Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How The Light Returns

A single candle surrounded by darkness made deeper by the point of light; a circle of faces lit by the amber glow of a fire in a circle of stones in a clearing outside or in a dark cave, or a longhouse; someone walking alone through a bleak winter forest, seeing up ahead a small cabin lit from within- welcoming, waiting, promising warmth. How do you imagine it when someone talks about the promise of the returning light in this time of the longest darkness?

If we live long enough we will experience times of personal darkness. I'm not thinking here of the fertile darkness of deep rest and dreaming. I love the renewal and creative stirring of those periods. But I am thinking now of times when the way is lost and the heart is too weary to hope.

I am contemplating the ways in which light returns.

Sometimes it is gradual. Here in the northern hemisphere we will experience the longest night this coming Saturday the 21st and the next day- the very next day- dawn comes a bit earlier and dusk arrives an indiscernible moment later than it did the day before.

That's what coming up out of personal darkness is sometimes like: gradual, slow, an imperceptible movement back toward the fullness of life after we have experienced some kind of loss that has plunged us into what we fear is an eternal darkness. Food begins to have taste once more, and something unexpectedly makes us smile- if only for a moment- after weeks or months bereft of flavour or laughter.

In 2008 I had been predominantly housebound, often bed-bound, for more than two years with the chronic illness I'd mostly managed since I was thirty. The downward spiral had been slow but steady and showed no signs of stopping. And then, one morning alone in the country home I shared with my husband, I awoke from a night of terrifying dreaming to the sound of the Grandmothers speaking to me. The words followed me across the threshold from sleep and echoed in the room: GET OUT OF HERE NOW, ORIAH!

Sometimes, instead of a gradual return, the light comes back all at once- like the blaze of a match struck in the darkness- saying: "Live!" in a way we may not fully comprehend even as our vision is seared by the flame of awakening.

The Grandmothers of my dreams are rarely so explicitly directive.The urgency in their voices made me move that morning, even though I did not understand fully what they were telling me. I drove into Toronto and, although I returned home that night, changes began to unfold which gradually resulted in a move to the city alone a year later and, even more incrementally, the restoration of my daily energy and health.

Often for human beings the returning of the light after a long and difficult darkness happens in a strange mix of both the sudden flare of a call to action and a gradual integration of the growing light into our bones and our lives. Eventually, I realized that the Grandmothers directive had pointed to changes that were more all-encompassing than an excursion into the city or even a change in my residence. They had been urging me to remove myself from a situation where I was losing track of myself and my connection to Life and Spirit.

Light returns, because it is the nature of Life- of what we are- to cycle through periods of darkness and light. And the gifts of the darkness, those things we bring back from difficult times that allow us to live life more fully in an open-hearted way, are easier to retrieve if we can remember that the light will return. And when that seems like no more than a nice but unlikely idea, it helps to be with others who hold this knowing faithfully in that moment.

Even now, as we explore the longest night and reach for the promise of the return of the light here in the northern hemisphere, our sisters and brothers in the southern half of this planet are celebrating the time of the longest light and the fullness it brings.

And the Wheel turns, and Life continues, and the Sacred Wholeness holds us all.

Oriah House (c) 2013


  1. Oriah! I so very much understand this sudden flush of realization. I realized early this month that I had to draw in closer to finding myself, though I'm sure I know myself perfectly well, but away from the flow of Facebook, and it is very hard for me to do. I kind of think that I'm in for that year of picking off the pieces of "doesn't work towards anything at all" and find the gifts (like you!). The things I want most to do seem to be like certain sleeping pills for me now, and the struggle to avoid the sweet dream of avoidance is amazingly difficult!!!! I feel like it may be the first truly conscious thing I've done in several years, since surgeries and remarrying before that. It feels urgent and sleepy at the same time. Is this the incremental part?

    1. Oh Vivi, I know the urgent and sleepy side by side. I think it's less the incremental part than the inner-battle part. :-) Doing what you have done- stepping back from FB etc. is the flash of light- and now, each day the other part, incrementally moving toward what you want, following the creative energy and where it wants to go (NOT to be confused with the I-want-to-go-back-to-sleep part) manifests the fullness of the light one tiny photon at a time. Not easy because it requires both active commitment and deep patience at the same time.

  2. Dear Oriah,

    Thank you for bringing your light to brighten my day and lift my spirit. Hope is always there.