**This is a blog I wrote around Easter and didn’t publish because it didn’t feel polished enough. I’m publishing anyway, because perfectionism is the enemy of progress.**
It is Easter and it has not failed to dawn on me the parallels between the story of Christ’s resurrection and the myriad stories of death and renewal that appear in fictional and mystical texts the world over that have to do maintaining faith when we have all but given up. Three days and three nights in the tomb, three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; David Whyte enumerates these examples and others in his powerful recorded talk, The Poetry of Self Compassion in which he reads from incredibly brave and life-affirming poets like Mary Oliver to illustrate the struggle we have with the fading aspects of ourselves. He argues that the part of us that feels like it’s dying is not only normal, it’s necessary for growth and maturation and has its own power, just as the moon’s fading is part of its great allure and mystery.
And yet we don’t trust these natural rhythms in ourselves. We can’t imagine in this time of needing to be constantly validated through social media that an introspective moment or period in our lives might actually serve our souls – that in the slowing down and turning inward there is a kind of gestation that occurs that allows us to evolve; Cocooning or turning inwards can be part of a recalibration process that allows us to emerge as a truer more integrated version of ourselves.
While it sounds self-indulgent, this important respect for the down times can be seen as a kind of tuning in to the ebbs and flows of life that allow us to find true resilience and happiness long-term. In slowing down and learning to listen to and tend to our own hearts, bodies and minds, not only does our sensitivity and understanding towards our own psyches increase, we become more compassionate with other people’s processes as well. I think real spiritual maturity begins when we can appreciate the valleys of our lives because the greatest source of our growth and awakening is there. While it doesn’t look as powerful or exciting from the outside, these dark or quiet places are often the beginning of profound transformation.
It all seems to come back to trusting the process.
I was wearing one of my favourite shirts that illustrates the various phases of the moon at a yoga studio the other day and someone noted how pretty it was. I said, “I love this shirt because it reminds me to appreciate all stages of the moon and all aspects of myself.” Just when I think I’m dying, that the light inside feels dim and will not return, sooner or later, that vanishing leads to a renewal. Someone else said, “And sometimes what is not OK is the moon shining brightly.” “Yes,” I said, “if it’s not OK when the moon is at a sliver we can equally take issue with the fullness of the moon. From critical mind, nothing is ever enough.”
Shifting the lens through which we see ourselves and everything around us allows us to acknowledge the miraculous and transient nature of everything. Things are coming and going constantly and we can’t stop that. No amount of exercise or will power will change the fact that sometimes the sun won’t come out, relationships will end, things and people will die. At these times we will experience great pain and a feeling of being lost in the wilderness and that has its own information and wisdom to share with us, if we are humble enough to open to it. It doesn’t mean that we are bad or that something is wrong.
A flower blossoms and that is beautiful, but that is just one part of its journey. I wonder what it would be like to be curious about and truly appreciate the valleys, the shadows, the mystery as opposed to always striving for the mountain top. It is something I am endeavouring to lean into every day- not shaming myself for any part of the ‘cycle,’ so to speak. I am endeavouring to embrace the messier aspects of my growth, not as a sign of my unworthiness, but as proof of a life richly lived- of a deepening wisdom that wants to take root, that wants to let something die in order for something more authentic to truly live.
Instead of pushing away or grasping, I can witness this great river of change within me and all around me with a sense of wonder and gratitude. There is no end – though some things feel final. Every breath is a chance to start again. Life and death are just two sides of the same coin.