light behind the raging storm by Chrislyn Lawrence

four years ago tornadoes wrecked oklahoma and i went, driving up from austin, not understanding anything other than i had to go. the first night i slept in the car, then two nights on a church floor, then i met a friend in that same church relief zone with two of her kids in tow and she let me sleep in their home. in the devastating pain all around us, around unimaginable chaos, beneath uncertainty, buried amongst the loss and the ruble there is hope that comes from being present for the light of a moment you never imagined. it's the light that shows you how to live

those storms took and ravaged so many lives, and it was a storm that helped to save and shape mine. is that selfish? maybe. but it’s honest. i will never forgot the faces of the people i met and even people i didn’t actually meet but saw huddled, standing in lines for water without shoes on their feet, or the smiles of folks handing out water to their neighbors. i will never forget this quiet sullen moment in a broke down moldy camper trailer with a mute little girl when she almost smiled. i am forever grateful for the first time gwen let me in. she stopped fidgeting and calmed herself, chain-smoking but less agitated, she let me into her tent where an alter was made for the man they called ‘granddad' who had died pinned to the floor of a trailer, where he stayed for two days because no one could reach them. gwen finally let me in and looked me in the eye to tell me what she really needed. it was to be left alone. but not left alone by me, just pretty much everyone else. and then i saw her everyday for a week. i went home to recharge and came back for another week and then talked to gwen weekly, then every couple of weeks, until slowly and eventually i stopped answering her calls. i couldn't do it anymore. i couldn't be that person for her anymore, because i was going through my own immense storm and i didn't have anything left to give. but i couldn't tell her that. i didn't know how to voice what was happening to me, let alone how to tell this women who had lost everything that my emotional health was somehow more devastating and necessary than her own. and i didn't have the guts to try. so i disappeared, probably like most other people in her life, i just disappeared. the last time she called and left a message was last april. i have never told this to anyone. and i hurt for not being able to simply say "i can't help you anymore. i love you but i can't." in those days, and the days that followed i began to truly learn and practice being present. being utterly barren and vulnerable with people, not trying to say the right thing or have all the answers but rather to show up, to listen and be honest is how we repair what’s broken. it doesn't mean i always get it right or know how to use the knowledge every day, but i understand it. i have been saved by it. and i believe with all my heart that raw presence is how we change the world. in the presence of a still heart there is love. it’s not hammers or money or pills or law and order or walls or guns, but vulnerable presence and honesty that saves us - because that open moment can lead us to the answers of what someone really needs to repair their life. to look another in the eye and witness raw freaking pain is the real life-changer. be still, show up every day, even if it's to say "i can't show up anymore." and ask, "what do you need, right now?" and then be able to say, "this is what i need." and then listen. listen to them, listen to your own beating heart. we can lift and hold each other up and make this world better, but we have to get every notion we’ve ever had of what’s “right” out of the way and simply be open to what is in front of us and what's being asked of us, inside and out. what is right is what this moment asks for, when it's done with compassion. what needs to be said, what doesn’t now? 

i love the wind. it carries ferocity and peace. when the winds blow i always search for the light to roll behind the grey. looking up, waiting, listening. hear what is being said and trust that calling it what it is (or what it is not) will not break you but will make you stronger. tell the story, listen to another’s, and tell the truth. they may not like what you say, you or she may storm out into the unknown hurt and engulfed in fear but it will pass. and you will be stronger and more alive in that light. and it (your truth, my own) may just be the grace that truly saves a life.

storms are unpredictable. they are always there but we can’t stop living despite knowing or not knowing. storms are always there, but so is love. 

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be ruthless with the light by Chrislyn Lawrence

Finally, I begin. I begin finally where I remember I have been, perhaps always - roving over and over the things people say and do and how things look once the light comes. The darkness before dawn can feel utterly alone. Silent in its noise, the light too can feel unbearable. But I also remember the cosmic surge that comes from a lonely lit-up pause - when I listen to that moment as it seems I’ve never listened before…….and I hear - “Beloved. You have the power to step away from the illusion that is breaking your heart. You have the power. You can build the fire. You are ready, you are the one. You are love. Move beyond limitation.”  

I don’t normally encourage ruthlessness. I prefer mercy and compassion always, in every situation. Almost. Meditating this morning, an exception to this rule crept up -  Being ruthless is necessary to battle the crippling woes of humanity. Ruthless re-learning of perfection, of fear, of the fear of ____. 

One of my favorite words and modalities is deconstruction. Deconstruction is the coming to terms with something, often by turning something on its side - be it the necessity of dying or literature (Jacques Derrida) or heart break, even questions like “how do we feed a hungry person?” I encourage you to join me in a ruthless quest - deconstruct the voices of authority that say we must arrive at wholeness by only one path. Deconstruct the fear that rises up inside as you ponder voicing an idea to solve a problem, deconstruct the quickened pulse as you imagine yourself creating what you’ve drawn out in your notebook over and over, different and yet always the same, deconstruct the naysayers to a different way to completeness and draw strength from what comes from that pause. And by all means, deconstruct societal voices that tell you whatever you are doing is not “right.” Go live life fully, expanding outside the lines on your terms. There is no right way, only what is right for you and if you’re clear in your intent and lead with love, your way will allow others to do the same. See yourself, see the eyes of that child who wanted to color the trees blue and the sky red and wear a sword on her back with mud smudges instead of makeup and spend the night with the forrest and tell her it’s okay. Tell her she is perfect. Come to terms with the outside forces that plague your inner peace and learn to tune them out by deconstructing the idea that you ‘should-be’ anything other than exactly who you are. 

Will you meditate on the possibilities of ruthless compassion for yourself? Be ruthless with doubt and oppression of your heart and mind. Be ruthless in your love for another. Be ruthless voicing truth. By all means, be ruthless with the light.