The season of darkness is here: can you feel it? Pitch black mornings, early bedtimes, sleepy bodies and the invitation to be still and rest.
The paradigm of darkness is a part of the Universal rhythms that humans have witnessed since the beginning of time.
Looking out to the ether year after year they saw that there was a phenomenon happening:
Things would get
and then some miraculous force would bring the Earth back to life again.
And around and around it would go, year after year, season after season.
Surely humans had learned, with time and experience, that they could have faith in this pattern: that every year would be like this and that they could trust in this miraculous unfolding no matter what.
But you can imagine that in the times of darkness, disease, death, and food shortage, humans would need stories and traditions to support them: to hold them up, to remind them that the darkness was only one part of the human experience and that this part would not last forever.
That’s why the season of darkness and Light is discussed in nearly every spiritual tradition all over the world, reminding us that while darkness is inevitable it is never the end of the story: that the Light never leaves us and always continues to expand itself without our doing.
As a Christian by background, my mind always wanders to the Jesus story (which I actually think is the Mary story) this time of year.
Can you imagine getting told by an angel that a miraculous birth would happen through you, in a dark time and a dark world amidst dark people who would not truly understand it?
Unmarried, unsure, alone, and probably wondering if she was borderline insane, Mary’s faith in the angelic guidance she received allowed her to continue to follow the still small voice, through the most extreme of circumstances.
And let’s think for a moment about the RIDICULOUS devotion it must have taken for Joseph to believe her, to trust what she *heard*, to stand by her side and walk with her through the darkness, keeping his eyes on the Light for both of them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about faith lately as, truthfully, mine has suffered in the last several years.
I’ve wondered: is it callous and unfeeling to have faith in a greater good amidst racial injustice, sex scandals, climate change, political division, and so much fear?
Maybe faith is for the birds?
Is faith an essential ingredient in my embodied human experience?
Is it necessary to keep my mind focused on the inherent intelligence of the Universe,
the essential goodness of humanity (beneath fear-based behaviors),
and our God-given ability to keep learning, adapting and growing as a people amidst adversity?
Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzberg, says faith does not have to be based in dogma or a difficult-to-understand deity, but that true faith can be found in our lived experience of witnessing darkness turn to light, difficulties somehow making *sense* in the long run.
Jesus attests to this saying time and time and time again that those who experienced his healing had done so because “their faith had saved them.”
Not his power.
Not the angels.
Not some magic herbal remedy.
Their faith had saved them.
Now let me me clear: FAITH is not spiritual bypass, ignoring the challenges and pretending they will just fix themselves.
Rather, it's BEING in them knowing that we have within us the power to move through and grow from whatever we are experiencing.
The yoga tradition teaches that the only three things we have control over in this universe are our thoughts, our actions and our words.
That while we cannot control what’s going on “out there” we can work to attend to what’s going on “in here” (which is why we practice) and that practicing love, peace, joy, and an inner experience of faith is how it is made manifest in the world.
They also say that this cannot be done alone (trust me, I’ve tried to keep my eyes on the Light by myself and damn it’s hard and kinda boring).
They say that we need a sangha (or a group) to hold us and remind us of the Light when we have difficulty finding it for ourselves: that collective healing energy is part of God’s Divine Design for humanity.
That’s what church, at its essence, is: a co-creative web of Grace that holds us in the ups and the downs of the human experience
If you need a place to go to find the Light and strengthen your faith in it this Holiday Season, Women’s Church is here for you.
Learn more at erinalexander.org.
With great respect and love, Erin
Yoga Teacher and Student, Speaker, Writer, Mother, Wife, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Human