In the past month, I have had “light bulbs” on my shopping list for four consecutive visits into town. And do you think I have come home with a single light bulb? Not a chance. This is so utterly confounding to me for the simple fact that I am meticulous with my shopping lists. I write everything I need down, and then rewrite the whole list into separate categories and then when I shop, I have my pen in hand to tick off and cross out each item as I gather it. Its the same way I complete Word Search puzzles. That way, its easy to see what is still missing and also provides me with a sense of accomplishment when I tick off my whole list.
For those four visits however, I somehow missed “light bulbs” on my list, even though the word was glaring off the list at me when I returned home and realised I was still in the dark. So then I wrote “BULB” on my hand… and believe it or not, I missed that too. Three additional times. So, it was now seven consecutive visits to town that I have come home bulbless and the last time, it went from being funny to being just plain annoying and I found myself exasperatedly asking “What are you trying to tell me!??!” And, as always happens when I ask a question to the heavens, I got my answer.
I was driving Grace (my 3-yr-old) home from Sydney last week and she kept playing with the light inside the car. And you know how its really hard to see a pitch black road when you have the interior car light on? I would reach back and turn it off and she would giggle, and turn it back on again. I would reach back and turn it off, and she would turn it on. And so and so forth as is what happens with toddlers at play. Finally, I pulled over on the side of the road, turned to her, and quietly but firmly said, “Grace, I can’t see with the light on”.
I can’t see with the light on.
I laughed out loud. I knew that was my answer but I didn’t know exactly what it meant (although I had some idea). This morning, I have found further translation but first lets pause this for a moment as I tell you a brief back-story to put this all in context.
For years, I have struggled with a sense of purpose and now, more than anything else, I just want to be of service. I want to serve life itself and to contribute in whatever way I am guided to do so. I want so very much to make a difference in this world, to not have lived in vain. The question that relentlessly and furiously plagues me is HOW? HOW DO I DO THIS? How can I make a difference when I feel so ill-equipped and under-skilled and ultimately… unworthy. I have sat on a rock in Bouddhi National Park that overlooks the beach and the ocean and asked this question to God over and over again. I have looked for signs in the trees and taken the whisper of leaves as a confirmation that someone, somewhere, is listening. I just don’t speak their language yet so I haven’t understood the answer.
Last week, I spent the weekend in a course called “Life Quality and Design” that was essentially about us defining our values, vision and purpose while illuminating what might be holding us back. During that course, the teacher, Donna Manning (one of the most soulful people I have ever met), posed the question to us about balancing our own individual purpose with the world at large. In other words, how can we talk about our own life purpose without taking into consideration what is happening to the world around us. Our planet is dying. Are we going to turn a blind eye and pretend we live in a silo?
This week, I started reading a book called ‘The Hope – A Guide to Sacred Activism’ by Andrew Harvey. The book is described as “not only a guide to discovering your divine purpose but also the blueprint for a better world”. In it, Harvey references the bible quite a bit. While I have read the Bible, I have largely dismissed it as a series of stories but this morning, in Harvey’s context, I see a different offering. He refers to a revelation given to us by Jesus in the Gospel of St Thomas (a chapter I seem to have forgotten):
“The seeker should not stop until he finds. When he does find, he will be disturbed. After having been disturbed, he will be astonished. The he will reign over everything”.
Harvey’s translation here is that “the path of transcendence – through which the transcendent powers of love and wisdom are embodied in the core of human life – is at once the most difficult of all, because it involves a grueling and dangerous descent into the personal and collective shadow, and the most empowering, because if it is taken far and deep, it births a new kind of human being: one whose mind is illumined by gnosis, whose heart is aflame with a sacred passion of compassion, and whose body becomes, over time, the conscious receptacle of divine energy”.
By the way, in case you are wondering about the word “gnosis”, as I was, it means “an intuitive knowledge of spiritual truths”.
So this is it. For those of us who want to take the journey to truly serve humanity, we must do so by descending deep into our own shadow, our own darkness, and to reclaim the parts of ourselves that we have disowned or disassociated from, but that are reflected back to us in the world at large. The plight of our planet is our own individual suffering as well. There can be no separation. And no light until we see ourselves, and own that, in the collective darkness. And yet, the light is there for us – as Harvey says, “if we make a conscious connection with the Divine Light and its grace, we will not only help preserve ourselves and nature, but also transform into spiritually conscious, humble co-creators of a just and peaceful world
Whew… that’s a lot of wisdom from a forgotten lightbulb. The teachings, you see, are everywhere. I delight to think of what’s coming next! In the meantime, I have been reminded of the importance of ceasing to look for meaning in form and content and of seeking external validation to confirm my purpose. Instead, I am reminded to go within – to close my eyes and drop into the ‘darkness’, the stillness, of my heart, where the whole universe awaits, the light and dark.
And finally, guess what? As I was driving home last night, I stopped at the store and bought my light bulbs.