“Listening is a lost art that can be gracefully recovered in silence and solitude.”
(Robert J. Wicks)
I usually pick a word to focus on each year. My word for 2022 is “balance.” I used to think of opposites as being at odds with one another. My quest to understand and live in balance is showing me that polarities are balancing. They give one another definition, just by being.
Think about these polarized pairs:
- Love and Apathy
- Fast and Slow
- Tangible and Intangible
- Soft and Hard
- Natural and Artificial
- Dark and Light
Our Split World
Most cultures in the US tend to lump things into polarized “good” and “bad” categories. We purport to have “good” feelings and “bad” feelings. We try to divide historical figures into “good” people and “bad” people, leaving no room for any of these people to just be… people. We want “heroes” and “monsters.” It’s one of those things that displays our adolescence as a nation that’s less than 250 years old.
It does not serve us well. It lacks respect for balance and costs us the nuances in between extremes. It has us cutting off parts of ourselves that we deem “unacceptable.” In so doing, we dedicate ourselves to a destructive ignorance, and doom ourselves to trying to outrun horrible behavior that then has to be covered up in an effort to preserve the myth of ourselves as (only) “good” people.
Worse yet, “good” has long-standing associations with “white,” “light” and “day.” These leaves “black,” “dark” and “night” as “bad” things by association. While we may have grown accustomed to such categorizations, they are not benign. We toss whole groups of our fellow humans into the “inherently BAD” pile with these associations. There is an endless array of severe harm to humans at every level that makes the malignancy of this thinking quite clear.
Mama Always Said…
Let’s just look at this misconception of dark as “bad.” My mother used to always insist that “Nothing good ever happens after midnight.” I love my Ma? But she was so wrong on this one.
In many of the world’s cultures, (including many of the cultures of the people who have been on this land much, much longer than 250 years,) night is a time when those of us who are used to relying on our vision through the day sharpen our senses and tune into a greater level of self-trust. If we are sighted people, the reduction of visual stimuli gives us a chance to listen more keenly, to smell more sharply, to notice our senses of feel and taste in a way that is less distracted. It can be a time of enhanced spiritual awareness and insight. We can hear and perceive with greater clarity because of the dark.
The Magic of the Dark
In the northern hemisphere, the months after the Autumnal Equinox and before the Spring Equinox have longer nights than the other half of the year. We spend more hours in darkness than we do in the other six months. Dynamic things happen when we embrace this time of listening and learning differently.
Consider this short list of amazing things that happen in the dark:
- Plants germinate and prepare to break through soil.
- Babies of all kinds form in the darkness of wombs or eggs.
- Sleep often happens in the dark, restoring our entire being to greater wellness.
- While sex can certainly be enjoyed anywhere and at any time, a lot of people prefer sex in the dark. Regardless of why, connecting that intimately, human to human, in dark places has the potential to help us clear away the clutter that can make connection more difficult. We can sometimes be more vulnerable in the dark. Greater vulnerability can lead us to deeper connection.
- Delicious food very often comes into being in the dark of an oven or closed-lid pot.
- Music often creates itself in that place in our minds that can go anywhere and everywhere it needs to, without being reduced to the words demanded by the world outside of our minds.
- Dreams very often start in the dark, in our sleep, in the unseen places.
- And, as one of my very favorite quotes reads, “Hope begins in the dark.” (Anne LaMott)
The dark is disorienting at first because most of us are used to relying on our vision to assess our relative safety. Are we about to walk into a wall? Is there a hole in the floor that we don’t know about? And what if there really is a very large monster with a knife hiding in the closet?!?!?
My husband pokes fun at me sometimes because I don’t turn lights on right away when I walk into a room even after the sun goes down, (even when it’s pitch dark.) I don’t see a point. Aside from the occasional dog toy that could literally be anywhere at any time, I pretty much know where things are. Why bother with lights? And eventually, I’m confident that my eyes will adjust to the light.
Reliable Risk Assessment
Think about your experiences from the last few years. It was really disorienting at first because most of what was familiar was no longer sure, there were serious threats and we really didn’t know how to gauge risk, or even determine which information to trust to make those assessments. Just like relying on sight when you walk into a dark room, all of the things that we used to keep ourselves “safe enough” were either gone or obscured.
And then what happened? Our “eyes” adjusted, over and over again. We started to pick out the outlines of things that were familiar. We started to be able to “see” risk differently. We started trusting resiliency skills that might have been less developed previously.
A lot of this has been very painful and difficult. And, we have learned many important things about ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our politicians, our systems, our institutions, our world. We have made all kinds of adjustments. Many of those adjustments have led to new discoveries, greater understanding, great ideas, amazing creativity and dramatically improved resilience. I certainly wish we could have learned these great things and done all of this growth less painfully, but we didn’t. We learned these things in what people like to refer to as “dark times.”
There is nothing inherently wrong, evil or bad about darkness. As noted above, it does not always involve pain and struggle. Imagine a night sky filled with stars and planets. Beautiful, right? Every single one of those brilliant orbs was there, right there in the sky, all day long. Unless you had a telescope, you couldn’t see them.
You see them in the night sky because the darkness gives them a contrasting backdrop that enables us to see what was there the whole time. The darkness gave you the ability to see, differently.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Most of the issues that people come to counseling to work on at some point involve moving from something known into something previously unknown. It can feel like walking around in the dark. If our fear of the dark keeps us from seeing things differently, nothing will change.
Ultimately what I do is help people learn to trust themselves. They learn that they can walk around in dark spaces and rely on senses other than their familiar friend, sight. They get to know the rest of who they are. The person they find has always, (every single time,) turned out to be more gifted, more amazing and more magnificent than they had suspected.
The darker the sky, the brighter the stars. The brighter the stars, the richer the darkness.
If you’re having trouble seeing in the dark, contact Tiffany today. Let’s make a plan.