DARKNESS

by contemplativeinquiry

In her recent book ‘The Wakeful World: Animism, mind and the Self in Nature’, Emma Restall Orr writes:

“At its most fundamental, nature is darkness.  Nature’s primary state is darkness.  In stillness, formless, in the darkness, nature is whole.  Yet, nature is minded: it exists within a wakefulness of its own being.  Aware of itself, nature turns within itself in reflection.  The essential movement of nature is the breath of existence, the sacred wind of being.

“… Each moment of interaction within the darkness of nature creates a pattern, a spirit fleetingly finding form, flashing momentarily into being before dissolving back into the whole – except where interactions repeat, allowing a pattern to persist, the spirit lingering in its ethereal form.”

The writing is part of a complex revisioning of animism as a possible philosophical basis for a modern life practice – spiritual, cultural, ethical, political, personal.  As such it seems to me to be an important original contribution to Druidic thought as it moves and develops through time.

What specifically touches me as a meditator is a recognition of how my experience, when practicing, seems to resonate with the above passages.  I tend now to sit in complete darkness with eyes open, and this sitting usually happens somewhere between 5.30 and 6.30 a.m.  At this time of year, it’s mostly pretty dark.  I generally experience myself as sitting within darkness as a nurturing potential. Sometimes I am alert and mindful, sometimes not.  And I come back to this darkness.

At one level this can be an in-the-moment, ‘power of now’ kind of experience.  But the feeling-tone of the experience is influenced by the repetition of the practice over time, by the liturgy that structures it, and the darkness that surrounds and contains it.  They help to create a pattern of contemplative experiencing, shaping an extended field of awareness. They support ‘me’ in awakening to/in the world and relationship(s) with/within it. Meditation can seem solitary and in a way it is.  Yet for me it brings relationship (the kind that the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls ‘interbeing’) into fuller life.

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