Appreciating the Gifts of Darkness

As the season turns and the days grow shorter, what do you notice about the effect this has on your body and your natural rhythms?  Do you push yourself to move as fast and be as ‘productive’ as during the summer months?  Do you allow yourself to peacefully & deliciously  s s l l l o o o o w w w   d d o o o w w w w n n n?  There is a beauty in the darkness and it holds many treasures if we can open the eyes of our hearts to see and to feel.  In a world where there is so much stimulation and information flowing all the time, do you have the courage and the audacity to unplug and rest?

A few years ago I took part in a dark room retreat.  Some friends of mine had put plywood and thick curtains over the windows & the door of a bedroom and bathroom and made it available for people.  I spent 3 nights and 2 days in complete darkness.  There was a candle lit and as I got all of my things and food situated and felt ready to begin, I said a prayer, took a deep breath and blew out the candle.  I was met with a moment of terror — “What have I done?!?” I thought and my mind raced with all the possibilities of what could go wrong…  But then, in the next breath, I realized, “Hold on a second.  I don’t have to do this to myself.  I don’t have to torcher myself with fear thoughts.”

I began to relax and sink into the experience of complete darkness.  I still might have had a little fear, but my body & my mind softened and there was no need to rise into the level of anxiety.

There are many things I could say about this experience of complete darkness… Do you know The Little Prince??  Do you know that quote??  “On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur.  L’essentiel est invisible aux yeux.”  Translated to English:  “One only sees well with the heart.  What is essential is invisible to the eye.”  I had a visceral experience of the truth of this small, but potently true phrase.  As I lay there in the dark, my heart emptied before me.  With the lack of stimulation, I could process & recapitulate memories and experiences that were deeply embedded in my heart & psyche.  I cried and grieved a lot.  And it was beautiful.  It was powerful.  It lead to a very deep sense of peace and an understanding of layers.

We are layered beings… And sometimes, in order to get down to the core of ourselves, we need to take a break.  We need to slow down, be UNDER-stimulated.  Stop watching TV, listening to music or the radio.  Even stop socializing with our beloved ones.  In this deep quiet, we can feel into the layers of ourselves that get buried in the static of our day-to-day lives and the pressure to live up to our ideas of ourselves.

Whether its a dark room retreat or not, I encourage us all to take some time to honor the darkness, to recapitulate our experience, and to excavate the treasures of our subconscious & our hearts.  A more simple ritual can be to sit somewhere in your home.  Begin around 4pm or whenever the light is still in the sky, but beginning to darken.  Get quiet, be still or move very slowly (as in a qi gong sort of flow), light a candle.  Resist the urge to turn on any electrical light.  Keep the TV off.  Turn your phone off.  Meditate & feel the sensations and effects on your body of moving into the darkness.  Breath into it.  Allow it.  And discover the treasures for yourself…..  And if you are able, allow yourself to go to bed early without ever turning on an electric light.  Allow yourself deep rest and be nourished in the womb of darkness.

 

Anna Dale

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