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Luminous Darkness, Seeing Wonder Instead of Seeing How We Feel

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Luminous Darkness, Seeing Wonder Instead of Seeing How We Feel

A picture of dark, dark clouds over a dark landscape with a bright splash of sunlight breaking above of the clouds.
I remember an experience I had with luminous darkness. I was about 14 years old, and my family was visiting my grandma in North Dakota. She lived on the outskirts of a small town on the Cannonball River. I loved to visit her because there were all kinds of adventures a kid could have around her place. Late one night, I was outside looking at the myriad of stars, the band of the Milky Way, and the Northern Lights. It was amazing to see the Northern Lights flow like a liquid, and then, when the river of charged particles reached the confluence of the sea of darkness, it faded into the black background. It was indeed luminous darkness!

I don’t know which of the Jewish or Christian Mystics first coined the term Luminous Darkness. It might have been St. Gregory of Nyssa in his writing about Moses: “Moses entered the darkness and then saw God in it.”  What I do know is that I find the term perfect for the transformation I’ve experienced in my life since I started practicing awareness, especially emotional awareness. Yes, this has become a spiritual journey for me, and no, I do not tie my trip to any specific religion.

Since publishing my first book, every month, people approach me looking for direction. They are usually in a crisis – midlife or otherwise – and they want answers. I listen to every person I’m fortunate enough to meet. They talk about all the pain and suffering they are going through. Yet, they rarely talk about how they are feeling. I listen for a long time, and then usually, they ask me to chime in with some word of wisdom. They seem to hope my observations will take away all their pain and make it all better. It appears to me that they want a magic pill.

Instead, I tell them the simple truths I have discovered. “God or the Universe is calling you to get to know …you!” If the person is spiritual, I add, “And, by getting to know you, you will be able to get to know God so much better!” They usually offer me empty looks at this point. Their eyes reflect total disbelief that they just droned on about how miserable they are to some idiot who can’t even make a sensible sentence. In a way, I agree with them. The path of crisis makes no sense (see Contradiction), …and yet, in my own experience, it describes my observations every day I’m on this path.

I have noticed these things

So far, I’ve gone through five years of my midlife transformation. This life reframing has consisted of terrible emotional suffering and personal and financial crisis in the first two years and then three additional years of growth.  Through it all, I have found that the adage is true: ‘The more I know, the more I don’t know.’ I would add to that, the more I know myself, the less I know. The spiritual path appears to be a continual journey of self-discovery. It is a path into luminous darkness. I am walking toward something of which I know nothing about, and yet I feel I am moving in the right direction.

One thing I have found is that all things work together for the good of everyone involved, somehow. Especially, as this is my own story, I’m talking about here, my life’s situations. I don’t necessarily like how things work out at first. I frequently don’t. However, after some time has passed, I always find that the whole situation resolved itself very nicely.

Luminous Darkness and Liminal Space and a Couple of Stories

Last Tuesday, I wrote about Liminal Space and the midlife transformation I’m in. I wrote about learning in this time of fog and confusion. One of the things I have learned is how things keep working out, whether I have faith they will or not. Faith is a painful lesson for me to learn. My human desire to have a sense of approval, a sense of security, and a sense of control always interfere with me having faith. Because faith is what these three built-in human desires don’t want to have to deal with, they want certainty.

There are a couple of very profound stories in the Jewish and Christian Bible about the specific challenge of faith in the human condition.

There is a story about a rich man named Abraham. Abe was also pretty old, along with being wealthy, and he could see the death taxes on the horizon. He knew that if he died without an heir, the government would take a little over 100% of his money in taxes (death and taxes are the only certainties in life). He felt rather frustrated about this and told his wife, Sarah, they needed to have a baby so his tax bill would be lower in death. (Alright, I understand this isn’t an exact retelling, but I’m making a pretty educated guess. When has the government not taken taxes?) A while later, Isaac was born, and Abraham breathed a sigh of relief.

When Isaac was a teen, God decided to teach Abe about faith and how if we trust, it all works out for good …eventually. According to the story, God instructed Abraham to give Isaac as a sacrifice to show Abraham’s dedication to God. Abe built the altar, tied up Isaac, laid him down on the stones, and raised his knife. At that moment, God stopped Abe (I’m sure Abe again breathed a massive sigh of relief). God rewarded Abe by making him the spiritual father of the middle eastern people and three major religions. Not a bad reward. I also bet it wasn’t Abe’s first choice for a prize.

In another story, the Hebrews were wandering around the Sinai desert after leaving Egypt. The hunting wasn’t very good, the water was scarce, and the restaurants were few and far between – not to mention the café’s had a hard time when hordes of hungry people descended on them in droves. All in all, it was a very uncomfortable time for the Hebrews. Yet, even in their discomfort, God made sure they had food and water. God provided food and drink precisely when they needed it. Not hours or days before, instead just in time. It takes faith to accept that one is going to be okay when it doesn’t feel like everything is okay.

These stories of faith are the luminous darkness of which I’m talking.

We want certainty

We, as humans, have no certainty besides taxes and probably death. Yet, we always strive to feel a sense of certainty. I am sure God or the Universe looks at us, laughing in wonder that we never learn. See the birds of the air, they eat today and don’t worry where tomorrow’s meal comes from, a wise man once said.

As I traverse this path of learning about my own human needs to feel certainty, I have learned that after practicing it, faith requires considerably less effort than worry. Of course, that is after I realized I had wasted all the effort I put into worrying. Worry doesn’t add one hour of joy to my day or one day to my life. And still, if I forget to be aware of my emotional programs to grasp at certainty, I do it. It’s a habit.

On that night in North Dakota, I could see the results of unseen particles skimming off the atmosphere. In the darkness of crisis, worry and fear, I believe I can see the invisible hand of the Universe guiding the variables. In both cases, though, I had to allow myself to “just be” in the dark, to see the Light. Worrying about the dark, didn’t help. Porch lights to ward off the dark and make me feel better would have rendered the hand of God invisible.  It’s an important lesson to remember.

In Conclusion

Miracles happen to us all the time. Usually, it is when we allow ourselves to be in the dark and the crisis that we can see them. Instead of fighting to relieve the pressure of the emotion and trying to feel better, we can see God when we stop giving our feelings about the dark power over us. God shines in our darkest times. It’s luminous darkness!

A crisis is God calling us to meet ourselves, and by meeting ourselves, we are much better able to meet God. Practicing emotional awareness allows us to see that our emotions get in our way.  Then we can practice letting go of the feelings so we can watch God or the Universe work its wonder.
If you are feeling a Luminous Darkness and you aren't sure how to work with it, please contact me here, and I can offer you some signposts to make your journey easier.

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Posted May 19, 2014
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©2022 Broadlands Media, Inc
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