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The Dark Side of Being Light

By Robin Lee on Monday January 11th, 2016

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Shadows are inevitable on the path of spiritual illumination

Stay strong
You brilliant
You are
Guiding yourself

There’s a point at which you start to feel that the enormity of things is so unbelievable, you wonder how you’d ever been walking around at all. With eyes held so tightly; slivers, before. How on earth did the light get in? How did you ever arrive where you are?

Perhaps, in being led towards the heat.

Rings of fireStepping into a fire

Spiritual practice

Developing any kind of spiritual practice, anything that brings you greater awareness of yourself and your relationship to the world around you, is a process of stepping into a fire and allowing the flames to eat you whole. It is not gentle. It even seems unkind.

There is rage, there is fear, there is fury. There are days when you may feel unable to move or, sometimes, breathe. In these moments, one cannot fathom how there is anything left to do but let go.

And that’s exactly when it begins.

The rise of spirituality

It’s a beautiful thing to see spirituality flooding into the media en masse. Great spiritual teachers and seekers are rising up in profound, modern, and thoroughly authentic ways.

For so many of us, seeing these lighthouses appear is a welcome sign from our seemingly endless days at sea.

We are often brought to creating our own spiritual practice, whatever that may look like, by a period of inner and outer turmoil so unbearable we believe we are being torn very slowly into fragments.

Part of this is true, we are being torn, to be fed to the fire. Part of this is not true — it’s not unbearable, because we only receive that which we need to grow and expand.

The contrast is that in our seeking, we believe we have found wholeness. As if it was outside of us all along. The answer. We think, great, I can meditate and have conscious sex and drink green juice and I will slowly diminish my experience of negativity and pain.

I will forget about my secret impulse to self-destruct. I will forget about my insecurity. I will disregard the truth about my identity.

Forgetting things doesn’t make them disappear. Pretending to not feel doesn’t mean you can’t. Someday, you will, and you will feel everything. It will not stop. It will not cease coming, it will only grow in intensity, and it will beckon you to the edges of your sanity.

And that’s exactly when it begins.

Moth to the lightFlocking to the light

Led to the light

After an initial period of flocking to the light like a moth on a warm summer evening, we tend to realize that no matter how venerable our guru or preferred practice, much of this path is to be walked alone.

When we fail to realize this, we are often catapulted into situations which isolate us, exactly for this reason. Life won’t baby us. She’ll demand that we show up.

The process of being led to the light, of waking up as so many of us like to say, is not simply becoming more luminous. I’d love to see that idea detonate. It is also the process of getting very intimate with the dark, ravenous, insatiable heaviness inside of you.

Freud’s death drive. The Kali aspect of your Shakti. The brink of your humanity which wishes to experience it’s temporality in all ways — blissful and devastating.

The more we practice, the more we realize that the more we let the light in, the more the darkness will arrive, exist, and grow to bring contrast. Denying it causes a lot of mania.

Wall of darknessThe more we let the light in, the more the darkness will arrive

Underneath a façade of purity there is always a deeper story. The whole point is to experience balance, and we can’t get there by sweeping our old stories under the rug. They have to be transmuted. Alchemized. Used as kindling. The darkness. We have to look at it.

When we continually push it away, judge it, or believe it to not be aligned with our path (often read: who we think we are) it only grows in power and presence. A real-life example for me was reconciling my sexual energy with my yogic dedication.

In retrospect, it’s hilarious to me that I ever believed I would subdue a part of myself that is not only not dark but also entirely yogic. And also, a core part of me. I let go.

And that’s exactly when it began.

Shadow self

There is a long history of study of the shadow self. This subject often gets a lot of flak, and likely because people want to focus on the positive aspects of growth. Can’t blame them.

What happens when we ignore the parts of us that we are afraid to look at, is that we become slaves to that master. We hide a secret that we think no one can see. They can.

It grows and grows, and becomes fear, guilt, shame, terror, anxiety. The pangs of which you may not wish on your worst enemy.

I have this vision often, when I am facing something truly terrifying, of being just above water, and consciously, making the choice to submerge. Dark, choppy, ocean. An adventure to the depths. It guides me in these instances.

Falling into darknessMaking the choice to submerge into being light

I remember how small whatever I’m up against is in contrast to the vastness of my life. I remember that my darkness intrigues me, because I allow it to. I want to know myself fully. I want to love every corner. I want to meet people who love every corner.

You can sort of sense it, when you meet someone authentic. They’re tapped into this. They’re unafraid of being a hot mess. Of being too much. Of having a vulnerability hangover.

They really don’t give a f*ck, because they recognize that darkness is part of being human, and they are okay with baring their humanity to the world. In a society focused on continual upward mobility, it’s no surprise that so much success is built on artifice and lack of depth.

The more we reject the notion that it is okay to have darkness, and that these part of us are not less likeable, loveable, or spiritual — in fact, they make us more so — the more we venture down the path of being half-human.

The darkness is real, it’s not going away, but once you look at it, it becomes something else: the canvas upon which the cosmos are born. Choosing to be half-human means denying yourself the possibility of exploring the furthest reaches of the universe.

I’m not sure about you, but I came here to be full-human.

And that’s exactly where it begins.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

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Words By Robin Lee

Originally posted on Rebelle Society





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  • Nancy Bowman

    Beautifully written! Every word precise and felt. Truth!

  • Tá MeMo

    I came here to be full-human!

  • LandShark

    Great article. Makes me believe I can wrestle with myself and win…

  • Phil Beenham

    Great well written article conveying what, i am sure, many of us feel!

  • Mary Monttein Alonso

    Co-facilitating a Shadow Work Weekend Feb 5-7 in Dallas, TX http://life-coach.biz/eqgradschool-shadow-work-weekend-dallas-tx-feb/

  • susanneah

    Good article. Tackling a nebulous, difficult subject. Thank you, old susanne xs

  • Monica

    What a great article .. It’s a lonely oath at times , learning your own spirituality because the people you know and love are not on the same path .. Slowly making new friends and meeting new people are a big help and reading articles like these , make me feel like I’m not alone

  • Norm Nyburg

    Very good… hits on so many points we all consider at some point and need to act on.

  • Baba Jaiy

    When the light is turned on the darnkness of the room has no place to exist. There is that level of Life, Infinity, that goes beyond and transcends light and darkness. And from that level of life we choose as to whether we express the light or dark in it’s manifest forms. Darkness is not a requirement once you are awake.

    • Jessica

      Untill you realise that darkness is as precious as light …

      • Baba Jaiy

        ‘Realising’ darkness is as precious as light is a choice.

        • Olivia

          Unless the room is void of any and every thing…there will be a shadow. And if there is no shadow, where is the light coming from?

          • Baba Jaiy

            Your thinking in terms of duality.

          • Olivia

            What is the triality of light and dark, which, by both definition and nature, is dualistic? The shadow of a shadow is still a dance between the light and the dark….imagine if you will…a cube. within the cube is a defined and contained amount of space and air, void of light. The cube itself, however is light and illuminates the defined distance of its rays in all directions…only that which is illuminated is actually defined; and it is only as such due to the contrast of light against dark. For what is white if not the absence of color; what is light is not the absence of dark? What is black if not the culmination of all colors. So then, without defining color, how do you know what either light or dark is?

          • Baba Jaiy

            You keep insisting on light or dark…remaining in the sphere of duality…as I originaly posted..Transcend both.

          • Olivia

            Transmutation allows for a more solid foundation but transcend if you wish

          • Baba Jaiy

            One only has to transcend if there are still in duality…the foundation already is.

          • Olivia

            But u just told me to transcend

          • Baba Jaiy

            Transcending as I mean it cannot be understood with words alone. A conversation like this can be taken only so far.

  • Felicia Luca

    It has not been feeling like fire to me, no burning sensation. It’s peaceful, or, better said, like coming into peace. Like returning home.

  • Tara Dominick

    There is a crack, a crack in everything, thats how the light gets in. Cohen
    When my father was in his last few months he spent time with the melancholy of music, it was if he was exploring the darker self to understand the light he was moving into. It was a deeply spiritual process. This article reminded me that he went through this, and when he finally departed to the light he went knowing he was moving into the light. Thank you for reminding me of this.

  • .ara Joan Nokomis

    i love this embracing of the paradoxical pillars of our existence…..there is no way without the other….point blank…the beauty of the pillars, is that they hold both the light & the dark….always unfolding as we walk betwixt them….i relish the conversations i have, with balanced peoples, as i see them, as the dialogue is real, & true to the moment, & they see me….the dialogue is true….acknowledging the shadows depths is so vital to embracing the light…..

  • John P. Feld

    authentic is word I like. as a boy, ‘proper’ meant the same.

  • Rachel Höppener- theologe

    How can you have a day without a night?

  • Kathleen Collins

    Thank you for sharing this! Many shy away from talking about “the dark side” in fear of manifesting negativity. This is the problematic outcome of the New Age religion – the fear of darkness. You thoughtfully put this into perspective.

  • Donna Lipman

    Debbie Ford has it laid out beautifully in her book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. You CAN win.

  • Josh Risley

    I wrote a song about this very issue about 5 years ago, called “Lighthouse” to an instrumental track by the band Xx. Just sharing today because, when Ms Lee referred to people as “Lighthouses ” in this article, it hit home. Much 💙 And thanks for the great article!



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