Dancing with Darkness


There once lived a girl who overflowed with optimism, motivation, personal drive and discipline.  This girl ran miles upon miles, did yoga for hours relishing in the strength and the sweat.  She set goals that were big and scary, and she pushed to make them happen even when it felt like logic was telling her to abandon hope.  She had perseverance.

Then one day darkness came uninvited to take up residence with her.  As if some imaginary door had been blown open just long enough for the darkness to unpack it's bags.  This visit was not like the others she'd had with the cold hearted gloom.  No, not like the others at all because this time the darkness didn't leave after a weekend of giving into it's demands.  She couldn't get it to leave with a week of sticking to her workouts which normally ushers the intruder right out.  As the known stranger began to take hold of her heart she began to find it more difficult to step onto her yoga mat for more than child's pose.  In-fact she began to blow off meditation choosing sleep instead, because in meditation she would have to look at the stranger and stare it's message in the face.  Bedtime started coming earlier in the evening.

Can you relate to this girl?  Have you experienced this place?  What Thomas Moore describes as "A Dark Night of the Soul?".  Sometimes they come.  It's a normal part of life and there are many ways to muddle through what it has to teach us.

This girl in our story is beginning to break through by clinging to the old ways that have worked for her.  Coals of her old drive, and motivation still lay burning in her heart, she could feel sparks of them.  They refused to be snubbed out by this uninvited guest.  Inside her there began a silent war between the coals of light and the stranger that wanted her to surrender fully to it's care.

She is trying to hang onto the embers of motivation that she feels strongest in the morning and nurture it with a strong cup of coffee.  Her beloved morning routine, a french press and a side of morning pages allow her to re-awaken the creative juices even if only for a moment.  Each morning she is able to make the flickers of joy and light last a little longer.

In these small familiar ways she is able to push against the darkness and stoke her internal fires once again.  Sometimes this uninvited visitor will come for longer than expected.  As our girl pushes into the darkness she will realize that she's no longer pushing and has started dancing with him.  She has made the darkness her friend.  She has learned how to crawl inside it's pitch black terrifying abyss.  She has crawled into the forrest of darkness and picked it's flowers, climbed it's treacherous mountains, and learned from it.  She is stronger.  Once she befriended him, he gave her the key so that she could leave as she pleased.  As she closed the door behind her she knew he'd be back again maybe through an open window or a crack in the foundation.  Our girl sighed with relief confident that she has the tools to find her way out again.

Not wrapped up in a neat little bow

Life can be seriously messy, some lessons aren't wrapped up in a pretty package with a neat little bow.  It's been a long day, this cold has been lingering for going on three weeks.  There is more work on my plate than I'll ever be able to do and that is not new.   There are so many things I'm dreaming of doing but for some reason or another I can't, running, my normal yoga asana routine, having time for nothing, feeling good in my body just to name a few.  There are days I'm not sure how I get through work or run the studio.  Today was one of those day.  My well is empty. This time of year it's so easy to feel depleted.  We are trying to do so much, holiday events, year end sales, family expectations, the passing of another year.  It's a mountain of stuff and it can bring you down, and make you feel heavy.  There is a reason this time of year brings on heart attacks, health problems and runny noses.

I know you've felt this way too, maybe you are feeling this way right now.  Let me give you permission to be ok with those feelings coming up.  Our society in general is trying to tell you that you shouldn't feel bad or down in anyway, that you can push sickness, sorrow, sadness, anger and frustration out of mind. Entirely brush past it, buy, drink, or sleep your way to happiness, in order to be merry and bright.  To each their own, I don't judge, but I'll offer an alternative.  I'll argue that if you don't take time to feel and explore the darkness, you are not fully experiencing life.  In fact you are robbing from the good times.  If you don't know what it feels like to be at the bottom emotionally speaking, you can't fully appreciate it when you are at the top.(*)

This beautiful experience of Life is messy, it doesn't always feel good and when it doesn't feel good we tend to want to push it away, numb the feeling, tune out, zone out, dull that busyness, dull the stress, dull the ache in our hearts, do what ever to coast through until it feels good again.   You can't wrap these feelings up in a pretty package, but that doesn't mean you should not have them, it also doesn't mean you shouldn't share them.  These are normal feelings, if you are feeling them let them come, let them linger, get to know these feelings and share them.  It doesn't do any good to pretend.

Listen, I love being cheerful, upbeat, positive, and loving just as much as any one.  I also know how harmful it is to ignore, hide or pretend you are not struggling if you are in deed struggling.  Give yourself permission to feel the abundance of emotions you have.  If the emotions coming up now are joy for the holidays and year end, by all means embrace that joy and run with it.  If the feelings welling up are nowhere near, puppies and lollipops, still embrace whatever it is that is coming up.  Embrace the messy beauty of the dark night.  Your soul might be crying out for you to explore the sharp edges of your emotions.  Give yourself time to do that.

When I feel like my well is empty, that is when I know it's time to make space and open up for more yoga especially the meditation kind.  Today when I felt especially empty after a long day of work, and before teaching a yoga class, I took time to sit quietly in meditation for 15 minutes before my evening class.  It wasn't time to push away feelings, it wasn't a place to judge myself, it was a place to sit with whatever came up.  What came up was not something I could wrap up in a neat little bow.  Just like this post, I can't wrap it up in brown paper for you.  It's not a package, but it is a request maybe even a gift for you to embrace the messiness that comes with living life.  Embrace the bad with the good, or just the bad if that feels like all there is.  Don't push that emotion away.  Learn what you need to learn.

(*)I am not referring to clinical depression.  If you are experiencing clinical depression that is something that must be address and treated, seek care from a professional.