Practices From the Inside Out: Sitting in Darkness Remembering Our Mistakes

Practices From the Inside Out: Sitting in Darkness Remembering Our Mistakes January 11, 2020

Sitting in Darkness Remembering Our Mistakes

Some nights I get out of bed to sit in darkness.

What was it like before we learned about electricity, when our only light was from the sun or from a flame?

Now we are surrounded by bright light, light which overwhelms the light of the stars in the night sky. We obliterate the dark with lamps, headlights, flashlights, and the glow of so many screens. It is hard for us to even imagine what it was like when lighting our lives took so much more effort than flipping a switch or pushing a button.

Electricity has allowed us to fill the stillness of our world with sound and make it challenging for us to find stillness. Is darkness the visual equivalent of stillness?

Stillness gives us opportunities to pay attention to our deepest selves, to hear ourselves. Does sitting in darkness allow us to appreciate our deepest selves, to recognize our true selves? Can we really become enlightened if we do not spend any time sitting in the dark? Would we recognize light if we were not acquainted with the dark? What is the relationship, the rhythm, which balances darkness and light?

Darkness is often where we think our deepest thoughts, and also where we rest and sleep. Maybe those deep thoughts are like the stars; always there but usually washed out by the lights we build to drive away the dark. Maybe rest is always available to us, whenever we tap into the depths of peaceful darkness within me.

One of the things I appreciate about sitting in the dark is it makes it difficult to see the mistakes I have made. We sit rocking and reflecting, remembering our mistakes, and other people do not see us.

Remembering My Mistakes in the Darkness

It is easy for me to remember my mistakes. Sometimes they wake me up so I can spend time sitting in darkness remembering them.

The mistakes which I remember never seem to be about what is on the surface.

Some of the mistakes I remember grow from childhood fears. Others have grown from how I have chosen to understand what people have told me. I am probably the only person who even remembers some of the mistakes with keep me up at night.

There have been times when I believed it was not worth doing something unless I could do it perfectly. It is challenging to perform at the level of perfection. Being excellent or above average is still not being perfect.

Perfectionism has not make me happier or my life any better. I struggle to let go of perfectionism to become closer to my true self.

My own desire to be perfect made it more likely I would make mistakes, not less.

Sitting in darkness remembering my mistakes is not about punishing myself or making myself feel bad. I am not obsessing about mistakes I have made or giving myself over to guilt about not being perfect.

Much of the time I spend sitting in darkness is about reflecting on why I made the mistakes I did. I believes the mistakes we make have lessons to teach us. Sometimes I sit in darkness remembering the lessons mistakes have taught me.

It is easier for some of us to feel bad about mistakes we have made, wallowing in regret or guilt. Some of us become so afraid of making mistakes we try not to remember them.

There is something about sitting in darkness which helps focus my remembering and reflecting.

Darkness Helps Us Remember and Reflect

Walking around in the daylight and the noise of everyday life it is easy to get distracted. It is harder for us to pay attention to the moments of our lives because there is so much happening.

When I am not able to sleep and need to get up and sit in darkness there are fewer distractions. Darkness and stillness allow me to pay attention more effectively.

Sometimes I remember making mistakes and the lessons they have for me. There are times when remembering seems to be all I need. I remember someone or some experience from my past and am reminded about what they have taught me.

There are times when I sit in darkness getting a refresher course. At other times there are new lessons for me to explore or discover. Sometimes I sit in darkness listening to sacred stillness.

Sitting in darkness gives us opportunities to reflect and allow the pieces to come together.

Remembering and reflecting help me see things more clearly and decide how tout the lessons I learn into practice.

We do not need to know the entire answer before we begin to take our next step.

Healing Power of Sitting in Darkness

Sitting in darkness remembering our mistakes does not usually make us feel comfortable. We can be cold and lonely in the dark. Memories of mistakes we have made can make us feel sad or frustrated or discouraged.

We do not always feel better when we sit in the dark.

Healing comes as we begin to see what we remember in a new light. Our reflection shows us how we have learned the lessons our mistakes have taught us. It is our willingness to remember and understand which allows our time in darkness to help us heal.

Neither our mistakes nor our accomplishments define who we are or who we will become.

We sit in the dark, day or night, remembering what we have done. Reflecting on our regrets from the past and our hopes for the future, we find ourselves in the present moment.

Our conversations and arguments with ourselves run out of words.

Sitting in darkness, remembering our mistakes, we begin to make peace with who we are.

When will we take time to sit in darkness remembering our mistakes today?

How will we experience the healing power of sitting in darkness this week?

[Image by Mig Bardsley]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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