The Journey In and Down

the front garden of my home – spring 2024

I truly love spring.  There is always an element of surprise.  I can’t quite remember where the hosta bloomed in the side garden last season.  I can’t quite remember where the lush ferns sparkled with rain mist last summer. Many perennials simply disappear into winter darkness and there is only soil I can see for months at a time.

One fine day each April, as I go to inspect the earth for signs of life, I see a little something poking through.   I can’t tell you how excited I become.  Every day there after I want to run outside and observe the process of emergence.  Ferns are most interesting in that they look like dark curled up fingers as they slowly emerge.  Kind of blobby like.  Nothing too appealing as they stretch their bodies out into the mist of BC rain.  But then, one day … there is a big stretch and a gorgeous bright green illuminates from within the blob form and the emergence of a fern is suddenly alive with becoming.

As I entered a contemplative journey many years ago, I felt a little like a fern – emerging slowly out of darkness, uncoiling after a long winter of hiddenness, and opening into an expansive spring of becoming.  I have recognized that this can be a seasonal way of being – there are times of entering the winter months of darkness and allowing another formation to take place.  However, the journey ‘in and down’ into the dark soil isn’t one we champion much in our culture.  We celebrate being seen and how many accomplishments we have made and can tend to find our value in the outer manifestations of life.

However, the place of lasting joy, abundant love, and endless creativity seem to not come from an external source, but from tapping into the wealth of riches within.

“Darkness in the roots is about the journey in and down, to the places where there are often no words or ways to explain. Being hidden is not a value in our society. We want recognition and acknowledgment. However, when we surrender to a hiddenness with our roots, we find the greatest recognition and acknowledgement of our lives. Our souls come home to the source of all: Love. It is a paradoxical journey, the one in and down. But what are hearts are truly longing for will be found in the richness of the deep earth, the wellspring of love.

Transformation through darkness often leads to expansion. Our culture sees expansion as something to attain or possess. However, inner expansion comes from an opposite energy –  losing form, allowing, surrendering, and yielding to a process. Expansion that emerges from this process carries a vitality, beauty, truth, and a reality that can be only known as… resurrection. One may understand the phrase, “I was dead, but now I live”,in an inner way, a way of the soul.”   from the book, Walk with Me, Transformation through the Pathway of Spiritual Direction

Today I came across these words again from the text I wrote for spiritual direction in 2020.  I reflected on the moments of deep healing and transformation that have occurred in my life and how they have emerged through a process of hiddenness, waiting in darkness, and surrendering to a path I didn’t understand.  There has been a sense of surprise in my own heart as new life has emerged, with the same kind of surprise I feel each April, as I behold the wonder of new life emerging in my garden.  Good things come out of darkness, out of waiting, out of seasons of what may seem like nothing is happening at all.

Our lives may feel a little blobby at times, mounds of dirt with not much appeal.  But if we pull some weeds, prepare the soil, and quietly wait, we may well be surprised at the beauty that emerges around the corner.

“the Greek work ‘entelechy’ describes the intelligence that lies in each cell of this soup (the soup that a caterpillar turns into while in chrysalis form).  Every cell carries the entelechy of a butterly.  The knowledge of its becoming is vibrantly waiting in the cells, even though completely without form.  There is so much metaphor that one can explore with the journey of a butterfly.  Out of her journey into mush, she resurrects into a new life form.  When she first emerges there is a fragility and tenderness to her.   She needs to be very still and allow the sun to soak into her wings before she can take that first flight.  Her new life becomes one of migration, of journey, of new beginnings.”

I become very curious about our entelechy.  Who are we if we allow the process of becoming?  Who are we if we allow times of becoming caterpillar soup and not know who we are anymore?  What if times of dissolution are a gift and an invitation into a new reality?  What if falling apart was a gateway into a resurrection?

My dear friend and mentor of many years, Doreen Kostynuik, recently spoke to the School of Spiritual Direction and was powerful in her message to us, “You were born for this time.”  We are living in times that are confusing and many have anxiety and stress wherever they look in their lives.  We can become people who are coping and surviving, trying to figure out how to make it.  What I hear in Doreen’s words, that echo the message of many mystics and saints, is that we are called to listen very deeply to something beyond the chaos of our times.  We are to listen to our entelechy, to the song living in us that is meant to be sung.

We will not hear that song in the chaos of the news, but we will find it as we become still under the ground, in the depths of the quiet and gentle earth that reminds us of who we are and who we are meant to be.  Jesus was one who brought this soul song into his day and his time – a message that was profound and rich and life-changing.  He chose to align with this song and live from its melody even though so misunderstood by the establishment of the time.

If I listen to the song I hear from how Jesus loved, if I listen to the song of the ferns, if I listen to the whisper of the wind, I awaken to a song I want to follow, to a scent that leads me forward, to a path that calls me to trust, even when I don’t understand.  I believe this song is to love deeply and generously, and to allow this great Love to flow through our lives in all we do and are.  I want to live with hope, with a vision for the possible, with a song to sing of what is beautiful, noble and good.  May we be a people of blessing and hope.

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