Light a Candle

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by Judy Myerson

Recorded by author

A different view and story of who we are as a species, and a change in collective course of action are needed, and needed now.

  The news and extreme weather are bells of mindfulness, sounding daily (1). They are telling us clearly that we humans need to act collectively now and with purpose in order to mitigate the extent of the damage already done by us as a species to our beautiful planet and all her beings, relieve the suffering that is unfolding before us, and decrease the future suffering predicted to ensue. There are many “solutions” and some progress, but not sufficient or fast enough, and the backlash and divisiveness being experienced takes away focus and any forward movement. The three poisons of Buddhism — greed, hatred and ignorance, along with human-centered, patriarchal, white-supremacist, extractive view and actions — have come home full circle as collective Karma. A different view and story of who we are as a species, and a change in collective course of action are needed, and needed now. As this rapidly unfolds, however, many in the United States and in most other privileged countries throughout the world continue acting as if business is as usual…

if we do fully look at reality as it is, we are often at a loss as to how we can possibly hold it all

  Our human nervous systems, bodies, and brains are not designed to handle this ongoing, massive input and threat, and so many of us tend to turn away, as if in the Netflix parody of reality, “Don’t Look Up,” and numb or distract ourselves. And if we do fully look at reality as it is, we are often at a loss as to how we can possibly hold it all, allow ourselves to fully feel the extent of our pain and grief, and move through our despair to Going Forth – even within the Spiral of the Work that Reconnects. 

And then, I hear the voice of our root teacher, Joanna Macy, in my ear, reminding us:

Being fully present to fear, to gratitude, to all that is – this is the practice of mutual belonging. As living members of the living body of Earth, we are grounded in that kind of belonging. We will find ways to remember, celebrate, and affirm this deep knowing: we belong to each other, we belong to Earth. Even when faced with cataclysmic changes, nothing can ever separate us from her. We are already home. The practice of mutual belonging is the medicine for the sickness of the small self and can accompany us through the bardo, through the hard times ahead (2). 

In March, 2022, I attended a Garrison Institute online forum with Thomas Hübl on “Healing Collective Trauma through Relationality, Attunement and Presence”. The term he used, “Bearing Witness” – a universal practice or tenet in many spiritual traditions including the Zen Peacemakers – struck a chord. As “Bearing Witness” continued to resonate in me over the following months and I reflected on our history and evolution as a species, a poem and vision of a new collective ritual for holding and honoring our communal pain for the world began to emerge. All we really have are our actions (3).  This remembrance, along with the knowledge that we are not separate selves, that what we each do – if done with love, true presence and moral integrity – has meaning and impact in widening circles, was also the inspiration behind “Light a Candle”.

I have a vision of candles lit in windows all over the world shining continuous light, bearing witness to our collective grief and loss, and illuminating our path

I share this poem with you in hopes that if it speaks to you, you will join me in lighting a candle and placing it in your window every evening – or if that’s not possible, then on Sunday evenings. I have a vision of candles lit in windows all over the world shining continuous light, bearing witness to our collective grief and loss, and illuminating our path— a path to a new story of our collective evolution as a species that lives in harmony with and for the benefit of all people, all beings, and Gaia, our Mother Earth.

Along with your candle, if you are so moved, please also place a sign in your window that speaks to your aspiration – a single word or statement of intention, such as “I light this candle for (peace, kindness, justice)”, or “With this candle I honor my commitment to our shared planet”.  You might also choose to place in the window a picture of a loved one – perhaps a grandchild, an ancestor who guides you, or a treasured place.  

Please feel free to share this writing and poem, in whole or in part, inviting others in your circles to join in shining light. If anyone would like to work with me on helping this vision manifest, including those with social media and some tech expertise, please email me at jmyerson1@icloud.com. All are invited to share in the comment section about your experience of placing a candle in your window, bearing witness and shining your light.

A note on the use of “we”:

The “We” I am referring to is the human species, collectively.  While some groups, cultures and individuals are clearly more responsible and culpable than others for the current situation we are in, and many, especially indigenous cultures, live in more harmony and reciprocity with the Earth, it is my understanding that all humans have the capacity for violence, perpetration, otherizing, extraction, turning away, etc. Just as all humans have the capacity for love, compassion, connectedness, generosity, working together, altruism and more.

What we do is dependent on causes and conditions. Please see Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem, “Please Call Me by My True Names” (4), and his commentary on his writing of the poem for more clarification of this: https://plumvillage.org/articles/please-call-me-by-my-true-names-song-poem.

 

References:

  1.  Thich Nhat Hanh, The World We Have, Parallax Press, 2008, pg.1
  2.  Joanna Macy, A Wild Love For the World, Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time, Stephanie Kaza ed., Shambhala Publications, 2020, pg. 360
  3.  Thich Nhat Hanh et al, Chanting from the Heart, Volume 2, Parallax Press,  2023 (revised edition), pg. 228
  4.  Thich Nhat Hanh, Call me by my True Names, The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press, 1999, pg. 72 

 

Recorded by the author


Light a candle

 
tonight
and 
every night
 
please
 
bear witness
to
the suffering 
 
and
to that
which will 
ensue
 
the climate chaos
violence 
 
here
now
 
to 
the birds
bees
butterflies
animals
plants
fungi
and tiny creatures
yet unseen
 
as
they 
disappear
 
and to us humans
as 
we continue
to run
hide
deny 
distract
 
delude 
and
destroy
 
each other
and
this beautiful world
given to us
 
a gift
that 
we just…
 
took
 
Light a candle
 
tonight
and 
every night

please
 
bear witness 
to our grief
at what 
and who 
we each
and all 
treasured
and loved
and
have already 
lost
 
and to our rage
 
and 
regret…
 
it did not have to be
this way
 
Light a candle
 
tonight
and 
every night
 
for those 
in fear
 
seeking 
safety
shelter
food
future
 
for those we 
harm 
turn our back on
use
abuse
brutalize
bomb
extract
and
throw away
 
not knowing
that
when we
cut off their humanity
we also cut off
ours
 
and our ability to feel
anything
even 
joy…
 
Light a candle
tonight
and 
every night
 
please
 
for all those
who
each in their way
big 
and small 
shine the light of
love 
and 
compassion
 
who
speak up 
step up
show up
reach out…
 
act
protect
and
create
 
bear witness
to
their 
caring 
courage
creativity
commitment
 
and know
that 
this too…
 
is you
 
Light a candle
 
tonight
and 
every night
 
and… 
 
when we each
 
all
 
place our candles
in our windows
and
open our eyes
and look
and see…
 
we will know
we
are not alone
 
or separate
 
and that 
the 
lights
that we see
also
shine 
from within
 
glimmering
reflecting
connecting
 
beacons…
 
illuminating
our path
 
as together
we
find 
our way
 
on
this
 
New Day
                                                         
© Judith Myerson 2023 — Permission granted to reproduce and distribute widely


recorded by Erin Holtz Braeckman

photo by Mia Bieber

Judith Myerson is a retired Psychotherapist and Order of Interbeing member in the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism, receiving transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh in 2007. She practices and facilitates with various sanghas and initiatives, including the Earth Holder Community, Deep Roots Beloved Community Circle and at Blue Cliff Monastery. Judy trained in the 2019 WTR facilitator development program and as a Trauma Resource Institute’s Community Resilience Model teacher. She is looking with new eyes at how she can best serve to create a more just and sustainable world for her children’s children and all future generations. She also finds much joy with the birds at her feeders and at the Bashakill Marsh, not far from her home in Pine Bush, NY.

2 thoughts on “Light a Candle

  1. This is the most beautiful poem – filled with grace and spiritual inspiration – thank you I will be sharing this with my community as a nourishing and healing practice .

  2. Thank you for this beautiful poem that reminds us of our true nature as interconnected beings and invites us to practice bearing witness to the wholesome and unwholesome elements and let the light heals our wounds

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