In the Cave of the Heart
Each of us, at some point in life, goes through a significant episode that is both a test and an invitation. This usually follows a typical pattern: after a period of progress towards a goal, achievement or success in some area of life, suddenly, out of the blue, we are filled with self-doubt, hit a wall of unknowing or experience an event that turns our world upside down. We may feel abandoned by beliefs that have up to now guided our life and realize that what once was a source of faith has turned into the source of our questioning. Such moments can make us feel very alone …
Illuminating our Spiritual Winter
The mystic, St. John of the Cross, called these times a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ and almost every great spiritual figure throughout the ages - Moses, Buddha, the Hindu sages, Christ and the desert fathers - encountered a similar experience. All spoke of this strange and enigmatic part of the ‘path’ but more importantly they taught“… the onset of interior darkness is not what we think it is. Entering a spiritual ‘winter’ is actually the invitation for spring to arrive … and often a necessary surrender to a state of unknowing is the very thing that allows the light of understanding to enter.” (Guy Finley)
"Solstice at Stonehenge" by CJ Shelton
Our very human fear of the dark can lead us to misunderstand the true significance of these times as our mind frantically projects distress out into the cold emptiness … but the dark itself does not hold anything to fear. Like the child whose loving parent turns on a light to reveal there is nothing hiding in the shadowy corners of their 'monster-filled' bedroom, we must be a loving parent to ourselves. No matter how dark a situation may seem, we can turn on an inner light of our own, make the shadows disappear and reveal the real power hidden in the moment. Then the same Spirit that illumined the great spiritual teachers can awaken within, to help us understand the true purpose of this time of uncertainty.
This type of power brings confidence, clarity, wisdom, compassion and fearlessness. Such higher states of consciousness do actually already live within us, but to truly realize them we must be willing to illumine the unknown parts of ourselves; to be willing, like our ancient ancestors, to crawl for a time through labyrinthine chambers, deep within the earth, and witness strange beasts and shamanistic figures, illuminated only by the small flickering flame of a tiny torch.
Caves are prevalent motifs in many myths, legends, and religious cults. The cave, as a symbol, is closely related to the human heart, the place where the self and ego unite within us. Caves can also be secret passageways to the underworld, places in which to make contact with long-lost powers and other mysterious forces. In popular legend, caves are often home to gnomes, dragons and buried treasure as well as initiation rites in many tribal cultures. Modern psychologists interpret the passage through a cave in a person's dream as the search for the meaning of life.
The isolated monks of ancient Iona and Lindisfarne in the British Isles must have intuitively understood this as they painstakingly scribed their sacred texts in cave-like monasteries struggling to bring the light of Christian faith to the darkness of a strange new land.
Some of their manuscripts were embellished with a process known as ‘illumination’, a term that comes from the Latin word for ‘lit up’ or ‘enlightened’. It refers to the use of bright colours and gold leaf on only the first letter of a paragraph. Sometimes these initials were purely decorative but often they marked important passages or were used to enhance the meaning of the text.
Halo motifs were also used in the form of a circular ring of light surrounding the head of an enlightened or holy person. Christian artists believed a halo to be symbolic of the light of grace bestowed by God but, pagans too, used halos to signify power, majesty or prominence of some sort. Comic books are a contemporary pop culture art-form that still uses halos to represent power … not inspired by God, mind you, but earned through some sort of strange mutation or accident. The X-Men, for example, are mutants who represent the next stage in mankind's evolution; whenever they use their mutant powers, the energy is often represented graphically as a halo.
Like cave artists petitioning their gods or island-bound monks praising a haloed Christ, it is during our own 'spiritual winters' as well as the dark month of January, when we too retreat within, to reflect, ponder and ask our own big questions. When we enter this ‘cave of the heart’ willingly - or sometimes forced, as the case may be - treasure is ours to be discovered, but only if we are willing to cast the light of our own consciousness on the darkness we find within. By surrendering to the process and descending with awareness, we can then illuminate even the furthest recesses and discover the light within our own souls.
That light is the Divine Spark, the remnant of the spiritual part of us, returning to its center in the ‘cave of the heart’ to be re-ignited by the spiritual fire that comes directly from Source. Once this takes place, our human mortality then takes on the level of holy immortality … and the spiritual being within us is in control once again.
I have several creative opportunities coming up to help light up this deepest heart of winter. On Saturday January 30 there is Celtic Illuminations which I only run once a year. Like the monks of old, you can learn to draw and paint your own illuminated letter, word or initials. This workshop is limited to just four participants so be sure to contact me to reserve your spot. On Saturday February 6 is my popular Seed Dreams” Intention Mandalas which can help focus the light of clarity on your goals for 2016. You can check out a full listing of all this winter's offerings on my website or click on the links in this newsletter.
May you enjoy the dance!
Artist, Instructor & Healing Arts Practitioner
Dancing Moon Designs
Illuminating the Creative Spirit through
the Symbol of the Circle ...