December 1 – Candles and Cocoons – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Dreams are candles to help us through the dark. Once used, they have to melt.

Very often, we define ourselves by what we want or dream of. I want to be an actor or a musician or president or a grandmother. I dream of being famous, of going down in history, of being a hero or a heroine. Yet when our lives shape us differently, we often think we have failed, that we are settling for less, because we weren’t good enough to become or have what we wanted.

Certainly, as we experience our limitations, this sometimes feels true. Yet even through our limitations, we evolve rather than fail, the way a caterpillar becomes a chrysalis becomes a butterfly, and the succession of life’s trials is precisely the unfolding we need to find our┬ábliss and rightful place in the order of things.

The truth is that what we want or dream of doesn’t always last. It tends to serve its purpose in our development and then fades away, losing its relevance. And we can do enormous damage to ourselves by insisting on carrying that which has died.

As a teenager, I wanted very badly to be a professional basketball player. My gifts were enough to hide my limitations for a while and I played in high school and in college. But when I stopped playing my sophomore year in college, I discovered my calling as a poet. This carried me for almost eighteen years until cancer opened me to the uncovered life of spirit.

I did not fail at being a basketball player nor did poetry fail me. More accurately, my inwardness evolved with enough life experience, so that moving bodily in the air evolved into the poet’s dance of feeling which then evolved into the spirit’s grace of being. I no more failed in my desire to be a basketball player than the cocoon fails the butterfly, though the form of the dream was painful to lose.

Living up to a dream is rarely as important as entering it for all it has to teach.


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