Matt Licata: The kindest thing we can offer our suffering friend is to sit in the darkness with them

In speaking with a friend this morning, I was reminded of the great bias in our culture toward the light and away from the darkness. When we meet with a friend who is sad, feeling hopeless, shut down, or otherwise not beaming and joyful, we can become convinced, quite quickly, that something has gone wrong, that some mistake has been made which needs fixing. We scramble to put them back together, to remind them of all the gifts in their life, to let them know everything will be better soon, and that it will all turn out okay.
It is so natural to want to help another and to lessen their suffering and their pain. There is nothing wrong with this intention and with using whatever skillful means we have to help. But we can also start to see that much of this fixing activity arises out of the abandonment of our own relationship with the darkness within. Perhaps as little ones it was not safe to embrace sadness, rage, despair, or hopelessness. If our early environment was one in which love, affection, and connection was withdrawn as a result of our confrontation with these and other ‘non-happy’ states of consciousness, we learned (very intelligently) to disavow their messages, truths, and potential gifts.

It is possible the kindest thing we can offer our suffering friend is to sit in the darkness with them, removing the burden that they change, transform, feel better, or heal in order for us to love, accept, or simply be with them. And to hold them closely as we wade into the icky, messy, yucky areas of the body and the psyche, vowing with our sweet friend to not turn away from their precious heart and the reality of their immediate subjective experience, *exactly* as it is. As we turn to embrace own unmet sadness, grief, and despair, we can begin to resist the temptation to project our unlived life upon others and the world.

As we come to rest in the wholeness of our immediate, embodied reality, we can start to see that love is a movement of the totality. It is whole, never partial, and is raging and alive even in the darkness, shining brightly in its own way. And that you will never, ever be satisfied with a partial life, with a partial love, or a partial heart. In the core of the darkness, the sadness, the grief, and the aloneness is something very real, breaking through the dream of partiality. But what this is may never support conventional egoic process or our cultural and spiritual fantasies of a life of invulnerability. To embrace this may always feel groundless as you fall off the cliff of the known and into the mandala of presence.

In the wholeness of what you are, everything is alive in its own way, everything is path, and everything is the integrative activity of the beloved. She is not only the joy and the sweetness, but at times will arrive as the darkness itself to reorder your world. She will shape-shift using both sweet *and* fierce grace, including both peaceful *and* wrathful manifestation, in order to reveal the primordial integration of her movement in the world of time and space.

Let us stay close to our own suffering and the suffering of others, careful not to cut it too quickly. Let us turn toward the darkness before we discard it, and finally see what it has to say. For we may discover a light shining there that is heralding a new world.

– Matt Licata

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