Gift of Darkness

This week, we continue our theme of ‘Darkness’ with a beautifully written post by Mo Henderson, in which she tells us about the past trauma and present behaviors of her refuge dog, Chiko, and in so doing reflects upon her own past hurts and how she faces them in the “here and now”



“ Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. ”

Mary Oliver’s Poem-The Uses of Sorrow


Two refuge dogs are part of our family household at present. Shiny is 8 years old, a cross-border collie, who has been with us since he was 10 months old, and Chiko whose age is around 12-15 years, has been with us for the last 4 years. Sadly Chiko was abandoned and found tied to the refuge centre’s gate. We know Shiny was well-loved by his previous owner, who unfortunately had to move away with her job and her accommodation did not allow dogs. He is beautiful, loving, good-natured, and loyal. Chiko also has these qualities, he is adorable and although it has taken 3-4 years he is relaxed and stress-free at home. However, it is a different story when we take him out for a walk. When outside he becomes extremely stressed and is on guard the whole time, alert to any sign of other dogs. If he sees another dog he immediately goes into attack mode, therefore we protect him by keeping him on the lead. Occasionally, when there are no other dogs around, we let him run free for a little while, still, he is on full alert and watchful, his breathing indicates he is highly stressed. It is wonderful to see him spontaneously run free on the very rare occasion when his adventurous instinct takes over and he sees or catches the scent of something interesting to him. We have tried many ways to socialise Chiko with other dogs without success and at his ripe old age we think the old cliche ‘ you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ may be true for him!

We love him dearly and although we like to keep an open mind and would like to see him happy when outside, we will protect him (and other dogs) by keeping him on a leash outside and continue to freely enjoy his life with us at home and in our garden, where he is relaxed and happy. Not knowing his previous history, we believe he must have had some awful experience in the past, particularly with another dog/s and unlike we human beings, he cannot choose to let go of any past hurt or injury.

His care has been challenging and we are grateful that Chiko has grown to communicate with us and trust we understand and love him. He is not a silent dog, it took us a while to realise he was talking happily to us through barking and to many others who visit us. It seems to be his way of initially welcoming people to his home and he loves sitting and being part of any conversation. Happily, he settles down and then we can hear what visitors have to say too.


I ponder about what I have learned from Chiko and consider how I have dealt with my own past hurt and loss. By the time we as human beings reach old age, we all at some time or other have experienced some trauma and loss. My reactions to past hurts and losses have brought obstacles such as denying and distracting myself with other things to keep me busy, anything but be still and face my own vulnerabilities. In a sense it took just a few years for Chiko to learn to trust us, yet, it can seem like a lifetime to learn to let go of such experiences and to exist freely.


In facing the darkness in life I have not liked the feelings of being lost and vulnerable, sometimes it has felt easier to live with the narrative of past happenings and imagine future possibilities rather than simply be with life as it is now, not knowing what comes next. And yet, expecting an animal like Chiko to do so, when his little body may be carrying trauma must be an enormous task for him, not surprisingly he puts himself on high alert when outdoors!


The personal traumas and deep hurts human beings experience can become much lighter when learning to exist now, which, in a sense, is all that there is. I am not the same as I was before these things and never will be. I am learning to see and accept loss and hurt by knowing these things have happened without needing to identify and replay my story as if it is reality now. Somehow this allows space for those precious loved ones lost and for healing personal wounds. More importantly, to venture freely, appreciate, and be grateful for life itself and all the connections and expressions that brings.


Little Chiko helped with the gift of a ‘box full of darkness’ in my reflections on his life. I wish him well and best wishes with his struggles and that we can protect him in the best ways possible.

Love and merit to him as we venture out together.


Mo Henderson

Verses from the Tao Te Ching-Mo





“ Yet mystery and imagination arise from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding. ”

Lao Tzu



Lao Tzu or otherwise known as Laozi is said to have written the Tao Te Ching. The oldest manuscripts in a complete form were discovered early in the 2nd Century, in a tomb that was sealed in 168 BC. The oldest text containing quotes from the Tao Te Ching dates back to the late 14th Century and there is doubt amongst scholars whether the Tao Te Ching was written by Lao Tzu or a compilation of Taoist sayings by many different hands. There are many English translations of the Tao Te Ching and I have chosen three translations of Chapter 1. ‘The Way’.

The first, below, is the earliest written in 1868, followed by another from 1972 and finally one from 1995. In reading these differing versions, I related to the language used in each, in different ways. I wondered how the authors’ spiritual beliefs and background may affect their understanding and how much is lost, because words may not accurately translate the true meaning from the original. Still, this is how it is and I’m grateful for the many attempts to relay understanding. Although the Tao Te Ching preceded Buddhism, there are many similarities.


The tau (reason) which can be tau-ed (reasoned) is not the Eternal Tau (Reason). The name which can be named is not the Eternal Name.

Non-existence is named the Antecedent of heaven and earth, and Existence is named the Mother of all things.

In eternal non-existence, therefore, man seeks to pierce the primordial mystery; and, in eternal existence, to behold the issues of the Universe. But these two are one and the same and differ only in name.

This sameness (or existence and non-existence) I call the abyss — the abyss of abysses — the gate of all mystery.

Translated by John Chalmers (1868)


The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.

The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.

Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.

These two spring from the same source but differ in name; 
this appears as darkness. 
Darkness within darkness. 
The gate to all mystery.

Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English 1972


The Tao that can be told
 is not the eternal Tao

The name that can be named 
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin
 of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.

Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.

The gateway to all understanding.

(translation by Stephen Mitchell, 1995)


Darkness and Light ~ by Karen Richards

The Dew on the Grass team has taken a break, during the month of August. Now, as a rather overcast summer turns into a spectacularly beautiful Autumn, it is back with another post, on the dual themes of Darkness and Light.


On rereading Chris Yeomans’s July post, in which she explores her sense of being “a terrestrial, and part of this creation”, leading to a realisation of having “no separate existence”, I was reminded of my own experience of Oneness, which occurred in a dream not long after I had begun practicing meditation some years ago. Although the circumstances and background ‘scenery’ are different in these two accounts, I believe that what they point to is the same. See what you think.

I sit in an empty space, with no sense of material substance around me. There is no light and no darkness, either. Simply, there is an endless absence of anything. As I sit in this emptiness, I suddenly become aware of myself as a separate being and I panic.

After some time in a state of sheer terror, I begin to steady my breathing, calm myself, and settle back into meditation, but this time I am meditating as an act of will in full acceptance of what appears to be empty, grey nonexistence. The premise of my acceptance is that if all that exists is the mind of meditation, then I will meditate for eternity, be content with that, and want nothing more. As I sit with this newly found acceptance, something miraculous happens; the hitherto empty space fills with light – it shimmers with a brightness akin to stars and mirrors but are not stars and mirrors but something unique and I am in joyful awe.

To some, this account may sound ‘off the wall’, but when I awoke, the next morning, a change had occurred. I was still me, with all my own biology, opinions, and difficulties of daily life. I still had all the attributes of a quite separate human being and at the same time, I knew with certainty that I was not separate from anything in the Universe.

Knowing this transforms the way we view the world. It does not make us immune to suffering, our own or other people’s, if anything, as we soften up and develop awareness, we feel it all the more, but we begin to understand the heart of it and the compassion within it. And this makes all the difference.




Dew on the Grass
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