Monastic Strategies: Living as Lights Shining in the Darkness

Monastic Strategies: Living as Lights Shining in the Darkness December 5, 2019

Lights Shining in the Darkness

We live in a world of deep darkness, searching for light.

Darkness surrounds us, seeping into how we live our lives and see ourselves. Some of us are afraid of the dark and refuse to acknowledge its presence. Darkness makes some of us feel tired or frustrated. We want to stay in bed wrapped in blankets with our eyes closed.

Maybe the darkness will go away.

Some of us struggle against darkness, but it silently absorbs all our efforts.

We do not remember where the darkness came from, nor when it started. It becomes harder and harder for us to recall what life was like before the darkness arrived. When we try to work or play hazardous obstacles hidden by darkness block our way.

We do not know what to do about the darkness, how to avoid it, or how we will live another day in it. Darkness drains our energy and destroys our hope. Some of us work to bring the darkness to an end. People try to create new technologies or new laws to overcome the power of darkness. Others have decided to sit and wait to find out what will happen. None of us really knows what we can do to save ourselves from the darkness.

The darkness around us hides more than just walls and obstacles. Darkness makes it harder for us to recognize each other, or recognize our own true selves. We believe there are deep, essential truths about life and the world we cannot see in the dark.

There are no technological or legal fixes to solve the ways darkness challenges us. Our only way to overcome darkness is for each of us to open ourselves and become lights shining in the dark.

Finding Lights Shining in Darkness

It is easy for us to forget how dark the darkness can be.

Many of us live in places where real darkness is rare. We dilute our dark times with artificial night lights, lights over the door, street lights, lighted signs, and other things which glow in the dark. We turn our eyes toward lighted screens, hiding our faces from the power of darkness.

I remember living far from here, where darkness really is dark. Driving home at night on a country road with only my own headlights to cut through the darkness. Every so often, in the distance, lights from a barn or the window of a farmhouse would shine like stars.

One of the many things which draws me to New Camaldoli Hermitage, along with its beauty and its stillness, is its rich darkness. When I step out onto the porch of my trailer early in the morning headed for the chapel, it is dark. You can hear faint sounds of the ocean and feel the wind, and the sky is filled with stars.

Spiritual life is like the light from a distant farm or stars shining in the dark night sky.

It can be easy for us to forget spiritual life is born in darkness.

We find ourselves surrounded by the darkness of confusion, or pain, or loss. It is not clear where we are and we cannot find our way. Some of us are afraid we are lost and might never find our way home again. Then, when it seems there is no hope, light shines in the darkness.

Some of us forget spiritual life lives in us, turning us into lights shining in darkness.

Other people see us shining like stars in the night sky, like a barn in the distance.

We Are Lights Shining in Darkness

Many of us feel we are stumbling around in the dark, running into what we cannot see. We do not see our own lights shining.

If only we had someone who would shine a light for us or show us the way. Some of us are not confident we are doing well or are on the path we set out to follow.

Our contemplative practices teach us how to recognize and appreciate the lights shining within us. We learn how to listen and trust spiritual life living in us.

S0me of us see other people as lights shining in the darkness and try to follow their paths.

As we explore spiritual life we find ourselves becoming the people we have the potential to be. We give our permission for spiritual life to live in us and we discover our true selves.

The people around us see us as lights shining in the darkness as our true selves come to life. We grow into the people we can become and our lives shine like stars in the night sky.

Being lights shining in the darkness does not require extra effort or discipline from us.

We are lights shining in the darkness.

Living as Lights Shining in Darkness

We do not earn the opportunity to shine in the darkness. Shining is not about achieving a certain level or gaining enough points. We live as lights shining in darkness because that is who we are.

Growing into our true selves takes us a lifetime. We may begin as a tiny spark of glimmering light and grow into something brighter. Some of us will flare up quickly while others of us will burn slowly and steadily.

Each of us has our own life to live, our own true self to become. Some of us might wish we were more like someone else, but no amount of work will change who we are.

Part of living as lights shining in darkness is realizing and appreciating who we are. The more we live into our true selves the more we honor the true selves all around us.

Some times will feel brighter than others, as if darkness were receding.

We live as lights shining in the darkness and it is darkness which allows us to shine.

Where will we find lights shining in the darkness today?

How will we live as lights shining in the darkness this week?

[Image by James Jordan]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney 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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