Winter can be a tough time for a lot of people, but I have come to appreciate the dark half of the year for the peace and nourishment that can be found here. This is yin season - receiving, resting, allowing, doing less. Our culture has forgotten how to value these things. We are expected to show up for work at 7am whether the sun has risen or not, work until after it has set, and fill our evenings with classes, exercise, or other self-improvement. Meanwhile our animal bodies are responding to the natural rhythms around us, and we become tired, frustrated, and even depressed.
What if, instead, we could sink into this part of the cycle? What if we set all that business down for a bit and relax into the embrace of the earth, even just for a few minutes, to be held by the holy dark? Scroll to the bottom of the page for a 6 minute grounding meditation. Or read on for a few more thoughts about sacred darkness.
Humans are diurnal creatures, so we are naturally more excited about daylight than nighttime, but the level of anti-darkness in our culture strikes me as incredibly unhealthy. I often hear people use the word “dark” to mean bad, difficult, or even evil, while “light” is used to mean spiritual, holy, good, and sacred. In a society where the relative lightness or darkness of your skin is a marker of how you will be treated, this light/dark=good/bad metaphor is extremely problematic, to say the least. I invite you to consider how you use these words and try to shift towards a more neutral or specific language if needed.
Beyond the ethical and social implications, spiritual people who ignore the shadow are missing a huge part of all that is holy, and tend to become unbalanced and ungrounded. If you focus on love and light to the exclusion of all else, your spirituality will lack weight and substance, like a feather in the breeze blown this way and that without a life or agency of its own. To be whole we must claim depth and darkness as our power too. We don’t want to stay there exclusively either, becoming lethargic and rotting away without creating anything. Instead we must be like trees that live in both worlds - one part above, reaching for the sky, bearing fruit, protecting the birds; while another part sinks deep to find the nourishment we need, touching the mycelial web, connecting to the community of spirit all around us.
Take some time to feel how you are nourished and supported by darkness. You might thank the darkness behind your eyes when you meditate, or the darkness beneath the soil for keeping the plants warm and safe until they put forth leaves again in spring, the dark of night that allows dreams to come, the dark of the womb where a baby will form, the silent black stones supporting us beneath the earth, the mysterious darkness of the sky between the stars, the beauty of a piece of obsidian or a crow's glossy black feathers, and so on. Here is a poem that starts to capture what I mean. I hope you enjoy it.
To Know the Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
― Wendell Berry