Several weeks back I came across a quote from Viktor Frankl that stated with profound simplicity, “What is to give light must endure burning.” His words sat with me, weighted in presence, and working an image at the center of me readied with the intention of shaping and molding my immaterial self like a piece of clay. I rolled each word over my tongue like a cherry seed, smoothing each of them out so that I might absorb the rich wisdom within.
Finding Your Center
Not too long ago, sitting in council with fellow journeyers embarking upon a deep, inscendent dive toward soul retrieval as David Whyte put it, “the center of the image you were born with,” I stated part of my heart’s longing: to burn so brightly that I might light the ground afire. Before having made this soul-derived statement, I could hear a voice throbbing within every cell of my being, as if each had a heartbeat all their own. This voice sent two resounding questions out through the terrain of my body, over the plains of my skin, through the canyons of my heart and the rivers of my blood. It cried “Why are you tempering your flame? Why are you dimming your light?” To these questions came an answer wholly authentic and unexpected. Through the swell of tears, my response arrived gracefully on the wings of breath: “For fear that I will burn those around me whom I love most!”
Stirrings such as these, resting like precious gems in the rich darkness of the psyche, wait for the self realization that we are natural born miners. Images flicker through an ocean of mystery, and beckon us toward them. Tapping into the reservoir of a knowing sense that rests outside of logic or reason, such self-reclamations can only arrive if we give them the space to lick at the air of our soul and grow in power and prominence.
I have been allowing the imagery of these gifted words to work themselves upon me. I sit and imagine my entire body as a breathing flame. Every inch of my skin glowing and pulsing with the warmth and radiance of fire. In that moment of non-linear retrieval, I had unearthed a message unrecognizable by my conscious, analytical mind. How could I possibly burn those around me? And, what fear pressed in upon my own spirited flame like a snuff to a candle?
What is to give light must endure. In order to burn brightly, I have needed to learn how to live for myself. Quite often, we’re taught philosophies and methods on how to live for others, how to be in service to others. The events of my life, and their unfolding, carried me through a sea of relationships that asked of me all of my time, energy and support. I became a well-adjusted caregiver and taker, with ineptitude for being there for myself. Giver in the sense that I genuinely sought to contribute to this world the offerings of my soul so that I might support the “Great Turning” Joanna Macey speaks of. Taker in the sense that I came to believe as a child that in order to stay safe, in order to survive, it was crucial that I be needed by others.
Letting Go and Standing in Truth
My greatest challenge yet involves a reconstituting of the cellular configuration that makes me me. It involves an obliteration of a self so codified by years of diligent practice that to live for myself means diving down through the dark, consuming depths of mystery. To swim with the night travelers of the deep that echo calls of connection and sing songs of longing. My task, like so many others before me, begins with my ever-expanding capacity to endure. To endure living in a way that feels completely contradictory in nature. To endure the reshaping and refashioning of a lens that promised safety. A mode of being that up until now did, in fact, protect me.
To stand in my truth, to safeguard that which is precious, innocent and free, to bring forth the most beautiful, fragile and wild aspects of my own “I” has meant letting go of a role that forced such aspects of self to be sent away, hidden from my conscious awareness. Such aspects of self send forth aching cries filled with longing and delight. They wait for us to circle back around, to brave the unknown, to invite what society at one point or another deemed unacceptable, unsavory and unbefitting to be so openly alive and vibrantly awake in the world. Yet, it is these aspects of self that allow us to live more wholly embodied. And, it is our integrated embodiment that becomes our very own gift to the world, our contribution to the Great Turning, an offering from the center of the image we were born with.
Maturation involves a lifetime of shedding old ways of inhabiting the world in the hope that we will transform through each letting go. Some layers are easier to shed than others. Yet the more we mindfully lay the discarded skin to the side, resting gently upon the soil of potential, the more graceful our transitions become. Exposing our newly born selves to a raw and writhing world of possibility is something to be endured, until it is not. When we no longer endure, one could perceive this as assimilation and integration of what once was foreign, taking it into ourselves in such a way that it becomes a natural extension like an arm or a leg.
A Newly Found Shape
In every beginning, every new way of being, living, thinking, breathing, feeling, sensing, believing – each of these must first have their way with us. Each of these must work our psyches like a piece of clay, pounding and folding our sense of self so that we can arrive more fully formed. Once worked by the hands of this mysterious existence, the very breath of the Universe sweeps in, drying our soft exterior. A solidifying of form occurs, where we gain assurances that this is who we are by the way life responds to our newly found shape! The paradox is that once we have been molded, there is but a window of time for this new shape to exist. Then, without always inviting such transformations, the shape once believed to be the “I” cracks and crumbles. Left to sift through the pieces, we arrive back at the beginning, awaiting life’s next experience to reshape who we are.
My question to you is what in your life are you enduring? What aspects of self are you recovering? What pieces of soul are you willing to dive down into the rich, dark mystery of life to retrieve? And, if you do retrieve them, are you ready to offer up such a gift to the rest of the world?