Practices From the Inside Out: Head Toward the Light

Practices From the Inside Out: Head Toward the Light December 16, 2017


Head Toward the Light

Where I live we are still heading into deeper darkness.

Our days will continue to increase in darkness and decrease in sunlight for most of this week. It has been nearly six months since our daylight began to shorten and shrink.

Before next weekend we will turn the corner and slowly begin heading toward the light. We are almost there, almost ready to start.

Our annual journey begins in the darkest time. We gain daylight for almost six months until we begin heading back into the dark.

For some of us darkness is more than a meteorological phenomenon. We are on a journey in darkness which may have lasted more than six months. Whether we are sad, frustrated with politics, or just tired, we are not headed toward the light.

Darkness does not help us feel better. Some of us are afraid of what waits for us in the dark, or feel it swallowing us. We may experience fatigue or frustration, discouragement or disease in the dark.

There are times when I am not able to sleep and decide to go do something else. Getting up and navigating in the dark is often an adventure. My first step, after I find my glasses, is to head toward any light I can see.

Light attracts and comforts us. The fact we can see makes us feel better. I am less likely to run into a wall or a door when I am not in the dark.

At the same time, light is brighter when it is surrounded by darkness. It is a challenge to see any stars in the night sky where I live because there is so much artificial light. When I spend time at the monastery in Big Sur the night sky is completely covered in stars.

Walking Toward the Light

Darkness tends to disorient us. When we stand up after sitting or resting in darkness we need to find our balance again. We are not sure where we are or where we are going, and what obstacles might be in our way.

It is different when we can see some light. We often begin walking toward the light.

The shapes of things may need to sort themselves out and fit back together. Our eyes adjust to the light and life becomes familiar again.

There are times when the light is too much, too powerful for us. When I walk in the evenings, especially at this time of year, the oncoming headlights are too bright. The light shining in my eyes makes it impossible to see.

We live like people in deep darkness. When we recognize a glimmer we try to walk toward the light. Sometimes we bump into something in the dark, sometimes the light becomes too strong for us.

There are times when spiritual life is like living in the dark. We know there is something out there we cannot see, but are not sure what it is exactly.

As we try to make out shapes in the dark we begin walking toward the light we can see.

We need to be careful, to watch our steps. It can be easy to blunder into something or step on someone else.

Our journey begins in the dark and we step toward the light.

We may follow a path laid out by others, but eventually we seek our own way.

One small step at a time we begin walking toward the light.

Growing Toward the Light

Some of us live in darkness because we have enclosed ourselves in rules and expectations. We have built cramped, rigid structures to keep light out. Some of us have allowed other people to build our enclosures for us.

It can be easy to assume spiritual life is about doing what we are told. People tell us what to do and we obey them, detaining ourselves in dark, tight spaces.

Like seeds planted under the ground, it is natural for us to grow toward the light. Even when we have closed ourselves off spiritual life fills us and draws us into the light.

Light calls us out of the darkness. The darkest days of the year remind us there is more than cold darkness in our future.

Spiritual life within us reflects the light of spiritual life in the world all around us.

Like when we wake up in the middle of the night, we look to find a glimmer of light in the darkness. We may feel its warmth before we even see it. Putting our glasses on in the darkness, we get up and try not to run into anything.

The shapes of things slowly become clear and the light draws us closer.

Living Toward the Light

Spiritual life is about people living in deep darkness and finding great light.

Each year reminds us what spiritual life is like, how it brings light into our darkness. We set off in darkness, bumping our way forward. As we take a few beginning steps the light reaches out to us, drawing us toward it.

Our steps become growing and then living toward the light.

Some days may be gloomy while others bathe us in bright sunlight. Each day holds challenges of its own. There are times when the light can be overwhelming and times when we trip in the darkness.

Spiritual life calls us to leave behind the constraints and confinement we thought were necessary. There is more to life than keeping us in the dark, restrained and under control.

Spiritual life is about stepping from the darkness into the light and opening our eyes.

We learn to live toward the light. Spiritual life fills us with light.

The seeds of spiritual life grow from the darkness to sprout into the light. Light shines in the darkness, drawing us toward it.

In only a few more days our annual journey will begin again.

How are we heading toward the light today?

When will we be living toward the light this week?

[Image by Broo_am (Andy B)]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is, and his email address is

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