Walking Through the Darkness

From anxiety and despair to growth and even evolution.

Posted Apr 11, 2020

Together but separately we are currently experiencing the darkness of the COVID-19 crisis. Many are sick, others are dying, families are grieving. There is loss of employment, loss of insurance coverage, loss of income, loss of businesses, and loss of deeply loved friends and family. This is darkness, while the natural world around us begins its seasonal process of growth and renewal.  Anxiety, fear, even terror are commonplace. Sadness, grief, and turmoil are also common.

How do we get through such a crisis? While the political pundits seek who to blame and argue about how to manage the relief funding, the public sits in the darkness waiting for the light to begin to appear. Those in power seem to be unable to save us. They cannot save us from the illness itself and they will not save us financially in any significant way. So here we are. Left to our own devices to manage our way through the darkness.

When we do finally get to the light again when things are finally restored to some kind of changed normalcy, who will we be? Will we be changed, or will we be a restored version of the same old thing? The question to ask, which in turn answers these questions is: What are your resources for walking through the darkness? The resources we use to walk through the darkness are vital to our ability to use crisis as an opportunity for growth and deeper understanding of who we are.

We have the option here of using the same old coping mechanisms, inventing new ones, or deciding which is a coping mechanism and which is a real healthy resource for our growth and perspective. If we want to do more than merely survive this troubling time, we may need to merge coping with healthy resources in a way we have not previously done. For you see, drinking too much, eating too much, smoking too much—these are all examples of coping mechanisms that seem to make us feel better in the moment, but they are not sourced in wellness and authenticity

Even staying in the bed all day, distilling in depression and staying frightened, or ruminating all day on all the various possible outcomes and strategies for survival can be seen as coping mechanisms for crisis. We just fall into old patterns that don’t really work but seem to just be the natural order of things. It’s just what we do, we tell ourselves, as if we have no choice. But choice is a very important resource for walking through the darkness. We DO have a choice. We CAN choose to get up out of the bed or slow the rumination by doing something self-soothing or experimenting with self-soothing activities. We will know that it is self-soothing because we begin to feel better, stronger, more self-assured. 

Andrea Mathews
Traversing the Inner Terrain
Source: Andrea Mathews

You CAN choose to experiment with self-soothing activities of your choice by asking yourself what kinds of things seem to calm you, lift your spirits, and/or ground you. If you think taking a walk would feel good, try it, and see if you feel better. If you think listening to a certain kind of music would calm and soothe, try it and see. If you think lighting a candle and sitting with a cup of tea would help, try it and see. If you think reading a book or a passage would help, try it. If it feels better, do it again. If not, leave this one off the list of possibilities next time. In this way, you can build a list of self-soothing activities that facilitate your well-being—teaching you that you can manage your moods instead of letting them manage you.   

 We can also begin, during this time, to implement various practices that open us to greater self-awareness and through which we may grow into the authentic self. Here are some possible resources for strength and courage to carry us through the darkness and get us into the light strengthened, perhaps even evolved:

  • Prayer: Prayer works for many people to calm them, to assure them, to deliver them to a new more grounded perspective.
  • Friendship: Staying in virtual contact with beloved friends, telling them how you feel, and allowing them to share their feelings, can be uplifting and a kind of deliverance:
    • Some people are meeting online to play games and create laughter and relaxing repartee. Relaxation is essential during dark times.
  • Family: Making new inroads to deeper more enlivening relationships with family during this time is strengthening and heart-warming.
    • Special family meetings, special socially distant outings, special talks, getting together for group drawings, group games, group dance, etc.  
  • Spiritual practices, such as meditation, contemplation, yoga, the reading of sacred texts, sharing of sacred information, solitude, spending time in nature where possible, chanting, breathing exercises, etc., all facilitate greater peace of mind, a solid grounding and a deeper sense of self.
  • Speaking up about your own ideas with regard to how the political powers handle this may allow you to feel that you are doing something to help the collective.
  • Physical exercise puts your anxiety into the force of your physical movement in ways that can release it, allowing you to feel even a sense of exhilaration, which allows you into a perspective of hope and, thereby, to begin to trust that things will work out.
  • Watching uplifting movies or TV can help distract the worrying, ruminating mind and focus us on hope. 
  • Staying out of the future: There are several different predictions about how this thing will work out. Believing any one of them is tantamount to lying to ourselves, for we simply do not know the future. One of the most effective measures we can take to take care of ourselves is to stay in today. When we find ourselves trying to predict the future—usually with bleak outcomes—we can pull ourselves back with the old Buddhist saying: Chop wood, carry water. Just be here now, being fully present with what is to be done right now.
  • Some people are meeting online to play games and create laughter and relaxing repartee. Relaxation is essential during dark times.
  • Special family meetings, special socially distant outings, special talks, getting together for group drawings, group games, group dance, etc.  

These are just a few ideas from which you may generate other creative options of your own. The object of the game here is to focus on healthy resources that breed a grounded and growing perspective. If we stay stuck in fear and despair, we will still get to the light with everyone else when it finally comes, but we may have missed a great opportunity for growth and soulful evolution.