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Holding the Light

There’s an Indian parable about blind men and an elephant. Each person touches the elephant in a different place coming away with a description of the elephant. A tail, an ear, a leg, a trunk, their descriptions all varied because of their limitation.

This parable demonstrates the power of belief because it’s so easy to believe what we see, feel or were taught when there is so much more.


When my children were toddlers, we lived next to a horse farm and down the street from a goldfish pond. A friend came over with her toddler for a playdate. I was excited to share with them the goldfish pond, as my children loved to feed the bright shiny, orange fish. We headed out the door while the little boy was saying “fishy fishy.” On our short walk, the neighbor’s horse was at the fence welcoming a visit. We stopped on our short walk and said look at the horse and the little toddler said, “fishy.” So begins a belief system.

As adults, we are good problem solvers. We didn’t just wake up one day and realize our problem-solving skills worked like a charm. It is a process we live through day by day, struggle by struggle, honing and refining, one step forward, three steps back—a process.

Life is challenging and messy. My life was challenging and messy. I was hopeless, depressed, suicidal at times, drug dependent, struggling to raise my kids, cope with my chronically-ill daughter, survive a divorce, recover from childhood abuse, my list goes on and on.

As humans we feel heartbreak. We feel confusion and doubt. We feel anger because life should be fair. We suffer with physical and mental illness and we feel helpless and hopeless when we have a loved one suffering from physical and mental illness.

We learn something through every experience, and that something often leads to wisdom for the next challenge.

We do the best we can with the heartbreak, loss, disappointment, confusion and injustice. We fight for rightness against the backdrop of a world full of pain and competition.

I was once told by a healer, after sharing my despair and hopelessness, they believe I will be okay. They acknowledge I’m doing the best I can and that I will get through my challenges. I will survive. My comeback was, “It’s easy to say, hard to do.”

I heard the words and didn’t believe them. I felt the intention and dismissed any comfort from it. Life moves so slow while living in despair. Every day a new struggle for solace and ease. I didn’t believe I was okay because I was in the middle of my life. I was the goldfish in the pond painfully searching for the water. I couldn’t see beyond my own circumstances.

We are innocent of blame when life goes wrong. I blamed myself for my daughter’s illness but I couldn’t find a plausible cause. Something I must have done but I wasn’t smart enough to find it. It must be my fault though. I was in an endless loop searching for the answer, when in reality anything I did could not have caused her physical illness. Even if I missed a clue. She came in with her own life journey.

I never forgot the healer’s belief in me. In time, it helped me cope.

When we share our heart with others we trust, when we take the time to be kind and listen, when our intentions are true in our actions and our beliefs, we are held by others because they see us. When we hide, we feel alone because we are hidden.

While I questioned and doubted, they held the light high and steady. While I felt hopeless and helpless, they believed I would find my way back. And I did. It’s an honor to hold the light steady. It’s an honor to speak wisdom from life’s lessons. It’s an honor to believe for you. It’s an honor to be with you.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Such a full session, so much to be grateful for from all of you.

  • Thank you ALL for this beautiful container:-)

  • Thank you for holding this space, for holding the light. I loved the line about holding the light steady. That’s what you do for us every day. Lots of people hold space for others. Your spiritual healer did that for you and offered you encouragement and enabled you to go forward. When spiritual healers and spiritual directors and spiritual companions hold space for others, it enables them to speak, have a voice. That’s such a gift. I don’t think a lot of us realize that our presence, when someone needs to talk, is a gift we have to give them. We are holding the light. It’s sacred space. In your holding the light for us for months and months, I am very much grateful for that.

  • Thank you so much. I am really in despair over a former partner of mine who just received a of Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It’s so helpful what you said. It felt like it was directed to my situation. I know your loss and my loss are quite different, and time can go so slowly when one is in despair. I appreciate your saying that. I met with my therapist who said I was being stubborn. Instead of feeling the loss, I was fighting the situation, trying to find a way out for my friend. I realized she was right. My question is how do we go about feeling a loss? I don’t know how to do that. I do think when I allow myself to be in the presence of others and to be sad, it’s okay and helpful. But there is that part of me wanting to hibernate more and more. I don’t want to burden others. I can rationally go away from it for a while, but it’s always in the back of my mind. I appreciate what you shared. I come to this group and I am fed by it. It’s just so hard. Feeling a loss I don’t know how to do. I’m a good problem solver, but not about this.

  • Thank you. Being a good problem solver helps us have that kneejerk reaction to problem solve instead of feel. Feeling is hard because it feels like a gigantic mountain that is going to annihilate when we take time to feel it. Actually, when we feel our feelings, when we take time to cry, when we let down into the feelings, it helps.

  • This was a very emotional meditation for me because your offering reminded me of a song that I learned from inside the prison. It’s called “Go Light Your World.” It talks about lighting your own candle for others to see and to light your own world. I was able to sing this song today. My singing voice came back, the most clear it has been in a few years. I was with those women and, when I learned that song from them and they were in prison singing those words to one another and living them, it was just powerful. Very powerful. I thank you.

  • I was thinking about the fish and the horse, and what we believe doesn’t make the thing true. It gets in our way. What we believe we are looking at isn’t necessarily what we are looking at.

  • I agree with that. I hated my father for decades and I thought he hated me. Then I discovered how much he loved me. My belief was twisted. It changed my whole life when I saw the truth. It’s true, what we believe isn’t necessarily the truth or right. It takes work to discover the truth and to accept it and embrace it and love it. Thank you.

  • Our beliefs get twisted because we get hurt. We are sensitive beings. We are innocent. We have expectations. When things don’t go the way we think they should, we get hurt. Things get twisted. And it’s okay. That’s a human trait, human nature. Allowing ourselves to be human and feel the feelings helps us release the incredible pain that builds up. Our tears help us do that.

  • I made a commitment to myself this year. I was tired of people in my life being one-way relationships. Unless I make the effort to keep up with them, there is no communication. I decided I’m done with that. If they don’t reach out to me, I won’t reach out to them. My parent texted me yesterday on my birthday after a year of not communicating. It felt phony. My step-mother is the same. I texted her months ago and she responded three weeks later saying she was busy. But I’m the one working. What kind of relationships are these? It hurts. I know I need to cut people out of my life who are one-way relationships.

  • It sounds like you are honoring yourself, taking care of yourself. Sometimes pulling back helps balance things out because people take things for granted.

  • I want to build on the idea of not necessarily believing or understanding what I am seeing. We talk about not understanding ourselves. We need to keep digging deeper and deeper to know ourselves. So how can I know what’s going on in someone else? That person is digging just like I’m digging. Sometimes people call me a Pollyanna, that I think of the world as a good place, that people don’t know what they are dealing with. But I don’t know what’s going on inside of other people. If a guy gives me the finger at a traffic stop, I don’t take it personally. What is he dealing with? I need to accept the fact that people are working through it the best they can. They are using the tools they have, and they may not have all the tools they need. When I had difficultly communicating with my father and getting a reaction back, someone said to me, “You keep going into a hardware store for bread.” Sometimes things aren’t what one expects them to be.

  • Thank you. When we share and use the word ‘you’, we’re speaking generally. If I change the word “you” to “I”, it’s amazing to feel the difference. It’s another example that we learn from our pain. I learn from my pain. I experience changes in my life by feeling my pain.

  • I do my meditation marathon every day. I start with 20-minutes in a session with the Muse biofeedback device, and then I do the 10-percent happier app on my phone. For the last month and a half, I have been replaying segments from someone about relationships and conversations. He makes the exact same point, that I need to change it so that I own it and am clear to myself about what I need. I empathize with dysfunctional, one-way relationships. One of the things I keep trying to be aware of is that I don’t know what is going on in someone else’s head. I have failures but I think I have become a lot more forgiving. I am trying to get away from those assumptions about what other people are doing. Those assumptions are based on our own behavior. We get irritated at the things that irritate us about ourselves. I love the learning that goes on in this group.

  • It’s interesting to me, how I’m enjoying the pandemic and trying to embrace. I’ve felt something emerging in me and haven’t known what it was. Today helped me. Thinking about the hurt and sorrow. Sorrow is such a good word for loss. One of the things that is happening for me now, I’ve embraced my own pain and pain around me. Now I think there’s a huge awareness partly because we are sharing at a level that hasn’t been in my life quite in this way before. Also because the world has opened up and I am seeing the pain in the world at a deeper level than I’ve ever seen it before. And that’s going to call on me. I’m trying to figure out how do you hold this all together? I think it’s going to call on me at a different level of compassion. I have to figure out how I can hold that. How do I hold the pain because it’s not the only thing? The other thing that’s opening, when I look at the world for my grandkids, I feel amazing hope. There’s amazing stuff coming. I’m trying to figure out how the new me is going to embrace this trend and figure my way through it.

  • Well said. I know from my own experience that trying to figure it out on my timeline never works, that as I live my life, it emerges. That seems to be the way it happens for me. It’s an amazing experience. We do have incredible wisdom. If we took any random person who was willing to pause for a moment and step into our circle and share at the level we share, we would find their wisdom too.

  • In my learning of self-care, I learned that the people in my relationships are icing on the cake. What is important is that I give myself what I need and that I am true to myself. That I am the person I want to be, no matter what I get from others. I have people that don’t contact me, but it’s important to me to stay connected. It’s not about them, it’s about how I chose to live my life. I know I’ve been complaining that I’m not getting the recognition for what I do. And instead of being on the pitty-pot, it just means I am not giving myself enough of what I need. It’s about being true to myself.

  • It’s the hurt that stops us from looking at ourselves. It all comes down to hurt. The key is to be gentle with ourselves and not blame ourselves for being hurt.

  • Thank you. This was powerful. All the tears and pain and joys and sorrows are welcome because it’s part of who we are. It’s authentic and real. There’s always a bigger picture. I appreciate you all taking time for yourselves and having the trust to share at the depth that you do. I hope you all have a gentle day.

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