Patricia Livingston leads workshops, retreats, and seminars across the country and is the author of Lessons of the Heart and This Blessed Mess. The inspiration for this paperback on everyday spirituality is a quotation by poet, singer, and songwriter Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in." We learn a lot during times of suffering and setback. We must be patient and perceptive enough to assess what is happening to us during these dark nights of the soul.
The Bible is filled with imagery of light and darkness. Livingston is convinced that we can do more with the positive energy of our emotions, ideas, and ideals. She quotes Jill Biebel who says "the cholesterol of the Spirit is negativity — it clogs up the arteries of the soul." Our culture spreads this toxin wherever one looks. It is so easy to capitulate to this malaise. Livingston refers to psychological research that shows it takes twenty compliments to offset one negative criticism. Bad things that have happened stick in our minds and even hide out in our muscles. More studies have shown that people remember one thing they got wrong on tests in fifth grade but can’t recall anything specific they got right.
One way to let more light into our lives is through the practice of reframing. Livingston shares an example from Father Demetrius Dumm, a Benedictine scripture scholar who speaks of David in the Bible as a man of hope. When the young man spots the giant Goliath on the battlefield, instead of saying, "He's so big, how can I possibly defeat him?' David says, 'He's so big, how can I possible miss him? What a target!' Instead of giving in to negativity, we can reframe what is happening and face it with positive energy.
The author also suggests ways to let light into our lives through kindness, mercy, and gratitude. Another channel is laughter. Livingston quotes an article in the National Catholic Reporter by Rich Heffern, which quotes Sr. Gloria Davis on her native Navajo tradition. She explains that the holy ones in their community, the spiritual leaders, "were always the people with the keenest sense of humor. You could spot them by the laugh wrinkles near their eyes." Livingston concludes that opening our hearts and minds to the grace of God is one of the best ways of letting in the light.