in the dark times

A gentle rain is falling this morning. It has a voice like compassion. I am going slow into the day.

Sometimes in our lives we enter a space where everything else falls away and we just have our body pulsing around us and our soul surrounded by dark. You know, the migraine hours, the sudden crashing illness times, the moments after an accident. We're too sick or dazed to think about money, manners, or what our hair looks like. All that connects us to the world beyond our bones is love. Our love and concern for the important people in our lives.

In those times, other people form our external space, whether they want to or not, and whether we like them or not. Those who surround us and attend to us become the whole outer world. If we're lucky, they will be thoughtful and kind. If we're not, they will be worse than unhelpful, they will disrupt our healing with their attitude. When you're in crisis, knowing the world around you is a safe place makes all the difference. It doesn't necessarily need to look like gentleness. Often, steadiness and cool calmness offer the greatest reassurance. But to have someone disrespect the space holding you is, well, just horrible.

I'm generally a helpful person to have around when you're sick or needing to get out of a difficult situation. What I'm not so good at, though, is remembering that so many people are in crisis even when I'm unaware of it. I'm sure it's happened countless times - with aquaintances, in interviews, at the supermarket checkout. I'll be having a normal interaction with someone who is, inside themselves, holding shards of a broken relationship, or worrying about a monetary disaster, or in some other way struggling with life. Am I gentle to them? Am I steady, thoughtful, kind? When people see me coming, do they have that moment of ease like you get in a medical crisis when the ambulance arrives? Or are they secretly praying, let this person be kind?

I need to remember that I can make all the difference to someone - we all can - whether we know it or not. In the dark moments, the migraines of the soul, we represent the whole world to them. Each of us can be safety so they are able to do the inner healing, or simply holding on, they need to do until the pain recedes. Or we can make everything so much worse.


  1. This post - so much of what you say here matters to me, and I've thought these very same thoughts over the years. As someone who is very comfortable caring for the sick, and having trained (for a while) to be a healer, I understand how crucial is space-holding. And I often think about what lies behind the surface for people, and find myself "tuning in" to disturbances, troubles, that lie beneath.

    Your post also reminded me of the work of Marguerite Manteau-Rao who writes about caring for the very ill, and dying. This is not the same, but the essentials are still relevant. Compassion, but also honouring and respect; and holding space.

    Sending healing wishes and thoughts, and hoping that all is well. xx

  2. This post is so very beautiful, Sarah. Your writing is lovely, as always.

    This particular topic is one I feel strongly about. After having suffered through many difficult times (which I realize may sound ridiculous coming from someone my age...), I've come to appreciate people that are genuinely kind. Strangers, even. And I've been trying my hardest lately to be that kind person myself.

    Most of us appear to be healthy, happy, and confident on the outside, while purchasing groceries perhaps, in a business meeting, or at school, but are dealing with internal or family struggles that no one could possibly be aware of unless explicitly told.

    So... that is why I do my best to be nice to everyone. Even if they don't seem to deserve it. Those are the people that need it most, I think.


  3. ohhhh, yes. another very cogent reason to approach every interaction with compassionate calm...we never know what a person may be facing in his/her life at the moment we intersect with them. being kind to everyone we meet is such a gift, because we never know what is going on in a life. i am great in a crisis---i suspect many of us are---but to hold to kindness on a daily basis is just as critical. perhaps more so...

  4. I'm loving these comments, thank you.

  5. And I was thinking - it doesn't exactly hurt to be met with kindness even if you're already having a brilliant day, so it'll never be a wasted effort. ;-)

    Thanks for this reminder. Not that I'm intentionally rude to anybody, but I think an extra awareness of this could pay off.

  6. What a compassionate reminder about the struggles of others.

  7. I do try to be kind and caring but it doesn't always come easily. We cannot possibly carry the sorrows of the world on our shoulders but in the little things that we do for others, whether we realise is or not, do make a difference. When I was out and about yesterday a woman in the street smiled at me, a big open smile - this doesn't happen very often, believe me - in fact it was such a rare occurrence that it stayed in my mind all day and wondered what I had done to deserve it.

    1. I've had that happen to me too. And I'm amazed at how much brighter it makes me feel, a simple smile. Like you said, it can actually stay with me all day. It inspires me to smile also.

  8. Hmm, very thoughtful and brilliant post Sarah. It's a bit of a double edged sword, isn't it? I know that when I was going thru radiation therapy last year, the last thing I wanted anyone to know is the hardship I was suffering because I hated the way people would cower and tip-toe around me for fear of upsetting me. On the other hand, if someone is having a hard time I want to know. I want to be supportive and loving and give them something I think I'm really good at. But then, Robert, whose father instilled in him Zen training, taught me that we all have facets in out personalities, and those facets spin around like a diamond, and we can spin our diamond to reflect the facet best for our friends/loved ones in a moment, in the instant that we recognise their need. x

  9. Deep, lovely thoughts. I remember once I was crying while speaking with a friend. And she stood there, with love in her eyes, and let me cry. She didn't touch me or hold me, but I felt her care. It surprised me that she was able to know that I appreciated being able to cry unhindered, to let it all come out. Usually we want to comfort, which is good, but sometimes I find that it gets in the way, if someone hugs me. Maybe that's just me. Maybe I feel I bother people, and try to hold it in.

    Anyway, that was a memory that stayed with me. And I want to learn to let people be in their pain, to not feel I have to take it away. But to honor their strength, the strength it takes to move through the darkness, and just be there for them. I don't want them to feel they have to hide their pain, or that I'm belittling it, wanting them to be better right away. It takes time to heal, and I want them to know that's ok.

    Hmm. I hope I'm making sense.

  10. A post full of your usual thoughtfulnes. I think there are many more stressed people around us than we can realize. And its the cranky ones that probably need us the most! But of course you are right. Making an authentic connection makes all the difference.

  11. A post full of your usual thoughtfulnes. I think there are many more stressed people around us than we can realize. And its the cranky ones that probably need us the most! But of course you are right. Making an authentic connection makes all the difference.

  12. More Wisdom... Which we all need to hear... And be reminded of....

    Thank you.


  13. Thank you for this beautiful, gentle reminder to be a safe place for others. It takes such a little bit of effort to be a light in someone else's life.