Gathering my courage, I take
off my shoes and step into the dark entranceway of the temple. I
hold onto a railing made of large round beads that immediately reminds
me of my mala. I take the first steps down the gradual slope. There
are people in front and behind me. I hear their soft steps and their
breath but in the darkness I can?t see anything. The way is
longer than I thought and the darkness is deep.
Finally, I turn a corner and see a soft light shining on a huge
round stone with an OM sign carved on its centre. It is breathtaking
and amazing! The stone is smooth from the many thousands of hands
that have touched it for a blessing. I rub the stone too and walk
around it, then continue up to an exit, holding onto the mala railing.
Up and up with each step it gets lighter.
I step out into the streets of Kyoto. This is my first visit to
Japan. As I visit each temple I am aware of the play of light and
dark ? the shine on the worn wooden walkways, the soft glow
of the dark green moss gardens, the shimmering touch of a golden
roof reflected in the deep water.
Often, travel and new surroundings can force us to be a little
extra present. By experiencing where we are in our travels, we gain
a different perspective on life ?at home.? Most of the
time our own spaces feel familiar and ordinary. In new places, ordinary
daily events are more involving in their newness. We readily enter
into the unfamiliar and unknown to learn.
Can we take this attitude into the everyday? Each day we journey
into unknown territory of ourselves. It?s important to take
in the whole spectrum of life, appreciating the dark and light.
The light can show what has accumulated in the darkness of the
mind and heart. We create familiar ways of being in our ignorance.
We defend them in the darkness of our self-centredness, cleverness
and pride. In a flash of light they become visible like the junk
in a forgotten cellar. Once we see what we have stuffed away in
our unconscious we can start cleaning it up by bringing the light
in. The illusions that keep us from our potential have to be sorted
Do you know the uncharted dark places where there are fears, anxieties
and judgements? Where do these images and thoughts come from? We
can enter in with curiosity and interest. Who is the guide there?
What is happening? What is the message? Can you suspend judgement
and allow yourself to experience what is there in the darkness?
Spiritual practices, such as awareness through reflection, are
needed, especially if life is difficult and when there is pain and
disappointment. We are not daydreaming about liberation from our
fears but taking the action to search for the Light even in the
darkest moments. We know, having experienced the glimpses, we can
find the place again. We can practise keeping the memory of Light
alive ? recall the highlights of the journey and how even
the most difficult events can be turned around if we learn about
our inner spiritual strength. Each step takes us closer to our inner
It?s amazing to see the transformation as people build a
bridge to their divinity after suppressing the pain of abuse or
abandonment. The strength of their inner voice gradually gives them
a way to begin to deal with the pain.
We need to be ready to take responsibility for ourselves. We need
to know we can enter the darkness and survive with the light securely
part of us. There are many paths leading us to the spark of Light
within. Each culture creates whatever form, image or practice helps
us return to our original purpose. Our life is impelled to keep
growing and evolving toward higher levels of consciousness.
Returning home, imprints of the experience in Japan stay with
me. As I walk into my home it is like a new country. With so many
languages to learn, different ways to be, different ways to worship,
why do we live the way we do? Can we consciously take the steps
that lead us beyond our limitations and be open to new ideas?
The experience I had in the temple, walking into the unknown,
echoes the journey of life. We have all walked through the dark
times and found the moments of Light. When people study themselves,
through yoga, at first there is an apprehension of what they will
find, but there is also the hope that the Light will be there. Everybody
holds a fear of what they will find on their spiritual journey,
but there will also be signposts to keep on. The railing, the guide,
the practices. Step by step.
Every day the opportunity is there to step into who you really
are. Keep going in. Embedded in each person is this seed of Light
that nourishes, vibrates the potential. What is the clutter? What
is the fear? Here and now is the time to start the journey inward
and keep coming back to that place of Light.