We each carry a treasure within us. Etty Hillesum writes of “that little piece of you, God, in ourselves,” and Teilhard de Chardin describes “the diaphany of the Divine” which he recognizes “at the heart of a glowing universe.” That sacred presence manifests in our lives at times as a kind of knowing more intimate, more sure, than something read or heard from others.
We experience moments of clarity when we “see” into and around the deep questions that arise within us. In times of darkness or dimness, in times when we hunger for meaning, for a path through difficulties, we catch a glimpse of light, a glimmer of radiance, as when quartz crystal in a rock catches starlight.
We have moments of sight, of knowing. But do we trust them? Do we follow the path they point out to us?
Perhaps we do sometimes, perhaps for a little while…
There is an ancient Arabic tale of a wondrous golden bird who drops one burnished feather.
Its magnificence lures other birds to set off in pursuit of the golden one. The intensity of desire fuels their flight into an arduous journey.
They fly through danger, through darkness, through wild winds and pelting rain. The way is long. Some become lost, some sustain injuries, a broken wing, a blinded eye. Others become so exhausted that they stop to rest before turning back towards home.
In only a few does the desire burn so intensely that they cannot turn away.
When they finally reach journey’s end, the golden bird is waiting for them, ready to reveal a secret: each one of the birds carries a golden feather in his or her breast.
This story illumines the path to wisdom. It begins with desire, with a glimpse of something lovely and golden that allures us.
We set out, lured by our longing. If we hold the vision in our heart through danger, darkness, discouragement, through the disenchantment, the desertion of some of our companions, we win through at last to the place where the golden bird awaits us.
We discover that our allurement has led us into our own hearts where a golden feather has been all along.
What does this mean in our personal stories? What dangers do we encounter that are so terrifying that we are tempted to turn back?
I do not think we fear darkness, danger, stormy nights, piercing cold or blistering heat. We have lived long enough to know about difficult journeys.
We have taken a few already. We are not like the birds who turn aside because the way is dark and uncertain.
I think Marianne Williamson has it right: what we fear most is not darkness, but our own light.
We distrust the very longing that allures us. We fear the beauty of what we seek. Somehow we have come to believe that it is best not to desire too much, that it is nobler to be content with less, to keep to the low road, the one that cannot disappoint or deceive us. We have been taught NOT to seek too much,
NOT to desire joy, NOT to expect happiness. Perhaps those who taught us were trying to protect us for disappointment.
Or maybe they prefer us to be more pliant, more in tune with their needs than with our own, more willing to serve their desires than the desires of the Universe, the longings that have been seeded in our hearts by the Sacred Presence of Love…
And yet, the poets, the mystics, the wise ones of all times and faith paths assure us: the Universe has birthed us out of Love, and our heritage is light and joy, inner wisdom, guidance towards fullness of life. We are not meant for ease nor for absence from the suffering that is part of life.
But we are offered beauty, meaning, wonder, and a love within us that draws us into Love.
It is our longings that lead us to our destiny.
As Frank MacEowen writes in The Mist-Filled Path: Nearly all initiations, if they are truly centered in the life of the soul, are about stepping into right relationship with the spirit of longing. Initiation is the process of defining and refining one’s role in the life of our longing, determining how we can be conduits for its influence in our lives and world.
Our longings influence more than our own lives as Brian Swimme also assures us:
Your allurements draw you into the activity of evoking the life about you. (The Universe Is a Green Dragon)
MacEowen believes that: When we have a tangible heart-felt sense of the pain and joy of our personal longing,a powerful force that seeks to serve others becomes activated in our souls.
And the Sufi poet Rumi encourages us:
Let the Beauty you love be what you do.
While life’s door stands open, we must step out onto the moon-washed path that lures us forward.We must take the path that leads to life, the path illumined by the deepest longings of our heart.
On that path we will be serving the Universe as seekers, sharers, of joy and wisdom.