Just outside my window, the oak has gone to yellow. I breathe a deep sigh of relief. It is late in the season for the trees to be finding their peak. I wasn’t sure they ever would. So many leaves went straight to brown — carried off by the next wind.
Today, as I drive to my favorite yoga class, my heart lights up as several small bushes and tall Maples flame red.
Leaves leave their best show for last.
A week ago, a friend struggling with the derisive political climate leading up to the election and the countless abuses to earth and humanity brought on by an administration that doesn’t share her values, openly mourned the lack of color in the changing landscape.
“This fall hasn’t helped,” she said looking woefully out the rain-streaked window at the barren trees. “I was counting on the color to lift my spirits.”
How we miss the pageantry when it doesn’t come. How we miss the show of light.
Are we so different from the fall leaves?
Last Wednesday, as I waited for students to arrive to yoga class, I received a message from my friend G who had just been visiting. She’d read my blog “Afraid of the Dark,” and wanted to give me her response. She was struggling. Struggling to see any light in this dark period, particularly for people of color. Her people. She wanted to reach out on social media to show solidarity for her Jewish friends in the wake of the Tree of Life shooting.
“They always appreciate it,” she said, “But do they do the same for me when the tables are turned?“ When it happens to people who look like her, G says “The media is silent. We’re disposable. Our lives really don’t matter.”
Yesterday, November 5, 2018, was the 49th anniversary of Black Solidarity Day—a day when people of color are encouraged to withdraw, spend no money, and become absent from society so that we may feel what it’s like without them here.
Like leaves that go straight to brown and drop to the ground depriving us of their brilliant light.
I didn’t know what to say to G. As a white woman, I don’t share her experience of this world. So I meditated. Asked wisdom to respond.
“You are the light,” wisdom said.
“My meditation for the week,” G wrote back.
“Me too,” I replied.
What does it mean to stand in our own light?
Rumi says, Don’t you know yet? It is your light that lights the world?
And so I make this the theme I will teach in my yoga classes all week. Be the light that lights up the night.
Let the struggle commence.
I attend “A Night of Grief and Mystery” put on by Stephen Jenkinson. Stephen is known as “the death guy,” and has been offering his wisdom across the world for several decades. For 2 full hours, Stephen captivates the audience with his poetic storytelling. At one point, Stephen looks out into the darkened theater and reaches his hand toward the crowd as if feeling into an empty space.
“There is a hole in the universe,” he says. “It has your shape and size and it looks just like you. It’s waiting for you to fill it.”
I think of my friend G. I think of myself. I think of everyone sitting in the theater, of everyone in my city. My mind goes out in concentric circles until it have invited every living thing known and unknown to light up the night.
I am so expanded that when the lights come up, I want to hide. I feel exposed. I sneak out the back of the theater, move unseen down the sidewalk, and across the puddles to our car.
It’s not always easy to stand in our own light.
One must dare to be oneself, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.
~Chinese fortune cookie
My friend B posts a photo of herself wearing a t-shirt that says:
Her photo sits right next to two posters about Black Solidarity Day. I have so much to learn about standing in the light from my black sisters.
Because what gets lit up when we stand in our own light? It’s not just the shiny and the bright. It’s also the warts and the stink we give off when we feel threatened. It’s the small child shamed for shining too bright. It’s the daughter born into a society so afraid of the gifts of her people, it would do everything in its power to keep them down. It is the son taught to hate, to fear, to oppress and dehumanize in order to maintain his position of power, privilege and authority–and in so doing, forever miss the brilliant light in the changing leaves.
Don’t all these people live in me? Don’t all these people live in each of us? The oppressed that needs to stand more fully in her own light, and the oppressor who needs to be brought out into the light?
In today’s yoga class, my teacher Denise reminds us that standing in our own light is about standing in THE LIGHT.
“Stand in the light that creates the kaleidoscope, the light from which all the diversity of life manifests,” she says.
I exhale a big sigh of relief.
For a brief moment, I am free.