Imagine a horizon line. Between the horizon and the heavens is one realm – lightness, I'll call it. Between the horizon and the deepest depths of the earth or sea is another realm – darkness, I'll call it.
Until your death, I generally lived my life in the first realm – lightness. In what I envision, the lightness realm includes joy, smiles, positivity, fearlessness, sunshine, and innocence. Living in the realm of lightness is a happy dance. It's a beaming smile of acceptance on someone's face. It's seeing a loved one after a long time, giving them a joyous hug, and meaning it. It's watching a bride and groom who are truly in love, kiss at their wedding. It's the first look at your healthy newborn child. It's a rainbow in the sky on a cloudless day. It's a song that brings back a beautiful memory. It's the butterflies you get in your stomach when a crush holds your hand for the time. It's an A on an exam. It's seeing a beautiful woman look at you and then seeing her smile. It's love.
After your death, I moved below the horizon into the realm of darkness. I live here in this place of suffering now. It's an unfamiliar place for me, but I'm getting accustomed to it. It's dark corridors and not knowing what's around the next bend. It's guilt. It's the look on people's faces when you know they have struggled. It's disconnection. It's prisoners of war. It's love lost. It's your grandfather's funeral. It's disbelief. It's addiction. It's a dead end at the end of a one-way street. It's fear. It's loneliness.
I had dipped into this realm before you left, but the dives were shallow. A broken heart would take me down. The loss of my pet would ache and pull me into the depths. Loosing a job, breaking up with a friend, making a bad decision and knowing I was wrong – those sorts of situation would tempt me with the dark place. But I would climb back out, back out into the sunlight, dry off, and start to climb up.
A few days ago, as I boarded the flight to Madrid, I walked down the aisle of the Airbus 330. As I walked toward the back of the plane, I saw a lot of faces looking in my direction. When I looked at the people, my eyes were pulled towards the ones I sensed might also be in the darkness with me. Stoic, sad, or longing expressions were spread across the faces of many passengers. This exercise continued as I moved through airport terminals. Since the language here is foreign, I didn't understand conversation. I simply watched people move through life in their expressions and their movement. I saw their grief. Have I been blind to suffering until now?
You shared with me of your experience with depression as a boy and young man. You told me of your journey through a very dark place. You had imagined your own suicide. You had thought the world would be a better place without you. You had lived in the darkness.
Like a phoenix, you rose from the ashes of despair and desperation. You soared into the light. Through your own journey of learning, therapy, medicine, and experience – you pulled yourself out of suffering. You began to live above the horizon. And you did it beautifully. You loved in a way that was completely encompassing of both others and yourself. You laughed righteously. You had the mischievous innocence of a little boy. You made love like a poet. You even had the lucid ability to fly in your dreams.
However, as a true Scorpio, you always kept an eye on the depths of the unknown and the unseen. You philosophized about darkness, alongside of lightness. You fearlessly crept into holes where there was gloom, not only the sun. You were vigilantly ready to confront any demons lurking below the surface of your psyche.
In my perspective, your darkness was not eerie. It was not hopeless, by any means. Your darkness was beautiful. You had more layers than any human I've ever known. You didn't just live your life above the horizon, like so many of us are pulled towards – I know I am. Your lightness and your darkness became a balance.
There were a few times when your darkness scared me. For instance, the week before your death, you told me that if you ever died – you would be reincarnated as my child. You were telling me this because you wanted me to have hope in case something terrible ever happened. It was ominous. You were telling me this because you knew how I longed to have a child one day, and you wanted me to know you'd be honored to have me as your mother. But, when you told me this, I began to cry. I only saw the darkness in your words. I only saw my fear of loss, a very valid fear. But your intention was not to scare me. You took me in your arms, you wiped my eyes with your hands, and you promised not to leave me. And then you died five days later. But you didn't leave me really – because I still have your offering of hope – I might have you as my child.
Prior to this tragedy, I went through my days seeing light in others.
I saw beauty in their creations. I saw love in their eyes. I saw
innocence in their children. I saw freedom in their practice. But, when
darkness appeared, I averted my eyes.
Now, I venture through darkness. But I see beauty in this darkness.
It is not all bad. There is so much learning down here that I was
blinded from. In order to live fully, we must experience the eight
worldly conditions that Buddha spoke of:
gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and
I am a yoga teacher. I've walked into
classrooms for four years and only looked for lightness in my students. I
preached Buddha's words but then sought gain, fame, praise, and pleasure. I could only relate to half of what they needed from
their teacher. I had no recognition of
their suffering! In essence, I was failing them.
In your absence, I have plummeted into a whole other layer of my own living. It is a realm that will challenge me. I will be scared. I will be still. I will be alone. I will be so many things that I have avoided out of fear and in search of love. But we can't know love if we don't know loss. So my love grows as my grief encompasses me.
I will hold this new realm of suffering as a part of my path, ying to my yang. I have faith that someday I will rise up from the depths. I will breathe fresh air and to look at the sunshine. But, in a world that worships all that is light and airy, I now must learn to
love myself and the mysteries around me, in darkness – as you so naturally did. I
will take on your layers, the ones you've taught and continue to teach me. I will acknowledge this as a part of my own dharma – both the lightness that flows inherently and darkness that is now exposed.