When I was a child, I had a strong fascination with astronomy. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of standing in my backyard with a flashlight in one hand and an encyclopedia in the other as I tried diligently to match the constellations in my book to what I was seeing in the sky. This hobby has stayed with me as I’ve become older. And now that I’m a man, I see the constellations less as patterns of flickering white light, and more as close friends who visit me from time to time.
For example, Orion comes every winter when the days are short and the nights are cold. His bow and arrow are always nocked and ready as he continues his eternal search for prey. When I’m feeling brave, I’ll take a cup of tea out to the backyard, and chat with him for a bit. He likes to reminisce about my stint working on an organic farm when I would look up at him from the bunkhouse porch, and wonder aloud what tomorrow would bring. I’m also good friends with the vain queen Cassiopeia who hangs upside from her thrown in the northern sky. Despite her precarious position, Cassiopeia has always been quite the talker. She enjoys chiding me about my many misadventures in college, and the nights I spent sleeping in the campus arboretum. I could go on, but suffice it to say that the stars are a great comfort to me. They remind me of pleasant memories from the past, guide me in my journey on dark nights, and act as a constant reminder that no matter how hectic things become here on Earth, there is a place above me that’s peaceful and still.
However, there have been many times in my life where I couldn’t see the stars. I live in the city, and there have been nights when the light pollution was so bad that I couldn’t find my celestial friends. Other nights, worldly events have cluttered my mind to the point that I barely noticed the beauty of a clear night sky. It has been on those nights when circumstance has stopped me from seeing the stars that the moon has been my companion. In fact, I remember getting lost in the woods one evening when I tried to take a short cut back to camp. I couldn’t see the stars because the trees were too thick, but the moon didn’t leave me. She just shone as brightly as she could through the branches- lighting up the path so that I could find my way home.
After this year’s presidential election, I started to feel lost in much the same way that I felt that night in the woods. Primal fear and sadness bubbled in my stomach as the election results came in, and the feeling became more intense as time passed. I bore witness to the collective suffering of our nation as it flickered across my social media feeds, and I had no idea how I should respond. What is the skillful means that one uses to deal with so much pain? This question battered my brain for the better part of a week until the night of the super moon. It seemed like I hadn’t looked up at the sky in decades, but I didn’t want to miss a once in a lifetime event. So I dutifully brewed a cup of tea, walked out into my backyard, and looked up. The moon was bigger and brighter than I had ever seen it. The craters on her face were more pronounced, her glow was stronger than usual, and it almost felt like I could reach out and... Instinctively, I took several deep breaths and asked, “What should I do”
“Just do what I did when you were lost.” The moon replied, “Keep shining as brightly as you can.” Immediately, a sense of calm came over me. My anxieties melted away as my mind grabbed onto the one thing in this crazy turn of events that I could control… my own behavior. I couldn’t control the Electoral College. I couldn’t explain why so many people voted the way that they did, or predict what would happen to our country in the next four years. But with the help of my spiritual practice, I could radiate light and compassion in the face of adversity. I could be a light unto the world, and do my part to help our country find its way home.