Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Heading Into the Darkness.
October is the month where we start our descent into darkness each year. For some of us, the darkness and mystery may seem frightening. The shadows may contain wildness, ghosts, even nightmares. What will we find as we begin our way through the dark forest? Fall surrounds us like a thick mantle. The cycle of life unfolds before our eyes as trees shed their leaves and ready themselves for the sting of winter. We have passed the Autumnal Equinox (September 22) and are moving into shorter days and longer nights for the next six months. At the end of this month, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) awaits, along with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and All Saints Day. There is a palpable sense falling into a place that indicates we must slow down. Now, we will have time to hibernate and linger in the moist darkness, avoiding the cold weather outside, and the slow blasting of winter. Winter’s a time of reflection allowing us to prepare for the imminent rebirth (Spring) that follows. It is a time to remember and assuage our losses, confront our fears, and run headlong into solving life’s mysteries. Death surrounds us like a pungent soup. We must walk with death, decay, and dying in order to set the world on a path toward renewal.
Death, then Rebirth.
In his book, The World Behind the World, storyteller and mythologist, Michael Meade opens with this admonishment: Run toward the roar. He tells an ancient African teaching story about the way that lions hunt. They use the oldest, most harmless of their group to settle on one side of the plains, while the strongest, fiercest hunters sit opposite him. The old lion is useless as a hunter, but still possesses the most frightening roar. The pride silently waits as a herd of water buffalo or zebra approach. Once their prey is near, the old fellow roars as loudly as he can. The frightened prey runs in the opposite direction, straight into the snares of the savvy hunters. Meade uses this story to illustrate what he believes is the importance of running toward our fears and the darkness that envelops them; for it is only by facing one’s fears, that fears are dismantled and overcome. We cannot walk away from what we grips our throats in fear. We must turn and face it, often discovering that the fear that had us quaking in our boots is actually a toothless, old lion possessing nothing but a big voice.
Run Toward Your Fear.
Usually we are afraid of the unknown, the unfamiliar; we are frightened by the parts of ourselves that remain untested and untried. We are scared of looking foolish, ignorant, or stupid – so we don’t ask questions, we don’t stretch to see new things, we don’t try on this or that coat made out of a myriad of beautiful threads, for fear it won’t fit. Perhaps we are too small or too big. Embarrassment, shame, or ego prevents us from throwing our hat into the ring and trying something different. Here’s the thing: perhaps at the bottom of that well that we do not want to fall into, is the answer to a serious problem in this troubled world. What if we are the ones who contain the piece of the puzzle most needed to solve it?
We are Powerful Beyond Measure.
Marianne Williamson wrote in her book, Return to Love, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Boy, isn’t that the truth! In facing our fears, we begin to build a life that is not blown over every time a storm comes. And, the fact is, storms are an inherent part of life. There’s no use trying to outrun them. All that will get you is a serious bout of blisters and a case of blinding weariness. I have learned that there’s nothing safe about the status quo. No renewal waits for those who stand in one place, calcified by fear.
This month I plan to create a Day of the Dead altar celebrating my father’s life. Playing Patsy Cline CDs as a backdrop, I will remember the twang of Daddy’s voice when he sang along with the radio. I will eat candy corn and cook stew to warm and sweeten my days. I will view the trials facing me (and this country and this world) as opportunities to dig deeper and find my way thorough them, to discover a pathway into much needed change, renewal, and rebirth. I will run toward the roar. No experience in life comes without gifts.
Let’s see what walking into fear has to teach us.
Shavawn M. Berry’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, elephant journal, Journey of the Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry, Olentangy Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Vagina – The Zine, Rebelle Society, The Cancer Poetry Project 2, Kinema Poetics, Kalliope, Poet Lore, Westview – A Journal of Western Oklahoma, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Concho River Review, North Atlantic Review, Synapse, Living Buddhism, Blue Mountain Arts/SPS, and Poetry Seattle. Her technique essay on the dramatic monologue/persona poem is featured in a poetry database published in 2013 by Ebsco Publishing. In 1998, she received her MPW in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where she specialized in Creative Nonfiction and Memoir.
Ms. Berry teaches writing at Arizona State University where she just completed a 2013 Lincoln Ethics Teaching Fellowship. You can follow her on Facebook or read more of her work on her blog. A portfolio featuring a selection of her essays, blog postings, and prose is available at Shavawnberry.contently.com.
Photo: Sofia Higgins