All across the country there is an opportunity to pause together, and be united by watching the solar eclipse on August 21. The scientists have named the trail where the complete eclipse can be seen–spanning from Oregon to South Carolina– the path of totality.
We are sustained by the bigger picture, by a source that is invisible to us. When this presence becomes felt in any way, our reaching is touched by what is timeless. Looking upward, seeing the vastness of sky, takes us out of our small world and into the unknown. Seeing a shooting star flame across the vast desert sky puts my achievements, and my losses in perspective.
In the case of the coming eclipse, being on the path of totality refers to being able to observe the full event, to be enveloped in darkness in the middle of the day. We get to witness a profound image of the dark being circled by light: the corona appears as a golden halo around the black sun. What an image of wonder this evokes– and the inevitable force of the necessity of both the darkness and the light.
When I bring this idea of path of totality into a way of operating, I see that nothing is excluded from guiding you along your path– the small rejections felt in a day, and the bigger losses, are material for your work, for an opening. The perennial cycle of dark and light changing places is reflected in your everyday rises and falls, fears and hopes, losses and gains. Darkness follows light, and light follows darkness.
In contrast to these big events, sometimes the smallest thing can spin us into shadow. For me, even this blog can be an occasion of eclipse. I confess that the very first thing that happens without fail, each time I post A Silver Fraction–just as I am feeling the exuberance of having completed my writing– is that within seconds, someone unsubscribes. Each time, reflexively I wonder, what did I say? Of course, it rarely has anything to do with what I said. I remind myself to be grateful for the things that humble me– and that any diminishment of my sense of self is also an opportunity for amplitude, for diving deeper into what I am here for. But still, initially, a feeling of being undermined can come with even the smallest rejection. Do not be discouraged by rejection.
So how do you transform rejection, regret, argument, disappointment, dissatisfaction, malaise into a greater awareness? Into an ally for your work?
One possibility for transforming suffering is by not refusing or indulging it. Invite an image for your grief. Act as if it will come, and allow it to take hold of you. The image can come from a dream, or something that suddenly captures your attention. In the total eclipse there is an image of movement from blackness into light. In the few seconds just before and after the total darkness, a single point of sunlight brilliantly shines– a diamond ring appears from a valley on the moon's rim.
With image, the promise of change begins. Just as there are no images in total darkness or despair, we are brought back to the light by invoking an image. As makers we have tools to do this. Sometimes I can find an image by writing to it, by asking questions of my grief, as if it too, belongs to my wholeness. At other times I find an image by putting a paint brush in my hand, and seeing what happens. And what if I close my eyes, or put my brush in the other hand?
My dream voice last night directed: Enter more fully and experiment.
It is a great freedom to decide to make use of what you have been given, instead of wishing for something else. All creation, spontaneity and improvisation require two things: accepting and embracing the structure or limitation you have been given, and feeling the freedom and safety of a child ready to play. But this takes time and practice, and a willingness to be in the dark.
What are your stories of rejection, loss and retrieval? I'd love to hear from you.
PS: For those of you who may not know, the name of this blog, a silver fraction, comes from the lyrical phrase over plus of the moon, and refers to the time difference between the solar and lunar cycles. Leap Year is our way of adjusting for this discrepancy. The phrase came from Robin Heath's precious small book: Sun, Moon & Earth.
PSS: To be a teacher is to have the privilege of learning from students– this week the book I am reading, sent to me by a student, is The Light Inside the Dark by John Tarrant.