By BethAnne Kapansky Wright
When I was younger, I used to have the misconception that as I grew spiritually, I would somehow find myself on an upward trajectory where things just got better and better, as I became a more “enlightened” person.
What I found was that nothing could be further from the truth, and that the true journey of the human spirit will require us to delve into the darkness and devolve—many times over—in order to bring more light into the spaces in our lives.
Last year, I learned this lesson all over again when my brother passed away in January 2016. I was broken up, broken down, and broken open throughout the entire year, but especially in the space of that first six months. This was not my first breaking, and I was angry and sorrowful and confused and pretty much everything that falls within the limitless bounds of the chaotic emotional experience of grief, as I struggled to find my way through.
During this time I wrote extensively to organize my feelings, and those writings eventually became a book on grief. Throughout the process of spiraling down into my own depths, I began to more clearly see that life will use anything to help grow our soul, and while we don’t always have a choice about the lessons we receive, we can choose what to do with those lessons.
The following in an excerpt from, Lamentations of the Sea: 111 passages on grief, love, loss and letting go, which speaks to that truth and the role that loss can play in our lives when it come to shining a light inward and examining our own space of self. If we want to evolve our own hearts and spirits, we must first learn to embrace the messiness of being human, before we can fully embrace and actualize the nature of our divine.
We think that enlightenment—moving toward a fuller sense of clarity, truth and illumination in our lives—is a peaceful, zen-laden path.
But I have found that this simply isn’t true at all, and any time we turn the lights on in a previously dark and unexplored place, we are going to become aware of all the cobwebs, clutter and dust that has collected and will need to spend some time cleaning before that space feels clear.
On the first day of the new year, I declared 2016 the Year of Illumination. I wanted to set my intention that this year be one of greater truth, integrity, and honesty for my life. And it has been… just not in the way I expected. As it turns out, death is the greatest illuminator of all. It takes you to your core, makes you sit with what is most real, turns the lights on in the rooms of your life, exposes all that is crowding those spaces, inviting you to declutter.
This is hard work—unglamorous, and sometimes miserable. We cannot step into a fuller awareness of our lives and our self without the painful process of examining and sorting through our emotional, spiritual, and relational spaces. I often had the sense of being squeezed and stretched this past season, like life was tugging at both ends of something invisible, but tangible, inside. Pulling and siphoning, clearing and cleaning, trying to make space for something new.
There was nothing zen about it. But there was something honest: my unvarnished truth. A greater sense of purpose, insight, and awareness of my place in the pattern and the direction I want to continue to shape my life.
Grief will shine a light into every corner of us if we let it, and there is much we stand to gain when we allow the light to stay on: a deepening relationship with life and ourselves, which helps us live with greater intent, meaning and authenticity. A deepening relationship with Spirit, which holds the potential to help us step more fully into the truth of who we are. A deepening relationship with love, which holds the key to changing the shape and scope of our hearts.
Humanity is messy. Spirit is divine. We are lucky enough to be graced with both. And if we want to find the courage to live a life of illumination, it will take both—plumbing the depths of our recesses and bringing whatever we find out into the light so we can live an examined life and finding perspective and relationship with life that extends and embraces something beyond just ourselves.
BethAnne Kapansky Wright is a Clinical Psychologist in Anchorage, Alaska who enjoys writing, illustrating and creating. She specializes in dealing with women’s issues, life transitions, trauma, grief work, and finding healing in our relationships, especially our relationship with our self. She believes in authenticity, intuition, the power of love, finding laughter and joy, and learning to be more fully human. She is the author of the grief book Lamentations of the Sea (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2017). She is also the author of the poetry books Freebird Fridays (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016) and Cranberry Dusk (Blurb Inc., 2016). She can be found musing, writing, and reflecting on life at her website.
Editor: Dana Gornall