mountains at sunrise

Where Can We Find Light in this Ever-Ending Shade

By Christina Donnell | 3 min. read |

2020 will be remembered as a year of global upheaval. Here we are now in the beginning of another year navigating the ongoing pandemic, climate change, our nations systemic racism, civil unrest, and economic contraction. Our solutions stretch and yawn, gasp and wheeze, yet these problems resist our taming.

I’ve deeply wondered what these times teach us as these destabilizing agents resist our taming. Are the ways we respond to crisis part of the crisis? What if we didn’t immediately reach for solutions? Instead, we were brave enough to unfurl into the space inside us that too, is asked to destabilize, slowdown, fall away to be a part of the change. 

I’ve sat with beautiful souls over the last year who have been sheltered-in-place for months, lamenting being thwarted, feeling stagnant, not knowing where to turn with no stimulation or immediate novelty in their world, especially young adults. I’ve seen veterinary students who as a result of the pandemic, were not able to get clinical experience in surgery before entering the job market. Young engineers thwarted in the same way. Community citizens traumatized by riots, uprisings, violent car jackings in their neighborhoods. Family businesses sheltered, first time food insecurity, everyday humans held in the vice of uncertainty and unknowing. Destabilized. It is unprecedented in my 33 years of sitting with people. 

We are a nation in mourning. Mourning is about dwelling with loss, coming to appreciate what it means, how the world has changed, and how we ourselves must change and renew our relationships. I think of grief as a falling apart. Not only a falling apart in human terms, as a falling apart that is part of the motions, part of the processes, that is stitched into the fabric of time and matter itself. We are not excluded from this natural motion. I wonder, can we stay in the slowness of the compost? For the new will rise from it.

Imagine if we could come to a place of quietude so compelling that one yields oneself to its operations, a place of creative surrender. I wonder if there are worlds in-between, that we are not able to notice? As Bayo Akomolafe said in a podcast, Slowing Down in Urgent Times, January 2020, “I wonder if the untamed destabilization of our times is beckoning us into the wilds, beyond our fences. Wanting us to dance between the binary, the crisis of separation, the space between the stories we tell and our current narrative”.

The times are already letting us slowdown. Slowing down seems to be a hacking of our old fundaments of reality that are destabilized for a reason right now. It creates the opportunity for us to  penetrate other kinds of reality, new fundaments of perception.

Again, Bayo Akomolafe in his interview states, “Slowing down is not a function of speed, it is a function of awareness. A function of presence. When I invite slowing down, I’m inviting us to witness, to with-ness, to be with land, community, ancestors, other in a way that isn’t about doing – to unfurl into a wider cosmic net of relationships. What would teachings of slowness, defeat, and surrender and what is activated when we are finally still, bring? They may work to transform our ecological, cultural, and spiritual relationships with one another and our common home. How is cultivating a humble quietness imperative to creating alliances with collaborations, with our beyond human relatives, for our collective earthly survival? Only in the performing of it, can we speak about it. Quietness is an elemental ingredient of connection”.

I feel invited, led, and inspired to ask if mourning, if falling apart, if quietude, rest, and stillness, isn’t a space of reckoning with these times of untamed destabilization of which live through us as part of the whole.

It is not our work to come up with a final answer on how to do that. It is our work to be ready when it calls us. As our young poet laurate, Amanda Gorman recited at the Biden inauguration, “Where can we find light in this ever-ending shade? …We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole, benevolent, but bold, fierce, and free. …There is always light. If only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.””