Reveal thy Radiant Countenance

What masks are hiding the shining brightness that is you?

In this life, we hide behind many masks.

When we grieve, we often feel we must hide behind a smiling “I’m okay” mask, sensing that our friends, family and other associates are not comfortable with the depth of our pain. We are not comfortable with their discomfort and the responses triggered by that discomfort, so we put on the mask.

Sometimes, we even try to hide the full depth of our grief from ourselves. Fearing its power, we are not willing to risk drowning in a bottomless well of tears. We are not willing to sit with our pain on its own terms. So we find a way to suck it up or dam it up. We put on a mask.

The paradox is that by not honoring the truth of our pain in the moment, we are at risk of internalizing and unconsciously identifying so deeply with it that it develops a life of its own. Some, including Eckhart Tolle, have called the unconscious internal energy that develops the Pain Body.

The Pain Body can take over, masking our true identity, tricking us into believing that pain is our reality or our identity. We think we are wearing an “I’m okay” mask, but it is the Pain Body that’s really masking our own true Light.

The Sufi poet Hafiz said, “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing Light of your own Being.”

That is also my wish for you. May your own Pain Body be dissolved, may the mask fall away, and may you reveal your true radiant countenance to yourself and to the world.

There’s a Reason it’s Called “Good” Friday

(This was first published on Good Friday last year at Open to Hope)

I’ve been thinking about the Easter story as a metaphor for my own journey through grief. I’ve been thinking about Good Friday and the days leading up to it, because in reality that’s where the Easter story begins. It begins with the dark night of the soul. It begins with a death.

In my life, the darkness wound through years of watching helplessly as my son Cameron struggled with addiction and, at times, homelessness. The darkness only deepened with his death by overdose in the county jail on May 3, 2004.

As in the Bible’s story of Jesus’ death, there seemed to be a great deal of betrayal involved. I felt that I had betrayed my son by not doing enough to save him from his addiction. I felt that he had betrayed himself, betrayed his potential, by using drugs. I felt the system had betrayed us all by choosing to punish substance abusers rather than rehabilitating them and, especially, by allowing addicts to keep using drugs while in custody.

I had often wondered how Mary must have felt, losing her son Jesus in that horrific way. When my son died, I felt like I had died, too. I felt a huge unmovable weight, like the boulder that sealed Jesus’ tomb, lying heavy in my heart. My world was shattered and I had no idea how to put it back together again. I couldn’t see, in those first months of despair, the amazing promise of the Easter to come.

Unlike the boulder that sealed Jesus’ tomb, the boulder in my heart was not moved so quickly and easily. I had to chip away at it slowly and painfully, sometimes with my bare hands. Yet as with Jesus’ boulder, I had help from grace and angels in moving mine.

Almost from the moment of Cameron’s death, synchronicities started guiding me toward healing and awakening. Over a two-year period, I was guided to one person after another who could help me to let go of the past and reclaim a joyful future. Over that same two-year period, I gathered the scattered pieces of my heart and myself and put them back together again, throwing out much of what was no longer useful.

In the story of my own resurrection, there is no one magical moment when the sun rose, the Earth rumbled, and the guards stared dumbfounded at an empty tomb. No, my own personal Easter was more like the slowly spreading glow of sunrise after months of Antarctic winter night. The sun’s light and warmth were at first dim memory, then the faintest glow of fragile hope, and finally the full-blown light and warmth of rediscovering love and joy and peace in my once-shattered heart.

Near the beginning of A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle writes about how often great loss precedes an awakening. And I’ve heard it said that without Judas there could have been no resurrection.

In the online Wikipedia, one definition of the dark night is “the letting go of one’s ego as it holds back the psyche, thus making room for some form of transformation.” In other words, it’s a chance for the small self to get out of the way of the Higher Self. It is the betrayals (real or imagined) and the losses in our lives that challenge us to grow into someone better than we are now — into who we were born to be.

There’s a reason it’s called “Good” Friday. Within our greatest losses, our greatest gifts await discovery. Even in the darkest night of the soul, the sun waits to rise again.

Copyright 2009, Claire M. Perkins. All Rights Reserved.