A Dance of Light and Dark
One of my favorite holiday traditions is the dance of light and dark.
The darkness of our nights stretches and our times of daylight grow shorter each day. Just when we are on the verge of being swallowed by the darkness we begin celebrating holidays of lights.
Some of us mark our sacred days with candles while others string lights around trees. Many of us have opportunities to sit and watch a dance of light and dark in our fireplaces.
I have sat and watched lights on trees while it snowed outside and other times overlooking an ocean. City streets and fields on farms, old stone houses and new condos, the dance of light and dark is still beautiful.
Watching the dance of light and dark is almost as amazing as watching the stars in the night sky.
While twinkling lights and shining candles are fascinating, my favorite is a fire in a fireplace. The first step is building the structure for a healthy fire. Flames begin to burn with paper and spread to pieces of kindling. Slowly larger pieces of wood and logs begin catch fire and continue for hours.
Watching and feeding a good fire can be a contemplative practice.
A dance of light and dark mesmerizes us, capturing our attention and helping us take time to reflect.
The light and the dark draw us into their dance. We sit and watch, reflecting and wondering, and we become part of the dance.
Lights dance in the darkness as flames leap and spin. Each depends on the other as they choreograph their rhythms and flashes of insight. Spiritual life dances within us and around us as darkness dances with light.
A little stirring and some new logs keep the dance moving.
Tending the Dance of Light and Dark
How do we feed the dance of light and dark?
At times, the fire of spiritual life almost roars through us. Its energy melts away everything which is not important. The flame of spiritual life purifies what we think, how we feel, what we desire. It is beyond our control.
The power of spiritual life works sacred changes in us.
There are other times when it feels like the fire of spiritual life in us is almost out. We feel smoky. The fire within us does not give us much heat or light. We feel like spiritual life has burned itself down to glowing embers.
The cold darkness grows deeper around and within us.
Fire tells powerful stories full of deep truths. It does not happen spontaneously. Fire needs a spark, fuel to burn, and oxygen to breathe.
Spiritual life is like fire. Even with sparks of sacred energy and depth all around and within us, spiritual life needs to be fed and needs to breathe.
There are times when we feel like spiritual life has gone hungry. Sometimes we do not add fuel; sometimes we smother it by loading it with huge timbers which do not catch fire. The challenge for us is to recognize what strengthens spiritual life and to feed it well.The fire of spiritual life is extinguished without fuel.
At other times spiritual life seems to gasp for oxygen. We get so busy, so caught in what needs to be done, we forget to take a spiritual breath.
Without the oxygen breathing provides, through contemplation and reflection, the fire of spiritual life gets short of breath.
There are times when the fire seems almost out, when the dance of light and dark seems almost over.
Watching the Dance of Light and Dark
Each year, as often as I can, for as long as I can remember, I take time to sit and watch the dance of light and dark.
Sometimes the lights in the darkness take me back into what has already happened. I listen to sacred stillness and allow the past to become more than I remember. The pieces of the puzzle fit themselves together in new ways.
At other times the dance of light and dark draws me into what is still to come. The quiet in the light and darkness show me my hopes and fears for the future. My anticipation of what is yet to be is reshaped.
The truths waiting in the sacred stillness and the light and the dark bring me into the present moment. They show me again the overwhelming reality of what is now.
Life is not about what we remember or regret, not about what we fear or our fantasies. We live into what we experience right now, in this moment. The stillness and the dance of light and dark bring us to where we are.
As I listen to sacred stillness the dance of light and dark distracts me from my distractions. I sit still and pay attention to where I am.
Joining the Dance of Light and Dark
Each year as the swirling sounds of music and advertising threaten to carry us away we are drawn into the dance of light and dark. Our lives are filled with distractions and entertainments designed to get our attention and affect our behavior.
It is a radical act to set those enticements aside and listen to sacred stillness. We cannot complete our setting aside once for all but need to regularly renew our commitment.
We sit and listen to sacred stillness and join the dance of light and dark. The stillness and the dance draw us in. The candles, the fire in the fireplace, the lights on the tree show us what is real and true.
Joining the dance we become part of the play of light and dark, part of the sacred stillness.
Dancing in the stillness we tend the fire of spiritual life within us. The dance becomes part of our holiday tradition.
How will we be drawn into the dance of light and dark today?
When will we sit and watch the dance of light and dark this week?
[Image by Uncle Catherine]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and 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 StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.