“To find the shape of one’s own life, to become oneself, to…be in the right struggle and love in a way that makes things genuinely fit together…that makes all the difference, even in a dark time when nothing seems to make any difference at all.”
I was very excited, at the beginning of this year, to welcome 2012. February would usher in the Year of the Dragon, an auspicious year, a year of power and dynamism. Having been born in a dragon year, I gleefully anticipated doubly good fortune with health, wealth, and a book deal raining down from the heavens.
And then the opposite occurred. The year unfolded with challenge upon challenge: hopes, plans, money, health, old ways of relating all fell away like leaves in an autumn wind. Surely it will get better, I mused.
It did not get better. Over time, I became curious. I wanted to understand what was happening. And then one day I got it: it was an incredibly powerful and dynamic year, just not in the one I initially imagined.
Any powerful transformation requires the death of the old way of being. Myths from all ages and cultures tell of this process of death, descent, and resurrection. From the ashes of what was, from the dark depths of decay and humiliation and loss, comes new life. The old year, the old attitudes, the old way of seeing and being are torn away in the service of creation.
Loss initiates us into wholeness. Every birth follows the death of what was, every death heralds the birth of what is becoming. The pain that accompanies major transformation is the pain of birthing new life. It is the dragon, biting through to the bone of being, testing our strength, pushing us to our limits, finding what is solid within us, pushing us to our essential core.
Ex malo bonum. Out of bad comes good. It’s terrifying to lose what you valued, disorienting not to know who or where you are, frightening to face into the darkness. Discarding everything superficial and non-essential—especially when you thought certain of those things to be very essential indeed—is painful, but it’s also freeing. Once all the debris is removed and the dust settles it makes it very easy to see who you really are. And once you get past the shock of this, well, there is nothing better or more powerful than feeling the flush of your true being.
Think, if you will, of the self as a walnut: the shell is the ego; the fruit inside, the soul. The kernel, the soul, contains the full essence and rich potentiality of illimitable life. It can take a great deal of force to crack the shell that encloses this potential. But if we are curious and brave, we come to see that the challenges we face are the force of fate opening us to our destiny. Exposed to the fertile, dark depths, the seed of soul can take root and begin to manifest it’s true form.
The fierce dragons of our lives tear us open, exposing our vulnerability and longings. They awaken our humanity as well as our divinity. We don’t really grow until we open up, until we hit the dirt. The dragons are what prepare us for our fullest incarnation.
In this spirit of endings and beginnings, I offer this: May all our dark days presage our illumination; may turmoil transform to peace and fear become love; and may our dragons open us to finding the fullness of our being.