< image via NASA instagram >
As a child I was terrified of the dark. As soon as the night fell, lights needed to be turned on. I couldn't even sleep in the dark, my mom always had to leave the hallway light on to shine partially in my bedroom. Even then, I slept with all the covers over my head to act as a protective shield against the darkness. And then, in the middle of the night, I would wake up while everyone was sleeping only to feel scared and alone. My sister's room was right across the hall from me so every night I would slip into her bed for comfort. To try and keep me in my own bed, a rule was instilled that if I slept in my sister's bed, I would have to make her bed every morning. And so, I did.
Looking back to my child self I've come to realize that I was trapped in this fear of darkness. The "bad guys" came out at night and I was not mentally prepared to deal with them in any other way than hiding from them, ignoring them, + pretending they didn't exist at all. Once I moved out and became a mother myself is when I had to finally face this fear. I was the mother now, I had to provide the warm comfort in not just the dark, but any other fear that emerged in my son's life. Just one of the many, many ways motherhood fiercely changed my life.
Flash forward to this present day, I've really been contemplating darkness again. Perhaps because it is winter and nature has gone to rest...the cold, damp weather encourages us to go inside of our dark psyche's. The daylight has grown shorter and darkness sets in for just about 14 hours of each winter day. It's as if our Mother Earth has put us all in a time out, but not because we are being punished, but because it is vital to turn inwards and check in with our emotional states to keep living a healthy life. Let's play into this analogy a little more...what happens if a child doesn't succumb to his mother's time out? Emotional breakdown and physical exhaustion are a couple of outcomes that I am pretty familiar with these days raising a toddler again.
We need the dark, just as much as we need the light. When we sit in the sunlight too long it begins to burn, so we seek shade to find relief. If we are constantly in the light, or turned "on" when will we find time to fully rest? Our nervous systems need to slow down and sleep an ample amount of time in order to thoroughly function. In our current state of western, American culture, there is so much light turned on all year long, I find myself blinded by it at times. Phones, social media, computers, e-mails, iPad's, TV's, movies, billboards, ads, ads, ads, ads, ads, everywhere we look! And then for many of us, pile on career comittments, parenting duties, relationship engagements, family affairs, and personal responsibilities...we are BUSY people baking in light, even when it's dark.
This winter, may we all choose to listen to our Mother...our collective Mother, who has been caring for our entire ancestral line since the beginning of humanity itself. Let's embrace this time of darkness, and give ourselves permission to rest, check in with ourselves and simply ask, how are we doing? I know it may be hard to find the time if you are someone identifying with that long list of "to-do's" each and every day, but it really can be done. Some times, the only time I have at the end of the day is when I lay down in bed. Instead of letting my "looper" mind take over, I use those few minutes of darkness to lay still, breathe, and address any areas of myself feeling neglected. As of late, some stuff I've been harboring since childhood has been popping up. And so, I use this little mental health trick I learned from Tara Brach...it's called R.A.I.N...
R= Recognize or Realize it's there.
A= Acknowledge it's existence...say hello to it.
I= Investigate why it's there.
N= Nurture it. Send some loving feelings to whatever it is that has popped up. Give it a hug!
Before you know it, you're nurturing yourself and drifting off to dreamland in a happier and healthier state from when your head hit your pillow.
Truth be told, it has taken quite some time for this viewpoint of darkness to grow where it stands today within me. Just a few years ago, I believed that if you were to shine enough light on the darkness in any sort of situation, it would just melt away. It is only now that I am realizing the intimate relationship that dark and light have with each other. They need one another to exist. The dark holds and supports the light, which we can see every night in the star filled sky. The light shines love upon the dark, just as the full moon softly caresses the black sky with her light every month. This beautiful relationship is always swaying back and forth with one another like a rhythmic dance...and we are the dancers.
Enjoy the dancing my friends!