Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sweet Darkness

On Thanksgiving my beloved friend, who is battling cancer and was recovering from chemo, chose a poem for me from a wonderful collection of poetry. It felt like an oracle to me:

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness

to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

~ David Whyte ~
(House of Belonging)

A few days later I attended a yoga class and the teacher read us part of a chant from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad while we were in savasana (corpse pose):

yastamasi tisthann tamaso'ntrah yam tamo na veda yasya tamas sariram yastamo'ntaro yamayati esa ta atma-ntaryamy-amrtah

That which exists in darkness, and pervades it throughout, that which darkness does not know, whose bodily manifestations the darkness is, which controls the darkness from within, That is your Self, the Inner-controller, the Immortal One.

This upanishad is a preparation for death. Death is inevitable for each of us. Reciting this mantra is a tool for approaching death more consciously. Death is as much of reality as is birth. But this culture denies and represses darkness and death. And yet these are integral states to the cycle of existence. What happens to the soul when it leaves this physical body? Where do we go? Reciting this mantra expands our consciousness and helps us remain aware of our Self
during our transition.

I am thinking a lot about death these days. In part because it is the season of dying and one finds many religious holidays honoring of the death aspect of the cycle. And also because of my dear friend who is fighting for her life. It is no mere coincidence that I am being given such mantras to help midwife my friend's journey-- and my own. In the very least they are soothing. Pillars within our faith that keep us centered and grounded, open and free.

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