Sacred Opening in a Time of Pain and Possibility

Photo by Charles Gibbs

The call of this moment
and of all moments
is to seek the light
and to face the darkness
within and without
with unflinching honesty
and unswerving devotion
to journey at least a little each day
 toward enlightenment –
living in love,
fearless, joyous and free –
in service
to this glorious and wounded world.

As the coronavirus flows invisibly over the face of the Earth transforming life as we have known it and creating seemingly endless opportunities for sorrow and grief, spring flows visibly over the Northern Hemisphere inviting us into the tenacious creativity and the extravagant beauty of life and creating seemingly endless opportunities for joy and gratitude.

Both invite the question — what is next? Both offer a sacred opening into the depth of life, if we choose to accept it. To listen deeply. To pay attention. To embrace the challenges, the unknowns, the possibilities. To search within and without for who we truly are, who we are called to become and how we are to manifest our truest and best selves in the world, individually and collectively.

In the ocean of unknowns that rages with crosscurrents of often conflicting information, the coronavirus is an agent of unimaginable disruption, carrying death, fear, loss, with the most vulnerable suffering the most and countless often anonymous heroes risking their lives to enhance the possibility of life for the rest.

Once-teeming cities seem empty. People shelter in place, if we’re fortunate enough to have a place of shelter. Once-thriving businesses are shuttered. People without jobs. Without food. Without healthcare. Struggling not to sink into ever deeper desperation. And, for some privileged few, an opportunity to experience life without the relentless demands of clock and calendar, of the endless rounds of activities; carrying some guilt that we aren’t doing more or are spared much of the pain that distorts the lives of so many.

All, no matter what our level of loss or depth of challenge, carry the perhaps unanswerable questions — When will it be safe to take more risks? To work again? To play again? To go to school again? To open to the physical presence of human community again? What might we return to? What might be lost forever? At what cost? And for whom? And what positive new might come into being?

These and other questions can carry more anxieties than answers. As well, they carry an invitation for us to have the courage to live open-heartedly in this space of painful unknowing, to risk abiding in the depth of grief and loss, ours and others, seeking to learn what this moment has to teach us, in the faith that it can be the seedbed for a better tomorrow.

One path to that learning is to see that these challenging times, as unsettled and unsettling as they are, provide a sacred opening for us to plumb the depths of fear and loss, to open ourselves to indiscriminate compassion and to glimpse the heights of new possibilities for a transforming tomorrow. A sacred opening — if we take time regularly to step out of the often raging river of bewildering uncertainty that marks these days, and instead rest in the deep stillness at the core of our being, a core that the world’s wisdom traditions have experienced and seek to express as being directly connected to and an embodiment of the creative core of the cosmos.

What might we discover in this space of unknowing if we open to the possibility that in all this loss and dislocation are sown the seeds of a transformed tomorrow that tends toward a more just, equitable, inclusive, balanced world? What if this current moment is the winter that precedes the flowering of a wildly creative spring in human society that might mirror what we see before us in this time, as the human community retreats and the natural world breathes a sigh of relief and bursts forth in spring. Air and water are cleaner. Lost habitat is reclaimed. The songs of birds are transporting. Distant vistas that have been obscured for decades by toxic air are suddenly revealed anew in all their beauty. And each new blossom bursts forth with breathtaking beauty and delicacy.

In these times, we are invited into stillness that is and leads to a sacred opening. In that deep stillness, the swirl of birth and death, of loss and gain, of fear and hope can be calmed and we can connect with a foundational knowing that reflects our deepest and truest selves, individually and collectively. That helps us cultivate the capacity to hold both fear and hope, death and life, gain and loss in a clear-eyed tension that invites us to participate both in what is passing away and what is coming into being. That invites us to grieve the dying and give ourselves unreservedly to the new being born.

I invite us all to be deliberate in taking time for this stillness. Time to touch into the tender buds deep within that are preparing to burst forth as the unique and breathtaking blossom of this new and unexpected time in our lives.

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