Darkness, be it the lack of sunshine or the lack of joy in life, is inevitable and appropriate. Too much of it is a problem, but settling in for a long winter’s night or settling in, without fear, to our own emotional darkness, will allow us to move gracefully from darkness to light. The light returns, in the physical world, with an inevitability we wish we could assure ourselves of emotionally. We can’t be fully sure that the inner light will return, but for most people, most of the time, it does. And if the night is too long, there is help and every one of us needs help sometimes.
So as we find ourselves, from time to time, in a dark space, we might start by recognizing it, then checking on it to make sure it is safe for us, and if it is, we could then allow it. Just sad tonight. Feeling blue. Disconnected. Grieving. Confused. Anxiety creeping in a bit. Had a fight. Lost my wallet. Bored with my job. Tired. Hungry. Achy. Everybody ends up in these places. If we find ourselves in these darkened places, we can fight against them—and sometimes we should— but we can also breathe into them, relax our bodies and feelings, have a good cry or a short pity party. We don’t have to run or fight.
When the monk is hungry, the monk eats. When the monk is tired, the monk sleeps. When the monk is having a bad day, that’s just what is. And as we allow ourselves to know the dark spaces in our inner (and outer) world, we will also see the path that will take us out. Just as we know that the sunrise foretells the day, our own awareness of what is hard for us will help us see the coming of our own inner light.
What do I need when I am sad or lonely or angry or scared?
Is there an action that needs to happen? If my wallet is lost, there are probably a few actions to take. If I am grieving the loss of a loved one, there is probably no action, other than the grief itself, which needs to be taken.
A few useful steps, if we notice ourselves feeling darkish.
Awareness is our responsibility for knowing what we are experiencing rather than projecting it outwards, stuffing it or letting it leak out unconsciously.
Acceptance is the deep self-love that allows us to be okay even when we are experiencing some very yucky things.
Discernment is moving from our most mature Self into an assessment of our situation. Is something needed? Can I stay in this experience? What framework do I need to put around this? (Naming it as a passing emotion; seeing it as a problem to be solved; noting that there is a physical component that needs to be handled, etc.)
Choice is where we either move to a solution or allow ourselves (and this is a gift when we can do it) to simply be with our experience.
Everything I’ve said could be said equally about the light! Too much is trouble, whether it is sunshine or naïve optimism. And our formula works as readily with light. Aware of our experience of joy, we accept ourselves, note that this experience needs nothing and choose to dwell peacefully in it…for awhile. It too will change.
Darkness and light, the gifts of our inner and outer world.