope though needs time to form within our souls, so it can come to birth again in our every feeling, every thought, every word and every deed.

It is vital that we prepare ourselves and nurture that wonderful light that burns within each of us.

Advent is a time for waiting for allowing all that we have known and perhaps will ever know to come together at once. It’s a time to bring all the love we have known in our lives to form fully in our souls and to let it become one. This is by no means a passive time, although we so often see waiting in this way. It is not just about standing or sitting around it is also about bearing witness to what has been and to the world in which we presently find ourselves. Margaret Kirk highlights this in her meditation “Waiting” in “Hearts and Mind” she states

“…the word “wait” has a number of different roots. One of these roots is from the old French word “waitier”, which means to watch as well as to wait. Another is from the Old High German “wahta”, meaning watcher and “wahhon”, meaning to be awake. So quite deeply embedded in the meaning of our English word “wait” is the suggestion that however powerless we might feel, waiting brings with it an awakening…if we allow it to.”

This is what I will be doing as I enter this season of Advent and it will be what I am suggesting to those I serve and all I meet, to prepare and to wait, but to do so in a watchful and wakeful sense. To take time to look over the lives we have lived and the world in which we live today. To examine our whole lives, both the light and the dark. To take time in the dark and prepare ourselves fully to open up to what has been, what is now and what might just be; to find the light that we can travel and live by and to not only follow that which is beyond us but open ourselves fully to it and invite it to grow within and through us and to wander on.

Let us wander on, not alone, but together in harmony with all that has been and all that will ever be.

We are here for a reason…each and every one of us…that reason I believe is to be bearers of the light in our world…to bring hope to our world…so let us become the light of the world…Let us manifest hope in our hearts, minds and souls, let us become the hope of the world…

I'm going to end this little chip of a blogspot with the following by Kathleen McTigue...

“On the Cusp of Winter” by Kathleen McTigue

We’ve come to the season of waiting.

The colors of autumn are gone,

leaves faded and fallen, and branches rise bare to sky.

The deep quiet and frozen beauty of winter are coming

but not quite yet: we are in the season in between.

The world closes in on itself as breathing things

hunker down, burrow in, drop to the bottom

and store up nurture for the long cold.

Animals that we are, we feel in our bones

the shuttering of the windows.

Though freed from the need to burrow in,

may we still find guidance

in the rhythm that beats through our hearts.

In this season of waiting, may we let ourselves

slow down our pace,

ease out from beneath the burden of our speed

and bustle, our fretful worry

so that gratitude can saturate our days and colour our nights.

In this season of closing down, closing in,

may our hearts stay open,

Urging open our doors to the stranger,

our hands to the helpless,

And our spirit to all that calls us endlessly back to life.

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