I was 7 when I forever lost my fear of the dark. I was caught unawares while playing at a friend’s house after the sun went down, and had to walk home in the dark. The street was lined with huge, gnarled Horse-Chestnut trees that, in the dark, fueled my fears of monsters hiding in their branches and lurking behind their trunks. About half-way home I felt so much anger at my unreasoned fear that I just stopped in my tracks and swore not to move again until either my fear left or I was devoured by my imagination!
I probably stood there for 10 minutes, most of that time frozen by fear, before I started to relax a bit and look around at the trees and their branches. As I didn’t see any immediate danger lurking, I began to feel easier and look around. Finally, I lifted my eyes to the tops of the trees and was immediately transfixed with the beauty of the intricate pattern of the tree’s branches against the fading light of the night sky. I stood, breathless with wonder, and felt the rest of my fear simply melt away.
From that moment, I began to see the night, and the world at night, with new eyes; I saw it for the first time. Perhaps it was the newness, but everything looked different at night; it took on an almost magical quality—a feeling I still have today.
It was probably a decade later that I came to see that the bigger problem facing humanity was not the darkness caused by the lack of physical light, but the darkness in the human heart caused by the lack of spiritual light and understanding. It is that spiritual darkness that hides life’s demons and that creates so much pain and suffering in the world. And it has been my mission to, within my own heart and that of other people, find the beauty in that which once caused them fear or discomfort.
Lately I have been working with an analogy that clarifies that work and that you might find helpful. I call it “the dark labyrinth”. I hope you are familiar with the image of a labyrinth. What distinguishes it from a maze is that there are no false trails in a labyrinth, there is only one path and it leads to the center. At times the path seems to move directly towards the center only to turn and move equidistant from it for a time and then turning, again, to move directly away before finally taking you to the center.
In this analogy, I invite you to consider that you are somewhere along the path of your own particular labyrinth. The twist here is that the entire labyrinth before you is shrouded in darkness! While you have become familiar with where you stand now, you are unclear of the next step as it remains cloaked in darkness. However, you feel an impulsion to move, so from the familiar where you stand, you tentatively stretch out your foot to the next step. Gingerly, you put your foot down, feeling to see if it is safe to commit your weight to it and to move into this new place.
As you take each new step, you explore it. Does it feel safe? What experiences are available here, what are the possibilities. And, as become more familiar with the path, you understand yourself and your way more clearly, you feel more stable, and you ”see” better. In other words, every bit of knowledge and understanding you achieve illumines not only the current step but sheds some light into the next step as well, giving you more confidence to continue to move forward.
Gradually you understand that it is your knowingness that sheds the light. It is the light! So, as you journey, you discover more light to illumine your journey making future steps easier. And, in time you “see” the center at the end of your path but begin to understand that the center of your labyrinth is merely your current destination.
The truth is that it is the light that you seek, the light of your knowing, of your awareness. The light that reveals your journey eventually shows you that while the journey is important, it is the light itself that lifts you from the pathways through time and place into the spiritual realization of a vast Oneness that is our true home, the true heart of your very Being-ness. Then you realize that your true freedom lies not in some future place or time but in the light of your Being-ness itself that permeates all places and times, and is the heart of all experiencing.