As the holy days approach, I find myself at a familiar crossroads. In one direction is the strong, inward, contemplative pull that is natural to the season of kindling light in a time increasing darkness. In the other direction, I experience a seemingly centrifugal force pulling me out to more and more activity. Shop. Send those cards to family and friends. Finish year-end projects. Beneath the frantic call to activity, when I listen, I can hear the season’s deeper call to stop, slow down, reflect, and heal.
To respond to that call and the inward pull, each year, I reflect anew on the metaphysical meaning of this season. As a meditator, I have found this inner exploration of the holy days of Christmas and the Advent season to be the soul prescription I need to anchor my days in what is most meaningful. Time spent in contemplation makes the season come alive. By consciously entering the ancient, archetypical, sacred story of the divine birth, it becomes an inner journey of revelation, healing, and transformation. It becomes something to truly celebrate—kindling an inner light to bring forth and share. As all transformational journeys, it begins with willingness. This one is no different.
Willing to be Guided
How much time and energy is spent in our lives walking over and over the same ground, attempting to prove what we know and find comfort in predictability? To welcome divine guidance, and to live in harmony with Spirit, we must be open to what we do not know, cultivate a willingness to venture beyond the limits of what is comfortable and familiar, and let ourselves be guided by truth.
Mother Teresa's prayer to live her life as “a pencil in the hand of God” says it simply and powerfully. Let my life be guided by something greater than the narrow reaches of self-interest and ego. I am willing to be a divine instrument, surrendering to what is required for me to fulfill my divine destiny.
There are several accounts in the Advent story of individuals discovering within themselves the willingness to follow divine will. Their experiences are different, but the theme of their stories is the same. Some change in circumstances occurs; a call is intuited to embrace that change and to find in it a divine promise of fulfillment. Whether it is Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, or the kings who encounter the unexplainable, the initial response is at first fear and wonder. What is this? Why is it happening? And why is it happening to me? There are times when our lives take a turn into unchartered territory, and we are stunned by what we are experiencing. Why? We ask. Can this be divine will for my life? What good can come from this? Do I have what is necessary to take the next step?
Where is security and well-being to be found in times of uncertainty and great change? Mary’s response to the message from the angel Gabriel says it all: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be unto me according to thy word. Her willingness is a demonstration of the peace to be found when we surrender into God, when we let go into the Source of love and wisdom. When we become completely willing to follow divine guidance, we let go of the illusion that we are separate from the Source. We affirm and know that the word of God, the creative power of Spirit, is already expressing in our life. This affirmation brings a sense of security and well-being. God is right where we are, and even in times of the darkness of unknowing, all must ever be well with us.
Read over the accounts of the Christmas story in the Christian Bible (Matthew Ch. 1 and Luke Ch. 1), and notice how often something surprising or unexpected occurs. Each life in the story is touched by the mystery, and all are invited to grow in faith and willingness, thus becoming increasingly aware of God's guiding presence. Perhaps we can think of faith as the steps we take (small or large) into the darkness of the unknown with a willingness to believe in the light.
For with God nothing shall be impossible…
And Mary said...let it be unto me according to thy word.
Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations,
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness,
the gateway to all understanding.
-the Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell, trans.
Think of willingness as complete openness to receive divine support. There are times that we face challenges that we do not know how to meet. Willingness is always a powerful ally in these situations. We do what we are inspired to do, and what we can do, and we become willing for divine grace to meet us and show us the next step or provide for us what we could not do for ourselves. Willingness is essential on this transformational journey. We can ask ourselves in this holy season: Am I completely willing to awaken spiritually and be free? Am I willing to live in harmony with divine will?
Listen to Part-One of Yogacharya O'Brian's Satsang Series, A Meditator's Guide to Advent: The Cosmic Christ