Tag: faith

A DARK NIGHT BRINGS A NEW DAWN – Guest Post by Author Kathleen Pooler

A DARK NIGHT BRINGS A NEW DAWN – Guest Post by Author Kathleen Pooler

The Voices of Wisdom Series continues …

NOTE: Ten days ago Kathy had a fall and broke her wrist. She is in a cast and one-handed typing is slow. She greatly appreciates your comments but will not be able to respond at this time. Her recent post tells the story as well as memoir writing highlights from the International Women’s Writing Guild Summer Conference. READ MORE

We’re wishing you a speedy recovery Kathy!

 

How My Dark Night of the Soul Led Me to a Deeper Faith

by Kathleen Pooler

 

You necessarily have to be lost, before you’re found.”  

~ T. Scott McLeod, All That Is Unspoken

 

The “dark night of the soul “ is a term that originated with the writings of Saint John of the Cross in the 6th century. He refers to it as a journey in which “darkness represents the fact that the destination, God, is unknowable and the path is unknowable”.  He postulates that ”the mind and body with their cares have been stilled” and “the only light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul. And that is a guide more certain than the mid-day sun. This light leads the soul engaged in the mystic journey to divine union.”

We’ve all had moments, often triggered by external events, when nothing makes sense anymore. Life as we know it changes forever in a moment.

My “dark night of the soul” came to me through a series of events over a twenty-five year period that rendered me lost and despairing—single parenting after two divorces Voices of Wisdomfrom abusive marriages, a simultaneous battle of a cancer diagnosis and a teenaged son who spiraled into substance abuse.  Everything I had thought would or should happen in my life collapsed around me.

For me, my “dark night of the soul” led me to a deeper faith.

As a “cradle Catholic, I was born into and brought up with the traditions and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic faith. I have, by conscious choice and deepening desire, remained true to these beliefs and teachings, except for a brief period in my twenties when I questioned and even rejected them.

My faith did not deepen until I had to face several life-altering, as well as, life-threatening events. It was then that my religion became my faith and my spirituality, the source of comfort and meaning in my life. Gradually.

This excerpt from my memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse ddescribes how the memory of  Great-Grandmother Rose Ranze, guided me through a dark night as I waited, pregnant and lonely, at the bay window for my husband. I stood wondering what condition he would be in after a night of drinking:

Sitting by the Bay Window, 1973 

My slow, rhythmic breaths echoed through the quiet darkness and steadied the anxiety bubbling up from the pit of my stomach, colliding with my view of what I wanted and needed. My thoughts drifted to my great-grandmother. 

Great Grandma Ranze, Mom’s grandmother, had been pregnant with her ninth child when her husband died at the age of thirty-three. Surely I can get through this. The memory of watching Grandma Ranze praying the rosary when I was eight-years-old warmed me as I sat at the bay window on that cold night. 

Wrapped in a pink-knitted shawl, her long white hair pulled back into a neat bun, she had prayed with such fervor I was afraid to disturb her trance. As I walked beside her bed, she opened her eyes and smiled, reaching out to hold my hand. With rosary beads dangling, she continued to murmur her prayers in a soft, soothing drone. 

“Katerina come-a-here,” she motioned while making the sign of the cross after kissing the tiny silver crucifix on the rosary beads. 

As I sat on the edge of her bed, she pulled me close, the rosary beads woven around her worn, wrinkled fingers and kissed my forehead. The rosary beads tickled the back of my neck as I melted into her embrace. 

“God-a–bless, God-a –bless,” she said. The musty scent of an old person lingered as she gently rubbed my back. Her soft, tiny hands felt smooth, like a plush leather glove. 

I felt her gaze on me now and wondered if she were here what would she say to me as I sat lonely and anxious by the window. I grabbed my rosary beads and started praying. It made me feel close to her.

***

This scenario is just one of many over the twenty-five year period of my “dark night of the soul”.  Faith is a gift given to me and nurtured in my childhood by Grandma Ranze. The visions of that tiny woman with her unwavering faith came to me in whispers and glimpses throughout my life as I faced my own challenges. She is still with me when I say my daily prayers.

“My faith became my anchor that brought me back to myself.”

God wasn’t lounging at a pool, watching a mountain sunrise or dreaming by a babbling brook. Nor was He locked up in the Tabernacle on the altar in church.  He was on the battlefield with me, guiding me back into the light.

dark nightAllowing myself to be vulnerable enabled me to accept God’s love, grace and healing. I believe He sent me many angels in the form of family, friends and caregivers on my healing journey.

Simultaneous to the cancer journey was my young son’s spiral downward into alcoholism. The cancer was easier to deal with than watching my son’s descent. At least I had options for cancer treatment and felt some control. I had no control over my son’s addiction. So I prayed and leaned on my faith in God. I learned to hand my son over to God and let go of my need for control. And I never, ever gave up hope that God would heal me and my son.

The words of Grandma Rose echoed in my ears, “God will provide” and He did. That is the miracle of faith.

Having walked through these challenges—two abusive marriages, a life-threatening illness, and terror of loving and letting go of any addicted son has forced me to dig deeper to find the treasures of my faith within.

But now that I am on the other side of these challenges, I see God everyday in the people I love, nature, all the little things in life that matter.

My journey through the “dark night of the soul” has given me the gift of perspective about what really counts in life. It is through a deepening faith that I have seen the light.


Voices of WisdomabuseKathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28, 2014 and work-in-progress sequel, The Edge of Hope (working title) are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments:  domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories. She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.

CONNECT WITH KATHLEEN:

Read her weekly blogs at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog.

Twitter @kathypooler

LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler

Google+:Kathleen Pooler

Goodreads

Kathleen’s FB Author Page

Pinterest  

KATHLEEN’S SHORT STORIES:

“The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe, 2012.

“Choices and Chances” is published in the  “My Gutsy Story Anthology” by Sonia Marsh, September, 2013.


If you would like to be a contributor to The Voices of Wisdom Series, please contact Dorothy via email: DSander@AgingAbundantly.com 

Writer’s Guidelines

Religion, the UnChurched & Politics

Religion, the UnChurched & Politics

Religion
I am sorry to say I cannot determine the artist of this image. I hope one day they come forward.

Religion is a hot button topic, especially with the election antics well under way. Even though it was  decreed long ago that there should exist a separation of church and state, I do not believe that our beliefs can ever be removed from our choices and actions, overt or otherwise.  We don’t have to talk about what we value, or acknowledge it even to ourselves. They show up in everything we do, with or without our permission.

In all arenas, an individual’s spoken beliefs are not what concern me. They can say what they will. It’s how they live, the energy they exude and stir in others, that influences my respect for them or lack thereof. This is true for all of us. I have lived with the destruction of my shadow self, and still do.  I have fallen victim, again and again, to the shadow self of others. This is where the real damage occurs.

[tweetthis]”The un-examined life is not worth living.” Socrates[/tweetthis]

The beliefs and values that lurk in the shadows unannounced and uncontested turn the world upside down. We only need look at what’s happening in the Republican Party to see the damage the shadow self can do to peace and harmony. No. . . religion, organized religion, is not the problem here. It’s not the words spoken, it’s what isn’t said that does the most damage.

RELIGION & THE UNCHURCHED

The church has lost membership steadily over my lifetime. Even back in the late 1970’s when I assisted George Gallup, Jr. in the polling of America regarding their religious beliefs, the decline was obvious.  As a recent seminary graduate, I was personally looking for a path outside of the church to continue my exploration of faith and religion in my own life.  I was eager to ask the questions of others and learn what I could from their experiences.

Gallup’s polling turned up an obvious decline in church attendance across all major denominations and religions in this country. Every poll he conducted indicated that Americans felt as I did. Organized religion was not meeting their needs. And yet, here we are, decades later still clinging to a concept of religion that no longer seems relevant to our modern mindset.

We have a generation of “unchurched” individuals, my children among them, and a vocal minority who shouts at the top of their lungs in a desperate attempt to fan the flames of a dying mindset. The later does not concern me near as much as the former. I do not despair, however, because spirituality is not dead. It’s just in the process of transformation.

People have not lost interest in exploring the mysteries of life, or of the existence of a power greater than themselves. The exploration is simply being undertaken outside of the traditional framework. The growing numbers of individuals delving into these mysteries do not meet on Sunday mornings, or Friday evenings, or face the East in prayer each day, although some do. These people wrestle with, explore, discuss and struggle with the nature of existence and faith throughout their days wherever they are.

Caroline Myss, teacher, author, medical intuitive, refers to those that she knows as “mystics without a monastery”. They read voraciously. They seek mentors, guides, teachers and attend classes, seminars, lectures, workshops on personal and spiritual matters. They meditate, pray, reflect, and practice their faith with every breath they take. They are supported by their “tribe”. . . those individuals who understand their faith journey and are walking a similar path. Unlike mystics of old, the modern-day mystic is not cloistered away from the world. Instead, they struggle to walk between worlds, with one foot in the world and one outside.

These individuals, speak, write, and teach. They love, listen, and care. They tend to  the suffering of their own hearts and souls and the suffering of the world. They attach to no particular dogma. They belong to no particular church or denomination. They follow the Spirit within and pray without ceasing. They pray for deeper understanding and the ability to live a congruent, whole and compassionate life. They worship no one, no thing. They stand open before the universe in communion with all that is.

Yes, religion is dead. The creative energy of something larger than ourselves is very much alive.

Unraveling Ourselves

Unraveling Ourselves

“Unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work.”

Sue Monk Kidd3c15e6af5a296dd861c2bd8ba93aa29e

There is so much to be done in the unraveling department. The good news is that once true unraveling begins, one starts to feel lighter and lighter. The heavy weight of pain and confusion begins to lift and the challenges one faces are laced with hope. Feeling one’s real and honest identity become interconnected with one’s soul is both energizing and life affirming.

If anyone had told me years ago that I would feel younger, happier and freer at sixty-three than I had ever felt at any other time in my life, I would have been convinced they were smoking something. I lived pretty much most of fifty something years under a black cloud, fighting, struggling, despairing…suffering inside in a way I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I was dedicated and earnest in my pursuit of self-understanding from a very early age. I was drawn to the spiritual life, like a magnet. I understand the human need and desire for a connection with the divine, implicitly. What I didn’t understand was my pain in the world. I didn’t understand how the world and the divine spoke to one another. The divine was speaking, but no one was listening.

Repeatedly throughout my life, I moved toward God and then fell away. I moved toward spiritual teachers and an understanding of an inner life, but when I attempted to carry it into the world I felt frustrated and alone. I did not know how to put words to any of what I knew to be true in a way that would convey to others.

The symbolic language I found and used to describe such things no longer worked in my practical, modern surroundings. I desperately wanted to find a connection between the two. I did not want to leave the world behind and go to a mountain top, although at times I wish I had. It could not have been more painful to be alone with God than it was to be alone in the world.

Now all these years later I’m beginning to see more clearly what happened. A product of my times, I found nowhere to go with my spiritual yearnings. Even seminary was an environment that was decidedly pragmatic in its approach to spirituality. One believed in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, even questioned and discussed them with other believers, but when all was said and done it was understood that the ultimate goal was to bring our faith and belief to others in the context of the church setting. What about bringing it into the world at large? Why must we put it into a box only to be brought out on Sunday morning in a pre-programmed environment? I couldn’t buy into any of it.

To my way of thinking what was always wrong with the “church” was what is still wrong with organized religion. It’s religion in a box. It’s not about spiritual listening and learning and becoming. It’s not about looking for God in the everyday world of board meetings and while making peanut butter sandwiches for your kids. We paid lip service to that, but there really was no support structure for such a lifestyle.  Religious traditions are too small, too narrow, too limiting for what I believe God to be and the spiritual life to require.

When “religion” didn’t answer my questions or satisfy my yearnings I didn’t abandon the Divine that lived in my heart. I just stopped paying attention to her voice. She was still there, calling to me, needling me, tormenting me. I chose instead to turn my back on my soul and sought refuge instead in the psychological realm. Therapy. Medication. Pain. More therapy. More pain.More medication.

I learned much about the human psyche, but it did not help me grow in self-esteem or  value the gift of life, because at my core I remained disconnected from my essential myself, my soul self. I was ignoring that place from which all real self-esteem comes. If we are not listening to our deep, inner voice and hearing the messages and guidance of our soul, we will never find peace. We will never understand who we are or what we have to offer the world. We will never trust that we are valuable, or that we matter, no matter what. No therapist, no religion, no worldly structure  or construct can ever teach us that.