Sunrise to Sunset

— Dana

Meditation. It’s my word for the year. I tried to approach this word with awe and wonder; taking it into my hands and looking at every angle like it was a new discovery in a foreign land. Within the first month, I quickly found there wasn’t a lot of information on the topic of meditation (or rather I should say I found that it’s just the same thing repeated over and over again). Unfortunately, I discovered that one has to actually meditate to receive it’s benefits.

In previous years, my word was a very active word. I read books. I talked to people about the word and what it meant to them. I wrote numerous entries in my journal and blog. I polled people through email and Facebook. This year has been drastically different. Little did I know at the beginning of the year that meditation is really best when explored alone. It’s a time of going inward. And sometimes that can be a lonely process.

In January, I went on my first trip alone. I hopped on a plane and headed toward sunny San Diego to kick off my year of meditation. After three days I was ready to come home. I was sure God had already handed me everything I needed to learn from my time away. Then, I woke-up on the fourth day. I believe that’s when the real transformation in my soul started to take place.

I learned that I eagerly enter into community before deep seeded heart change has occurred. Within the first three days in San Diego I experience some superficial healing. Don’t get me wrong…it was necessary and good to receive that kind of transformation (even if it was skin deep). However, the real change arrived after I spent four days meditating on the beach. I would have missed out on a deeper message if I would have just stopped at day three! There really is something to meditating a little bit over the long haul. This new perspective changed the way I viewed meditation.

In years past, I would pray and meditate out of guilt or obligation, and I would often do a weeks worth (or an entire months worth) in one big chunk of time. It would go something like this:

• Monday – forget entirely about prayer and meditation
• Tuesday – remember to meditate but feel too busy that day to actually settle down
• Wednesday – forget again
• Thursday – sit down and get distracted by my grocery list and then get up to write something and never go back to meditating
• Friday – feel guilty about the behavior the day before
• Saturday – cram in a weeks worth of meditation
• Sunday – sleep in

I knew this perspective had to change if I was going to have any real “success” with my meditation this year (hence the trip to San Diego). The one thing I love (which might be obvious to everyone) about San Diego is the sun. It’s not really the warm weather or the beautiful beaches (which are amazing). It’s more the predictably of the sunrise and the sunset that I have come to appreciate. It happens every 12 hours. Year round.

I found myself following this rhythm during the day. Every morning I would wake-up at 6:30am and meditate while I watched the sunrise and then gently go on with my day. And every night I would stop what I was doing to pause for a while just to watch the sunset. Because this happens around the same time everyday, I found that it was WAY easier to enter into meditation with my new found visual cues. It was easier to show up. Without guilt. Without an agenda. Just me with my heart open to God. Ready to receive. With every sunrise and sunset.

I would like to say I brought this idea back with me when I arrived in the dead of winter here in the Northwest. I did not. However, now that we are entering into Spring, I have found that my body yearns to get back into that natural rhythm of life; the getting up with the sunrise and the slowing down with the sunset. I’m still really hit and miss during the week, but my heart has changed from guilt to freedom…from dread to yearning.

I will end this post with an “ah-ha” moment that I had on my last day in San Diego. I don’t want to lose it in the recesses of my mind, so I will take a moment to capture it here. I kept the rhythm of getting up with the sunrise and slowing down with the sunset everyday while I was in San Diego. However, every evening, I felt like I was chasing the light of the sun all day just to see it leave again. There were many nights that I felt anxious and sad when the sun was being swallowed up by the waves on the horizon. And then it hit me while I watched my last sunset: the quickest way to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun…but to head east, plunging into the darkness until I arrive at the sunrise. I discovered, at that moment, that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me was either to run from the darkness or face it as best I could.

Since I knew darkness and grief was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into it rather than trying to outrun it (and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it). Now, I am choosing…everyday…to turn toward the pain and to yield to the darkness in my life. The last few months, I have tried to reserve time and space for solitude, so I can descend into the darkness alone…knowing full well that the light of day will come.

I think it is my real first steps toward growth, and it is also my first real steps toward entering into pain. I had no idea how tumultuous my grief was at this point in my life. I was also not aware of the depths of suffering to which I would descend. In the first few months, I quickly learned that I do not have the luxury or convenience of mourning loss and processing traumas as a collective whole. Instead, I have to mourn them as separate individual experiences. As my grief over one loss or trauma would subside, grief over another would emerge. But that is only a part of the story.

The decision to face the darkness through meditation (and counseling), even if it led to overwhelming pain, showed me that the experience of loss does not have to be the defining moment of my life. Instead, the defining moment can be my response to the loss. It’s not what happened to me that matters as much as what happened in me. Darkness has invaded my soul. But then again, so did light. Both contribute to my personal transformation. Therefore, choice is the key. I can run from the darkness, or I can enter into the darkness and face the pain, trauma and loss. And by doing that, I have been able to see the light return much faster than if I ran away.

Unfortunately, the choice to enter the darkness has not lead me along an easy course. The darkness is not dispelled as quickly as I would have hoped. But I keep showing up. I’m learning to live and mourn simultaneously. There are days when this gets a little messy (like when the mourning outweighs the actual living). After four months, I continue to live in that tension.

In San Diego, I learned that running from darkness only leads to greater darkness later on. God showed me that I have the capacity to grow…to absorb evil and good…to die and live again…to suffer and find Him. In choosing to face the night after the sun sets, I took my first steps toward turning around and walking toward the sunrise.

Thank you, Mandy, for your initial invitation into the light. Words cannot express how thankful I am for this experience. You could say it was life changing.

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San Diego Sunrise

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San Diego Sunset

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