I believe in “Tending the Spark.”
You know the old spiritual, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” It’s that miraculous spark of life that burns inside each of us. I believe we need to tend that ember of the divine – feed it, blow on it, and poke it with a stick every now and then — to keep it burning strong.
The little light can be hard to find. It’s often hiding under my ego, the part of me that needs to prove something, or is simply too lazy or busy to be bothered. So each day, I try to seek out that deeper spark, the part of me that’s connected to something much bigger, and care for it with loving attention.
Tending the spark means to feed my soul’s longings, and to do what makes me truly happy. I love water in all its forms; walking the beaches near my Puget Sound home never fails to sooth my spirit. Writing satisfies my yearning for truth and meaning. It’s pure joy to sing, to dance, to bring beauty to the world; and to help others – especially young ones – find their spark and discover what makes them truly happy; even making a simple meal with family or friends in the glow of a summer sunset.
When I do any of these things, it’s like blowing on a flame… I just light up. And with more light, I can see the way ahead more clearly. I have more energy, am less tempted by my addictions: overwork, sugar, complaining. I can hear the still, small voice of the divine, feel sparks of life all around me and see the many gifts life has to offer. Best of all, I have so much more to give others.
Yet tending the spark is also more than following your bliss, as Joseph Campbell taught us. It’s the light inside that shows me how to cherish my whole self, with all my faults. When I make yet another mistake, take a wrong turn, even hurt someone I love, it’s the light that reminds me to speak gently to myself: “It’s ok, you’re learning, it’ll be all right…” It’s the same patience and tenderness I’d offer someone in pain, or a child struggling to succeed.
If I don’t let the flame of light guide me, how can I accept myself, as I am? How can I tolerate others, with their different values and points of view? How much easier it is to blame everybody else for everything that is wrong. I believe that many of the world’s conflicts, large and small, could be soothed if more of us could love ourselves.
Mr. Rodgers understood this so well. When he walked in from his neighborhood, put on that sweater and said, “I like you just the way you are,” I melted inside. I wanted to believe him so much! Gradually, over time, I learned to do this myself — to feed the fire inside, with love.
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