“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” - Mary Oliver
I interpret Mary Oliver’s “box full of darkness” as that place hidden deep within ourselves where dwell the seeds of who we truly are and what we are called toward in our lives. At some point in life, after the years of childhood and adolescence have helped us know our physical selves and this material world, after we have learned how to form and maintain relationships and the proper protocol of behavior within society, this seed of our true spiritual self begins to call us toward our purpose. These callings first feel like gentle knocks at the door of our consciousness – periodic, deeper, inward feelings that we aren’t quite versed in, haven’t been trained in exploring, and aren’t quite sure what to do with. If we pay attention, if we have the space in our lives to listen to these knocks and the support of a healthy community to mirror and draw forth our inner being, we can begin to see and follow the signs that eventually open up the pathway to our true calling. Though more often than not, in our fast-paced, distracting, outward-oriented society, there is no time to listen to these knocks. Not only that, often times they are interpreted as negative emotions that don’t have a place within our society’s standards of ‘normal’ functioning. Our society has cast out these parts of our humanity. With no silence to listen and no support from community, we suppress this part of ourselves calling us toward our wholeness. We may be able to hide these feelings, suppress the knocks for quite some time. Our society indeed thrives on its capacity to allow for this. However, the longer we suppress these feelings and continue to turn our attention outward, the louder the knocks eventually become. And with a force that pushes many people into serious depression, the knocks become bangs that eventually break down the door until we have no option but to pay attention to these unattended-to feelings. Resistance to the feelings can lead to serious clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental anguish. Turning toward these feelings however, in a healthy way and with guidance and support, can be the best thing that has happened to us. When we turn toward the feelings, when we allow ourselves to descend into the ‘box of darkness’, the misery is transformed into opportunity, and we can begin to see truly see the gift that our soul is giving us in its calling us to turn towards that which will ultimately be most fulfilling to ourselves and the world. And so begins the process of self-discovery.