January 19, 2015

Living in the Dark (& How to Turn on the Light).


In the 1980s, I worked at a Fortune 100 company. I facilitated leadership programs and coached key leaders.

One day, I was asked to make a presentation about this work to a group of engineering executives.

We met in a windowless conference room.

I sat in a stiff­‐backed chair on the perimeter of the room waiting for my turn to present. The executives sat around a wide conference table listening to another presentation. Then, suddenly, the room was plunged into darkness.

We were in total darkness.

Here’s why: The company had installed motion‐sensitive lights in all the conference rooms to save money on utility bills. This meant that the lights would go off automatically whenever the room was empty.

So, what happened? The room wasn’t empty. Every chair was occupied. But, movement had ceased to the degree that the sensors assumed nobody was in the room.

No one was present.

There’s a huge difference between sitting in a chair and being present, just as there’s a huge difference between conditional living and embodying your life’s purpose.

You can be really, really busy with a full schedule of activities and still be lifeless.

You can set goals, check off action items, follow the dictates of your conditioning without being present to the deeper calling of your life. You and I could spend a lifetime without being present. We could live our lives in the dark…if we don’t heed the Call.

What is the Call?

The Call is unique to you.

It’s beckoning you to realize, embody and fulfill your life’s purpose. To enter, more deeply, more fully, more consistently your true life.

But, here’s the thing—following the Call isn’t about being famous, winning an award or filling your bank account to overflowing proportions. There’s nothing wrong with these any of these conditions, it’s just that they are not indicators of living purposefully.

They are culturally conditioned measures of success.

We’re all conditioned to seek fulfillment in cultural symbols. It’s what we have been educated to do by our family and all the cultural institutions—schools, churches, spiritual centers, clubs—that we’ve experienced.

You were trained and encouraged to seek safety, approval and control.

You—or, more accurately, your mind—has been conditioned to pursue symbolic fulfillment by accumulating culturally sanctioned symbols—like a shiny car, dazzling house, buff body, envy­‐inducing mate, piles of money…insert your symbols of choice.

You were taught, in so many different ways, that If you accumulate enough of the right symbols, you’ll be fulfilled.

That’s called living in the dark.

It’s the pursuit of symbolic fulfillment based on cultural symbols. And here’s the thing: you may or may not get those things. Either way, it isn’t the heart of the matter. Getting these cultural symbols doesn’t turn on the light. And there’s a very good reason why.

Because, the light is already on.

The light of wisdom, creativity, bliss is already on. You don’t turn on the light, you turn toward it. You attune to it and recognize how it illuminates your being.

In moments of darkness, when you feel lost, tangled up in doubts and fears it’s easy to get mesmerized by the darkness, to fixate on the confusion rather than turn toward the light. It’s easy to seek refuge in culturally sanctioned symbols, which divert you from the radiance that is all around you and within you.

How can you break the fixation on darkness and turn towards the ever‐shining light?

Spiritual practice builds your capacity to realize, embody, and manifest the light.

And spiritual practice is more than formal meditation. The practice includes your whole life: formal meditation (yep, can’t really get away from this), family, relationships, work, health, money…

Everything in your life is integral to your spiritual practice.

By relating to everything—yes, everything—with an undefended heart, you build the psychological proclivity and the neurological strength that allows you to heed the Call of awakening—of living fully—when your cultural conditioning would distract you and have you turn away.

Spiritual practice builds your capacity to catch conditioning in­ the­ act.

Rather than becoming immobilized in the dark, you breathe and open to the light that is seeking to awaken in, through and as your life. In so doing, you discover the sacred in the very conditions of your life.

You find huge blessings that were previously veiled in the tangle of your conditioning. You find your path of awakening in the very conditions of your daily life.

Your path is not some generic spiritual idea.

It’s unique to you. It’s your life. Following your unique path will lead you past the boundaries of conditioning; past what you know; beyond all imaginings of your purpose into the radical, surprising, expansive domain of ever‐present blessings.



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Author: Eric Klein

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own 

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