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Late Autumn 2019 | Exploring Darkness

Let’s start with a confession.

Writing is hard.

OK, I know that’s not a very dramatic confession and I hope you’re not too disappointed. 😉

But seriously, I almost quit writing this month. As in, no more sermons…

I write a lot. It’s a major part of my work. And usually I love it. But over the past month writing beat the crap out of me. I’ve never hit a block quite like this and I seriously almost threw in the towel a couple times.

But I decided to practice what I preach. And I did my best to stop listening to the crazy stories my thoughts were telling about how I would never figure out how to write again (we can get so dramatic in our own minds!)

I just kept writing and writing and writing. And I’m so very happy to have a new sermon for you to today!

It’s definitely the fruit of my internal struggle—all about darkness and unraveling truth from fear.

If you ever get stuck in a negative story please, please push play. This sermon will help you!

Late Autumn Part 1: Unraveling Truth & Fear

Prefer to listen to the sermon? Here you go!

And for the readers…

In the northern hemisphere where I live we’re entering the season of darkness. The natural world around us is dying back and every morning we’re waking up to less and less daylight. Just saying these words out loud has me worried I’m going to send you into depression because I know so many people struggle this time of year. I know that long, dark days can lead to feelings of sorrow and isolation. And please, if this season is hard for you, practice good self-care!

As part of this seasonal self-care I invite us into an exploration of our relationship with darkness. Because it’s a complicated topic. Surely we can say that Darkness is a fundamental part of the cyclical nature of life. The season of darkness is the season of hibernation, when creatures and seeds go dormant, when everything is left quiet… From nature’s example we can learn to soften our hearts toward the reality of death. And we can learn the importance of balance between activity and rest.

I’ve been connected to the changing seasons my entire life—I mean, my name is Summer after all—and through my grandmother I’ve always been attuned to the pagan celebrations of solstice and equinox. But this is the first year that I’m diving so intentionally into the full Celtic Wheel of the Year. Which is giving me an opportunity to explore the reality of darkness in new ways. I must admit that I’m one of those strange people that looks forward to the dark days of winter. I love cold, dark mornings. I think I love them because they give me a sense of permission. They seem to invite a slower pace. They allow me to linger under the warm covers just a bit longer and to give in to the temptation of a morning spent reading. When it’s dark outside I have the feeling that the world is still asleep, which allows me to rest easy in my own internal life.

Being outside in the dark is a regular part of celtic spiritual practice. At Beltain, when winter is turning toward spring, we’re invited to sleep outside under the slowly warming sky. And here at Samhain, as fall is becoming winter, we’re invited to walk on our own in the dark. Celtic teacher Glennie Kindred writes:

Who can walk alone in the dark woods, or sit alone in the dark by a sacred spring or burial mound? Who sees power in black but not evil? What does magic mean to you? Unravel what is true for you and what you fear. Turn and face the fear. Release its hold over you.

Reading these words I’m struck by the call to discernment. The line: ‘unravel what is true for you and what you fear’ is instructive. Do you notice that she separated truth from fear. When we’re all alone in darkness, what are we afraid of? We can explore this question through literal darkness. We can walk alone in the woods and notice what fears arise. And we can remember times of emotional darkness in our life. Maybe a time of grief. Or a time of depression. Or spiritual emptiness. And we can remember the fear that accompanied us through those times. When we’re all alone in the dark, what are we afraid of?

Of course, identifying our fear is only the beginning. The next step is to find our truth—that anchor that allows us to unravel, again and again, all the anxiety inducing tales of woe that we magically seem to create for ourselves alone in the darkness of our own mind. The work of finding truth is as simple as pausing to ask ourselves: is this true? It might sound ridiculous, but I’m serious. When you take a moment to examine your fear, you’ll notice that it comes neatly packaged with a whole bunch of stories. Or maybe just one really good story. We interrupt the power of these stories by asking: but what’s real now? What’s actually real in this moment?

The season of darkness invites us into a quiet space where we can hide under the warm covers or sit with the wise trees at night and do the hard work of unraveling and detangling our truth from our fears.

In the Bhagavad Gita, when Krishna is introducing the spiritual discipline of yoga, he tells Arjuna:

“On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.” (Bhagavad Gita 2.40)

This beautiful scripture encourages us to have faith that our efforts matter, that our practice of awareness will, in big and small ways, unravel and interrupt the scary stories we tell ourselves in the dark. In the next verse Krishna says:

“Those who follow this path, resolving deep within themselves to seek me alone, attain singleness of purpose. For those who lack resolution, the decisions of life are many-branched and endless.” (Bhagavad Gita 2.41)

When we’re lost in the dark we react to every movement and sound with fear. When we’re stuck in confusion we react to every new decision with panic. Krishna tells us to focus our attention—on him—on truth so that we can find freedom from our aimless and frightening wandering.

In his commentary on this verse Ravi Ravindra writes that:

“…even a fragment of the right dharma will bring a freedom from the frightening darkness of compulsive action.”

He continues by saying:

“all spiritual development consists in moving from reaction to response.”

Our pattern is reaction. Something happens, something scares us or makes us angry, and we react. It’s our pattern. It’s a well practiced pattern. But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s practice something different. Let’s take some time to sit alone in the dark and unravel what’s true from  what scares us. In the cold, dark mornings of this season take an extra minute under the warm covers and put forth—as Krishna says—just a little effort toward spiritual awareness. Ask yourself: What’s real now?

Ground yourself in the truth of the moment and allow yourself to respond to fear with intention.


  • What’s real now?
  • When was the last time you slept outside? How often do you spend time outside in the dark? Alone or with others… Is there anything about being outside in the dark that you find frightening?
  • What’s real now?
  • What are you afraid of in general?
    • At work… In your relationships… In your imagined future?
  • What’s real now?
  • What stories do you regularly tell yourself? How do these stories contribute to what you’re afraid of?
  • What’s real now?
  • What’s the difference between fear and worry? Is worry a habit for you?
  • What’s real now?
  • As you look closely at your fears (and your stories) ask yourself: What’s true? What isn’t true?
  • What’s real now?
  • What’s a Truth you can anchor yourself in? Something about your life. Something about Divine Mystery.
  • What’s real now?
  • What will help you ground yourself in what’s true?
    • Remember: “On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.” (Bhagavad Gita 2.40)
  • What’s real now?


We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation. What did this week’s sermon and reflection questions spark in you?


We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation. What did this week’s sermon and reflection questions spark in you?

Help spread the love around! Share the sermons with your community:


  1. Mary Beach November 10, 2019 at 9:28 am - Reply

    You are doing a good work. Sent this video to my granddaughter who struggles with fear & anxiety. For encouragement about your place in the New Story of Our World I recommend reading The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible by Charles Eisenstein.

    • Summer November 15, 2019 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you Mary! Thank you for sharing the sermon (may it offer blessing to your granddaughter) and thank you for your words of encouragement. They are deeply appreciated. I will look up that book!

  2. Liisa Wale November 10, 2019 at 10:00 am - Reply

    So grateful to you for sharing these words and reflection questions. “What is real now?” forces us to be in the present during a time when it is easier not to be.

    • Summer November 15, 2019 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      It’s a question to just keep asking… over and over and over again.

  3. Annie blackburn November 10, 2019 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    In the long long ago people were more closely united with family . If people were fortunate enough to have shelter ,fire and food winter was a time of celebrating Yule, family closeness and most were not out rushing around frantically to and from work and worrying about shopping it was indeed a quiet happy time of creating surprises and gifts for the family around you most people lived together and slept together as families.there was not to much alone time to be depressed or scared I am old enough to remember living with parents and grandparents and my children also were fortunate to have them in our home and theirs …I think people anymore, old and young sometimes are mistaken to think too highly of independence from family and isolate themselves too much, which in my opinion creates a lot of fear and loneliness…I know this does not follow the direct subject matter, just popped in my head…good sermon granddaughter. i miss the time we lived closely …blessed be grandma💕💕💕💕💕💕

    • Summer November 15, 2019 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      I think it fits perfectly! And I wholeheartedly agree. We were created for much more than consumerism and individuality. I’m grateful for childhood memories of spending summer days with you… Great Grampsie’s trailer in the back. Baby cousins sleeping in the sun room. You teaching me how to sew and how to spot the fairies. Pretty wonderful. And, of course, I’m thankful for the years Jeremy and I spent living in the back house. blessed be indeed!

  4. Deborah Suess November 10, 2019 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    So grateful for this message. Am going to snuggle under the covers tomorrow. And be aware of my reactions. Thanks much.

  5. Donna B. March 20, 2020 at 1:58 am - Reply

    I just revisited this sermon this morning as it seemed just a releventt today as last fall, just a different kind of darkness.

    Thank you, Summer

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