The meaning of life (at least one of them) is to live as light. Which is a lofty spiritual concept, especially with so much darkness in us and in the world. Until we understand the transformative power of the dark.
Here’s how I got to know the transformative power of the dark: I got very sick.
I was plunged into a darkness that was unfamiliar, painful, and disorienting. I felt abandoned by life and separated from the sacred — a dark night of my soul.
For two years, in the throes of an unknown illness, I would cry uncontrollably, turn ice-cold, and shake so badly I wouldn’t be able to fit my door key into the lock. About every other night, I would wake up at 4am, dreaming of dying, unable to get back to sleep. I felt the self-doubt and self-loathing of my 20s come back to haunt my heart. I had strange bouts of fatigue so that all I could manage was to lie down on the bed and breathe, confused, fuzzy-headed, and overwhelmed.
All the practices that used to do it for me — including food, supplements, meditations, and self-care — stopped working. In between visits to this doctor and that healer, I felt alone and terrified, wondering if I was going crazy or if I was heading toward death.
And then I learned that a dark night of the soul is a term coined by a rebellious Spanish monk, Saint John of the Cross.
It refers to a stripping away, a time of such spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional agony that it renders you naked — and is, according to this radical saint, a blessing of the highest order.
I found a way to approach my dark time and each of my dark parts as a blessing rather than a curse, as something wise to learn from rather than crazy.
I am not saying this was easy. Nor was it quick. But it was profound.
I developed a depth of understanding of the root of human suffering and what can actually help.
I now know that all great journeys — especially the journeys we take through our shadow in order to come closer to our dear selves and to the light — begin in the dark.
Three life-altering bits of wisdom available through the transformative power of the dark:
1. The dark is an essential part of the death-rebirth cycle.
Right now, out my window, it is a riot of springtime. Carpets of green grass, stretches of neon red poppies, and impossibly tender tree leaves joyfully proclaim this season of rebirth.
And in six months or so, it will all be stripped away, rendered naked, and the natural world will experience a kind of a death.
This isn’t a mistake. Nature doesn’t miscalculate. After every winter comes spring, always and without fail. And while you might have a preference for one season over the other, you probably don’t make nature wrong for her cycle of death and rebirth, her seasons of dark and light.
What you can respect in nature, you would do good to revere in yourself.
You will feel up and you will fill feel down. You will be in light and then you will be in the dark. You will feel you are in a rebirth and then you will feel you are in a kind of a death.
It is a blessing to know that the dark — the unlit, unknown, falling, failing, struggling — doesn’t mark the end of your journey; it is the fertile void in which a nascent part of you first germinates and is then (always and without fail) reborn.
2. The dark always lasts longer and hurts more than we think it should.
“What’s wrong with me? I can’t. I can’t bear it. This has gone on too long. I can’t stand it. I thought I dealt with this already. I can’t do it. It’s impossible. It’s too hard. This again? What’s wrong with me?”
These are the sounds of the season of the dark.
When those specters howl at you, you might assume you have fallen off your path. But really, the dark is a PART of your path, and those terrifying voices are markers to let you know where you are on the map.
You are in the dark part of the death-rebirth cycle — a holy place, even though it hurts like hell.
3. Your true power is buried in the parts of you that you have disowned.
Look, you and I, we live in a world that prizes the rational, linear, thinking, reasoning, goal-oriented, ON-all-the-time, competitive strengths in all of us. Prostrates to these parts, in fact, as though they are golden idols.
And so what do we do with the intuitive, emotional, wildly-feeling, cyclical, sensual, receptive, desirous parts of ourselves?
We hide them away and stuff them down. We trade in who we know ourselves to be for who we are supposed to be. We go to war with ourselves.
Whatever you have stuffed and hidden goes into your dark parts — your shadow, if you will.
But, your shadow is not the opposite of the light, good parts of you.
Your shadow holds the parts of you that you have disavowed, discredited, or simply have yet to meet. And once you are able to actually look at the un-seeable in yourself, boom! You have sudden access to your once-buried power, confidence, and joy.
Your dark parts are wise. They are messengers from the beyond, each with a nugget of truth for you about what you hold dear and what’s your next move.
The dark is where an aspect of your inner authority is born.
So, it turns out that going through a bad time can be a good thing.
While I never wish pain upon anyone, I do know that all dark times, even the ones that obscure the light of your soul, can indeed be a blessing of the highest order.
I do know that all of your dark parts love the stuffing out of you, and can’t wait to reacquaint you with your true power.
And I do know that when you are not trying to avoid the dark, ironically it becomes easier to live in the light and live AS the light.
~LiYana Silver is a coach and mentor, supporting success-minded women to bring the full expression of their feminine strengths to their work, lives, and love. Her offerings include her mentorship program, Woman: The Embodiment Experience; her online course, Ignite Your Feminine Genius; and her newest book, Feminine Genius: The Provocative Path to Waking Up and Turning On the Wisdom of Being a Woman. LiYana’s work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Forbes, Yoga Journal, and Jezebel. For more, including a free video training series, Turn On Your Feminine Genius, visit www.LiyanaSilver.com.
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