December 2012 – 5am
This is the time.
Before the dawn. A quiet stillness pervades the air. A sense of coming, of serene anticipation, of something big just around the corner.
It’s the same quality before a big date, when actually all the frenzy of getting ready is over and there’s nothing left to do but listen to your heart pound double time, triple check your lipstick, and smile secretively as your mind runs wild with hope and possibility.
Hope and Possibility. This is what we’ve chosen to cultivate in 2013. And I sit here, now, early early morning in December 2012 – anticipating, in every sense, this year of anticipation. A year of waiting that invites you to lean forward. A year of practicing the moment before. This is the space from which impulses are born. This is the time in which it most serves individual you and collective us to be clear, receptive, awake, alive, and paying attention. This is the year in which all possibilities are present, the fatal swoop of choice hasn’t yet thrashed her inevitable sword, and we get to live and dance deep inside the child-like wonder where our only opponents are the limits of our own imagination.
This is the time. We’ve now been through, we’ve survived, the 1st of the 8 monastic cycles. And now – we know from experience – this shit’s no joke. Careful what you call in. Not careful laced with fear, but in the sense that you must be oh so full with care. In our 2012 year of Vigils, we celebrated Death, Darkness, Deepness of Night, Emptiness of the Void. And I think we really went there. We stared down the throat of Death, in so many literal and figurative ways. I saw Death in everything, everywhere, even more so when I look back from here. The Death of dear friends, the Death of so many relationships, the Death of this phase of the Project, the Death of countless expectations, beliefs, fears, ideas, selves. We used to distinguish between lower-case ‘d’ deaths and big ‘D’ deaths, but looking back, let’s be honest – they’re all big ‘D’ Deaths. I think maybe there’s no other kind.
I look back from here, and I wonder if we’ve learned anything at all. Do I know anything more about Death than when we started? Maybe that’s the thing – in all my reading, my brain has absorbed a few more facts and figures, but that feels so hollow. And so maybe, really, people only ever learn anything by experience. Maybe we had to lose everything, to know. I’m reminded, again, of the line from that Rumi poem – “I’ve spent long nights in monasteries.” There’s a coldness and a sense of solitude in that line that haunts me, and that rushes towards me as I close my eyes and think of last year – yes, I know Death. I know darkness, and I know emptiness, and I have made friends with the night. I have been cloaked in solitude and embraced by mystery and I know the depths of despair, when light is just a memory.
And so, it seems to me, it’s important to know these things, in your heart and in your bones. But you can’t stay there. At the end of your Death, whatever particular Death you’re going through at the moment, you have to remember the light.
I made a lot of jokes at the end of this year that our year of Death was too much for me, and that I wanted to skip straight to dawn. This is why you live as a group; I was only half-joking, but my fellow Artmonks wouldn’t let me get away with it for a second. They’re right. You have to trust the Cycle. Pre-dawn is a necessary phase. This is the year of the memory of light – we’re not quite ready for light just yet. The transition would be too harsh. We’re still sensitive from being in the dark so long. So, we wait. We give ourselves Time, and gentleness, and so much Space. And we cultivate this precious transition time. The darkest of nights is over. This is the land of both after and before. These are the moments when the mind is everything, when opening up to the wideness of possibility is the most important job. The world is not fated, the outcome is not predetermined. The choices you make today, after the sun rises, will both prohibit other alternative realities from coming into being and simultaneously create the only version of reality that matters.
Possibility is everywhere. We are creating this world, together, as we go. There are no givens, there is no one answer, and there is certainly no old man in the sky to tell us what to do. “It is up to us to see what human nature can become.”
This is what we’ll be working on this year.
If you have any ideas – this is the time.