Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Before the dawn we are like children of native blood who have not been raised in the traditional way of our people. We have not yet heard our native language being spoken, nor experienced the rituals and teachings that would speak most directly to our true heart. Yet even without this full understanding, there is still an intuition and a deepening sense that there is more to us than our physical self…that our stories about life, and Life itself are not the same.

The coming of the dawn is the rising up of an inner light. In that undefiled dawn the soul opens wide to life’s essential wonder, and the hidden meaning of being here knocks on the door of the heart.

This new awareness comes first in glimmers, and then as a deeper knowledge. It is like being aroused from a long sleep. An inner nature (the true self) is waking up and life is no longer a series of events through which we pass, but rather a mystery within which we awaken. There is a growing awareness that we are made for something more than the small story of our human life. We are intended to reach a greater potential.

Beyond Pain

In 1975 when the white car flew out of control and came toward my family like a missile, there was no thinking, no defense—only the impact of a great force. What had taken me years to put into place was dismantled in a moment. I had no awareness then of a power or love that was greater than my circumstances, and my heart was simply crushed. My primary identity was still as the person I knew myself to be—what I did for a living, where I lived, and my roles as wife, mother, daughter, and sibling. I didn’t suspect that a greater light was moving through the profound darkness, never apart from me.

At first I could not see beyond the hurt. The burning pain that moved through my emotional self had great force and finally found its way into my physical being. For a long while I was at the mercy of the suffering. I had no way of knowing that living just below the surface of my senses, and deep in the hidden chambers of the heart, was a Presence that not only could help, but whose sole intention was just that.

Six months following the death of my family, my body prepared to give birth to another child. When my new daughter was born I witnessed the innocence and beauty of a baby right in the midst of searing pain. And though grief still tore through me like a violent wind, my baby’s eyes gleamed with light and I momentarily saw the world as held in place by love. The knowledge rose up in me unbidden. There were miles and miles for me to go in order to know this for more than a moment, but the thread of who I once believed myself to be, including the narrowness of my many beliefs about life, had begun to loosen.

I had not created this child. She was being offered to me by Life. Was this true of everything? And how could anyone deny the extraordinary nature of the gift?

Light within Darkness

Other conclusions about life began to break down. The light I had always associated with better days and greater ease had actually been there in a time of wrenching pain.

Now I knew firsthand that darkness was filled with light. When the two cars hit and our vehicles flew up into the air, they rose in that same shining.

I saw that it mattered if I was able to open to what was right before me and meet it fully, without turning away. Because if the darkness was filled with light, then turning away from the dark was turning from what would show me the way. Without question, my stronger human impulse was to turn away. Turning toward the things that life presented seemed almost unimaginable at first. But years later I heard words expressed by the beloved author C.S. Lewis in his later years: “So it was you all the time.” As soon as I heard his sentiment, I understood. The light had been faithfully there all along, but often well disguised.

Slowly and cautiously my heart opened to that knowledge. My outer situation remained the same and the darkness I faced did not immediately dissipate. Still, I could not deny that the light illumines the dark. Something larger and infinitely true was moving in life. I was not alone. We are not alone. There is something beyond the tangible things our eyes can see. This was my first fragile sense of a deeper identity.

Ken Wilbur writes, “Divinity has one ultimate secret, which it will also whisper in your ear if your mind becomes quiet: the God of this world is found within, and you know it is found within…. In those hushed silent times when the mind becomes still, the body relaxes into infinity, the senses expand to become one with the world—in those glistening times, a subtle luminosity, a serene radiance, a brilliantly transparent clarity shimmers as the true nature of all manifestation…a compassionate Radiance before whom all idols retreat, a Love so fierce it adoringly embraces both light and dark equally.”


Excerpted from Stars at Night: When Darkness Unfolds as Light by Paula D’Arcy. 

Paula D’Arcy, author (Song for Sarah, The Divine Spark, Gift of the Red Bird) and retreat leader, travels widely in the United States and abroad. Her work includes workshops and retreats related to spirituality, writing, women’s gatherings, (including women’s initiation and rites of passage), and creating venues where men and women experience an opening of the heart and a change in their way of being in the world. She is also founder of Red Bird Foundation, and serves as adjunct faculty at Oblate School of Theology and Seton Cove Spirituality Center, in Texas.



Stars at Night by Paula D'Arcy