Bearing Witness: The Power of AttentionMay 3, 2019
Here we find ourselves just on the other side of the longest day of the year, which gave me reason to pause and reflect on light and what it means for us here as the creatures that we are on this endless journey around the Sun.
…as we cultivate our own light, we create little pockets of clarity in the world that others may occasionally wander into as well.
Life pulses back and forth between moments of clarity and confusion, lightness and darkness, richness and dullness. When we find ourselves reacting (habitually and unconsciously) rather than responding (consciously and intentionally) to the circumstances of life, we are working in the dark. This can be a challenging and upsetting place to inhabit. We can’t see what we are working with, where we are trying to go, which direction we came from, and what is coming at us. It is like trying to fight a ghost in the dark – where does one ever begin? If this is all that one has ever known, then one may just shrug it off as one of life’s necessary evils and leave it at that.
But, occasionally through luck and happenstance, and other times through discipline and training, one gets a flash of insight, and things suddenly become more clear and some aspect of experience is illuminated in a profound way. A bolt of lightning temporarily reveals the richness that was previously hidden from view.
As practitioners, we have chosen to consciously invest our time and energy in cultivating a deeper and more refined awareness, in order that the light illuminating our own lives may grow. At first, there is only minimal illumination, we can only see dim outlines of what is around, and just barely start to get a sense of our surroundings, our bearings in life. But gradually, as we continue to cultivate our awareness, this light starts to grow and become brighter and brighter. One candle illuminates the dormant candle sitting beside it waiting to be illuminated, and so the chain continues until eventually the previously dusty corners of one’s life blossom into abundant and diverse gardens now nourished by this light of inner awareness.
This inner light of awareness can even be channeled or harnessed in particular ways, with practice, like we do with electricity. Like a flashlight, we can point it with high concentration at a particular corner of our lives in order to see it in greater depth and detail: the ways we eat, walk, talk, think, and love on a daily basis. But, we can also use it to cast a wide net of illumination, like a flood light, in order to see that deep network of interconnection which structures all aspects of our being. This allows us to see things in a more big-picture, less personal way: the broad interconnections that are beyond our control, yet affect us deeply nonetheless, the myriad of conditions that led to the present moment, and how our choice in this moment will continue to ripple forwards into the future indefinitely.
Of course, occasionally storms will blow through our lives, and some of these candles will go out, areas will become darkened once again. So we need to keep practicing, keep lighting our candles, and illuminating the corners of ourselves that have become obscured or obstructed through habit and bias. The most beautiful feature of all this is that as we cultivate our own light, we create little pockets of clarity in the world that others may occasionally wander into as well. This may not be something they are consciously aware of at the time or can even articulate, but even if only temporarily, they will feel the difference and feel that inner light. We can only know what we are shown, and it is by first experiencing light that we can even recognize that we are working in the dark. And as we share our light and help others in our community to blossom, we also help sustain the pockets of light floating around in the world that we may need to rely on when our own inner light gets weakened or dimmed from the challenges of life, and we need the supportive light of others to help find a way back to our own true selves.
I invite you all to go forward and look for those opportunities to bring a bit more light, sensitivity and care into the corners of your own inner world, and in turn to the wider world as well.
Om shanti om! Peace and love to all!