Tending the Soul: You Only See the Stars When It's Dark

Stephanie was showing everyone at Kids Club the painting she had made in school that week. She said that it had a deeper meaning than I was probably assuming. She explained, “It shows that the darkness is really hard sometimes, but it’s only when it’s dark that you see the stars.”

I knew that I had just sat at the feet of wisdom, once again personified by a 12-year-old girl. I couldn’t articulate exactly why this was profound in that moment, but I spoke to Stephanie again a few weeks later to make sure she knew how much her painting had moved me.

You only see stars when it’s dark. We are terrified of darkness as a culture. This is literally true, as is proven by night-time satellite images of our country from space. This is also true at a deeper level—a symbolic level.

There is beauty hidden in plain sight—
hidden by our obsession
with “light.”

Darkness feels like a symbol for many things in my life—silence, contemplation, solitude, stillness. This probably only scratches the surface, but the image has been a powerful one. It is only when I allow myself to be in the physical darkness, to be silent, to practice contemplation, to be alone in solitude, to be still, that I begin to see the stars.

The stars remind us that our immediate reality, that feels like “all there is,” is actually a tiny piece of an enormous puzzle. They remind us that there is beauty hidden in plain sight—hidden by our obsession with “light.” Light is physical light in the form of light bulbs that shield us from rhythms of the natural world. It is also noise, never being alone, constantly moving, and resisting the deeper levels of consciousness into which contemplation invites us.

We are terrified of the dark. But it is only when we embrace the darkness and allow our eyes to adjust that we begin to see the stars.

It is my prayer that Stephanie has invited you to see the stars—physically, as well as within the darkness of your inner life.


For Soul Tending

Have you ever had an experience of "seeing the stars" through darkness in your life? What are some practical ways you can accept the invitation into darkness found within contemplative practice?


Ben Edwards, communications director for Centering Way, works as a youth director at Joshua Station in Denver, CO.