Excerpt from The Light Inside the Dark

by John Tarrant  /  Harper Collins, NY; 1991  /  tarrantworks.com

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The Wildness Inside and the Creatures to be Found There

The Primeval Place

The interior life is a place of the wild — uncivilized and unpredictable, giving us fevers, symptoms, and moments of impossible beauty. Yet within the appearances of chaos are both a richness and a deep level of orderliness. Like a national park, the interior life doesn’t do anything – it is a treasure house of life. It can’t be strip-mined for our conscious purposes. The only request it makes of us is that we love it; and in return, it responds to our attention. To learn to attend well is to discover our place in the natural order: it brings an element of consistency and harmony to our lives and gives us a story about who we are. To learn to attend is a beginning. To learn to attend more and more deeply is the path itself.

For aboriginal people, a wilderness is not something alien but a kind of blessed garden. As we deepen our attention, we too come to harmonize with existence, learn to see the thin vine that has a tuber underneath, or to follow the direction of birds at sunset to a water hole. Gradually we change. Our listening becomes more acute, we hear background as well as foreground noises, and we are not longer surprised by the animals – the fears and longing of our inner life – and do not complain that someone else has caused their rough ways. When our attention if offered freely, the inner life in return becomes a friend to comfort and sustain us. Gradually, with our offered attention, we connect with the source of which we came – we become aboriginal to ourselves, discovering how much we love our own inwardness.

The Transparence of Spirit

Sometimes we want to live inside the source itself, and bend towards it like a heliotrope to changing light. To take this path, the whole direction, is to face toward spirit. We take up such a way for many reasons – for health, to live in goodness, to answer our great questions – but there is an element of unreason too, for we fall in love with spirit. Sprit is the center of life, the light out of which we were born, with eyes still reflecting the vastness, and the light toward which our eyes turn when our breath goes out and does not come in again.

The great inner traditions, from Paleolithic shamanism to monastic Christianity, have brought us many disciplines to cultivate our link with spirit. Such work involves meditation, prayer, and the delicious process of letting go – everything we thought important drops away when the blaze and stillness at the center fills the view.

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