The Winter Solstice has just passed us and we experienced one of the darkest days of the year. Many conversations about the solstice point towards a relief that we are finally entering the days of longer light. It is the coming of the light that is glorified rather than an appreciation for the dark. And in conjunction with the holiday season, light continues to take center stage. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus as “the light of the world” and Hanukkah with a nightly menorah lighting. Light has a place in our culture and in many of our wisdom traditions as pointing towards hope, as a force of good, as positivity.
But what about darkness?
Why does darkness get ignored, tossed to the side, and written off as bad, evil, and unwanted?
Can we see a God with a presence that is not only in the light, but also in the darkness?
I like the dark. I’m writing this meditation in the dark right now. In fact, I write most of these meditations in the dark nights and predawn mornings. I feel a bit of sadness as the solstice passes because for some reason the dark days give me comfort, space to reflect and let go, “to center down” as Howard Thurman calls it. This year, more than most years, I’ve been spending a lot more waking hours in the dark with a baby who wakes frequently and equally likes the dark! And I’ve come to appreciate the darkness and its place in our lives in new ways.
We need a new narrative about the darkness because it is just as much as a gift to us as the light. Darkness holds its own wisdom for us if we can just learn how to embrace it, face it, notice it, and appreciate what it offers us on its own terms.
We spend the most delicate and critical part of our lives in the dark. It is in the dark, quiet and warm cocoon of our mother’s womb where we form into a being. This darkness is a safe place. A gentle place. It is our first home. And the darkness embraces us with her protective covering, letting us reside in her until we are ready to break forth. She must mourn for us when we leave, but the darkness is faithful and steadfast in her task to hold us as we prepare for a new life. Darkness not only brings forth life in human beings, but she does so with all creation. Deep in the fertile soil of the Earth, darkness brings forth trees, plants, food, flowers. Animals in wombs, insects in eggs and sacs, closed flower buds preparing their way to unfold all their beauty, a caterpillar hunkering down in a cocoon before taking flight as a butterfly. And in the Christian tradition, today is Christmas Eve, a day where believers wait for the birth of Jesus. Born a man and of the flesh, even he resided in the darkness of Mary’s womb before coming to the world. Darkness helps bring forth creation. We all reside in her, unformed and vulnerable, yet she shields us like a warrior protecting her tribe.
Darkness offers a stillness, a complete focus, and a chance to be inside of ourselves in ways that are unique and essential. We can’t see in the light the way we can “see” in the dark. Darkness invites us to look within. There are no outer distractions pulling us away from ourselves because we can’t see. Often in meditation and prayer our instinct is to close our eyes. We invite the darkness so we can focus and be present. So we can look deep within.
As we enter these lighter days and this holiday season of light and love, let’s remember the gift of the darkness. The loving embrace of her shadows and what she helps us to manifest in the world. Whatever answer you are seeking, whatever comfort you may need, whatever silence and stillness you crave, whatever inspiration you are looking for, go to the dark—she’s waiting for you with loving and open arms.
Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash.