Wrapping Ourselves in Darkness
The daylight hours are growing shorter where I live. It is as if we spend October wrapping ourselves in darkness, preparing for the shorter days and longer nights which are coming.
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, and the glow of so many screens. It is hard for us to even imagine what it was like when lighting our lives took more effort than simply 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 wrapped 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 darkness? 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 our 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 us.
One of the things I appreciate about sitting in the dark is it makes it difficult to see the mistakes I have made. I can sit rocking and reflecting, remembering my mistakes, and other people might not see me.
Wrapping Ourselves in the Blanket of Darkness
There are people who think my appreciation for sitting in darkness is a little strange. They are a little uncomfortable when I wrap myself up in darkness, and urge me to turn on some lights.
Sometimes I get out of bed in the middle of the night to sit in the dark.
This may be my favorite time of year. Daylight hours grow shorter and darkness wraps itself around us each evening.
There are times when watching a fire in a fireplace, or lights on a tree, helps me sit still and listen. Sometimes wrapping ourselves in a blanket of darkness is all we need.
We are not wrapping ourselves up to stay warm. The blanket of darkness protects us from distractions which seek our attention. We sit still, opening ourselves to what the darkness has for us.
Some of us may be intimidated or even afraid of the dark. Sitting still, wrapped in darkness, we have no reason to fear. We can release our fears into the darkness, listening and open to the sacred stillness all around us and within us.
The darkness wraps itself around us and embraces us, holding and supporting us. We are beyond words, and thoughts, and feelings. Wrapped in darkness like a blanket, we do not need to struggle or worry or achieve. We are free to sit still, opening ourselves and listening.
There is no need for us to overcome or defeat darkness. We remember we were born in the dark, and we sit and listen.
Turning out all the electric lights, even our phones, we can feel the darkness embracing us.
There is something about sitting wrapped in darkness which encourages our remembering and reflecting.
Wrapping Ourselves in Darkness Helps Us Remember and Reflect
Walking around in the daylight and the noise of everyday life it is easy to become 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 wrapped 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 wrapped up 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 wrapped in darkness gives us opportunities to reflect and allow the pieces to come together.
Remembering and reflecting help us see things more clearly and decide how to put the insights we gain into practice.
We do not need to know the entire answer before we begin to take our next step.
Healing Power of Wrapping Ourselves in Darkness
Wrapping ourselves in darkness does not necessarily make us feel more comfortable. We can be cold and lonely in the dark. Memories can make us feel sad or frustrated or discouraged.
We do not always feel better when we sit wrapped in darkness.
Healing comes as we begin to see what we remember in new ways. Our reflection shows us how we have learned the lessons our experiences have taught us. It is our willingness to remember and reflect 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 wrapped in darkness, 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.
Wrapping ourselves in darkness, remembering, we begin to make peace with who we are.
When will we take time for wrapping ourselves in darkness, remembering and reflecting, today?
How will we experience the healing power of wrapping ourselves in darkness this week?
[Image by Clive Varley]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.