The Dark Side of Being Light

By Robin Lee on Monday January 11th, 2016

Image: Austin Neill

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.

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.

Alt text hereChildren power along at every angle and degree to expand outward into the world. Image: Zac Durant

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.

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 that 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.

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.

Alt text hereChildren power along at every angle and degree to expand outward into the world. Image: Fares Hamouche

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.

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.



What we can learn from people we dont like

Using Projection to Understand Yourself and Others


The Dark Side of Being Light


Making Peace with My Shadow

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62 Responses to The Dark Side of Being Light

  1. In 2007 I lost myself in the darkness. After a traumatic death in my family, I could not put one foot ahead. From PTSD, to chronic fatigue, emotional turmoil, chronic anxiety and insomnia then depression, I felt no light within me only darkness. But this voice within me told me to get up and pray which I did… After intense therapy to reprogram my mind, to understand my internal triggers via PTSD and heal my internal wound(s) learn to live with … via NLP and Path to Unconscious Mind, I was stronger than ever. I never looked back to my old self… I had come out much stronger than ever. My father’s death brought me a special gift! Then I decided to start a new career. I felt that if I could get myself out of the darkness without medications, with the tools I had learned, shamanic training and discovery of NLP; Psychotherapy, Unconscious Path, that I needed to study and help people too.
    That is what I did. I became a Holistic and Shaman Practitioner and Naturotherapist helping others tap into their own strength and their light… When you allow yourself to connect to your light, your heart, mother earth and father sky, your guides, anything is possible… You need to recenter yourself, ground yourself…LIVE your life and not dream your LIFE.

    • I’m so happy to hear that you managed to find your way through your darkness to come into a more embodied and purposeful existence Diane! 😃 Very inspiring. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your story 🙏

      Team UPLIFT

  2. I believe if we make friends with our dark, then we can more readily accept ourselves just as we are. In every flaw, there is beauty. If I remain open to all experiences and remain in that fleeting moment, the dark often turns to light. Without darkness there is no light and without light, there is no darkness. Thank You for the gift of your article.

  3. I once created a fictitious reality for myself, where I was alone on the planet, surrounded by beauty and peace and security. I tried to live there, but, as you can imagine. Every time I saw a negative news broadcast, or comment, or conversation, it shook my fictitious world and I got really anxious because of my denial towards the real world. then, I would spiral into incomprehension and ruminate for days on how to understand/save the world. Only to later, broken and beat, return to my fictitious place and hide. Now, I am mindful of both the good and the bad. Instead of creating a total peaceful place, then dreading the chaos. I try to be at peace, within the chaos. This article reminds me that I am a human being and that I need to feel and to process everything life has for me. good and bad.

  4. I believe this to be so very true. I want to Live a full life embracing it all and find the Balanve between the dark and the light.

  5. I am happy with how I am. I am dumb and slow and full of flaws but to me I love it. I dont need the Universe or Godly powers or Love or anything like that if I have to give up everything I am and learn this and that. I have 20 years or 30 years maybe, I dont want to even see 60. I want to die young after I know my family is okay of natural causes or just a unknown painless death before wrinkles appear lol. Just want a big family of friends and loved ones around me then. cheering and helping one another and having the financing to help others.

  6. Light and Dark are relative terms, contrasting with each other. One cannot exist without the other, so we accept the yin and the yang.

  7. For me personally, whenever i sat in silence to discover the truth behind my anger, irritation or judgment, I would always find myself out in the “dark’ void of the universe… peaceful… quiet and eventually revealing… in my experience any projection of negativity onto another being (or object) is my inability to own what’s hurting me in that moment. However, we can get lost in the naval gazing, even addicted to it in place of other addictions without transforming the behaviour, and this has been my most excellent teacher. It’s one thing knowing our shadow/dark side/projections, it’s another thing to change the negative behaviour in ourselves imho. But it is vital work that needs to be done so that we can choose to live in a more compassionate and loving way, which has to start from self Love. I’ve always wondered How can we expect another to love us unconditionally if we cannot love ourselves in that way? I found it hard to stomach some of the history i had to revisit and observe and i felt a lot of shame at first for not responding more appropriately in the past. Now i’m learning to forgive myself which is proving to be more difficult. Indeed I’ve forgiven others more easily for even more unpleasant behaviours. The belief that my physical body ‘houses’ a most magnificent soul energy while i’m alive on this amazing planet keeps me moving toward more loving behaviour. I also like the idea that the energy of Love is what holds everything together harmoniously, ultimately, and that it is indeed a choice to behave badly. When my girls were little, being a single mum and overloaded with responsibility, when i felt really blocked i would simply ask: what would love do now? And it would change then entire situation. Just sharing… Love to you all…

  8. Yes well said with all the information ,, I too am strolling,, jogging ,,sprinting,,walking,,still learning,,exploring ,,experiencing,,sharing,,baring it all with no shame ,guilt or embarrassment,, like a snake shedding it’s skin with each growth , I’m accepting,, being ok with ,,understanding,, being one with this all ,, HARD !? YES hell yes but with your acceptance ,,willingness to learn thrive survive share , N to be OK with it all tears ,,heartfelt ed depression ,, shedding the guilt ,, the fear ,, the all of the above ?? I know this wonderful journey is great , N gets better n better n faster n faster it’s EXTREME n every possible word we can put down n describe is true n real n worthy n worth venturing ,, I can’t fill my brain enough with information research ,, learning my brain is a sponge I say I must feed it lol so welcome ,, walk along beside me ,,join me ,,we’ll all gather join hands ,, & SUCEED , SURVIVE ,THRIVE ,MOVE FORWARD , TEACH , N SHARE , WRITE N SING WE ARE US ONE LOVE & LOVE IS GRAND N CONQUERS ALL ,!!! WOW I jus typed this all at once within 10 mins spitting it out with excitement, , I LOVE !!! PEACE!!!✌ ALSO my lifetime symbol in all my pictures lol the peace sign !! MUWAHHH MY FAMILY N LOVED 1’S MUWAHHH XOXO ??✌✌??✌✌??✌✌???

  9. This article is beautifully written in the aesthetic sense. It’s poetic and passionate. Yet it feeds into the human need for self justification and relies on vague terminology and seemingly conflicted ideological associations. It combines a discourse of new age oneness but undermines it with an individualistic, self centered world view that condones the selfish, sheltered notion that individual success trumps collective success. As if one can run up a proverbial mountain and find truth in isolation. We are a highly social species after all. And, rather than combine forces to change the course of this world, we must go live in jaded, disgusted isolation and work on our pathetic selves, alone and uninspired in our narcissism, while preaching a superfical ideology that only works to justify our misguided righteousness. You only serve the the masters of mankind when you support a discourse of individual improvement versus collective progress

  10. Wow, yes! I walk this path in community with others. We call it SoulFullHeart, yet it goes by many names for others who walk out something similar. It is a driving need and desire inside me that keeps me on it. A fascination with my darkness that leads me to my light. I love that this article is out there for people to take in. I have been humbled so many times by life and each time I feel the fire, I come out renewed and with a deeper felt sense of who I authentically am, though I get that I can never likely know it entirely…. I look forward to connecting to others who live out their spirituality and awaken their consciousness with the words from this piece in their hearts and minds. <3

  11. This is so perfectly timed for me. I’m so intrigued by the darkness, but so much mainstream spirituality focuses on being enlightened and goddess-like, and I allow myself to get mentally tangled up. I resist what I want to explore in favour of what I think I ‘should’ be doing. A great reminder to look inwards.

  12. Engaging article. Love lots of the comment. I would just say that what we call darkness is quite subjective. Also , a shadow is caused by something blocking the light……and in psyche, that is somewhere we are blocked. So removing blockages within us is essential to allow more light in. Many ways this can happen, through fire, water, wind, or the earthquake effect. Walking towards light means being willing to face this journey of purification and transformation.

  13. Im not sure what were talking about here. The darkness…our shadows? I mean, enlighten me. Speeding, sneaking in the queue when many have stood patiently for ages, slipping the odd buck into your back pocket, gambling the months rent away, sneaking off with yer best friends wife. Or are we talking the real dark side to humanity which sucks the life and soul out of a human life. If you really want to discuss The true human darkside then to be honest, I find it terrorfying. How anyone can honestly say they welcome the darker side to their humanity, scares me. Do you see how deep and this rabbit hole goes. What this evil & grotesque dark side does to itself and others? Have you? It traffics children, brutally for lust without a seconds thought. It fires guns removing souls from its lifes joy and experience. It tortures, rapes, Manipulates, destorts and destroys… Screw that mumbo jumbo. Life is precious and we have to choose. The darkness has one goal to destroy light…the light of the soul. I choose the light and quite rightly fear the darkness. Fear serves a purpose, there is a reason we have it. Its a warning. Not just to protect us physically but spiritualy too. Any kind of mumbo jumbo that tries to say its ok to not be concerned with our dark side of nature either hasn’t truely thought about it or just has no idea what theyre really talking about. Everything here is about duality. I get that and obviously non of us are saints. However does it make it ok to be cruel or nasty and justify it because we have this darkness. No to transcend this we must take responsability. Be mindful of our thoughts, and be aware of our fear. Allowing both to guide us on our journey. Its not ok to be cruel. Its not ok to judge. Its not ok to critisize. We do it because we haven’t chose. There are forces that want you to feel confused and loose perspective of whats right and wrong. Things have got twisted but your own true light has always been there to guide you. If you think its ok to kill and destroy that is your perrogative. Its your path.

    • To me, it is about aknowledging, accepting and integrating what I don’t like about myself. About becoming whole, loving and honoring all of me. People who truly love themselves do not hurt and kill others.

  14. I’m struggling with this exact thing at the moment. The dark haunts me and pushes me into isolation and left feeling alone and rejected for being who l am at my core. The fear of being authentic because of the rejection l face by being real. ..feels overwhelming. I visit and revisit and it gets harder and deeper. .. trying to connect with others of the same cloth almost seems impossible and my inner shadow is seen as something to be feared and a superficial offering of forgetting the pain and staying positive pushes me more into isolation and feeling misunderstood. .. and then comes the loneliness….where does it end?

    • well judy hopefully you meet someone who likes you for you. everyone got a preference shouldnt try to change them or force your view on them. Love sucks really cause its limited, Lust is better. its more forgiving and understanding. Love is so vengeful and unforgiving and complicated. I kinda like the darker aspects a little more. Its chaotic but in a weird way its seems to work unlike light which is kinda like a control freak and a asshole in a way. I think all the dark label ones would be good if they had a little bit more law and stability and unity. keeping a good balance. so its not so chaotic. as for light well its only greatest feature is beauty. Just making things more presentable. it should slow down on it and take it time before it does anything. also both those assholes seem kinda stuck up in a way…cause why does it seem like they came first lol or that nothing would exist without them. it kinda stupid when you really think about it. HAPPINESS AND LUST FTW!!!!

  15. Love the article and reference to compass. We are all trying to get home – and the darkness is a huge part of it. I want to grow.

  16. Yes! Well said Robin. Now, the really hard part is realizing that God is both as well. Both Male and Female, Light and Dark, Good, and Evil. That’s the problem with religion – they have dumbed down the truth about God for their own purposes – because it would have been harder to explain the whole truth about God, so they simply neglected that other bit.. You could say that was an evil thing to do, which sounds a bit biblical, but really is nothing more than live spelt backward. Evil is simply living the wrong way.

    Then, the next step is realizing that the bad guys in the world are playing their part very well right now. Without a great villain, the heroes can’t shine. That’s us folks… 😉

  17. I have to say. . although I like the general message and attitude of this writing -of the radical, direct-acceptance of things both ‘dark’ as well as ‘light’, I do not know what is being said that is saying anything new, or what is not an indulgence (and I quite like the indulgences here) in the obvious point that we have to face everything…
    Surely, it is only the alienated-ego and/or our confusion, that thinks that it is not about the whole of life/the whole of ourselves…. Which we all potentially have, but surely most of us know that we cannot hide from all our sides, deep in our bones…
    Also, What is meant by darkness? I am unsure… I do not relate to this ‘heaviness’ word…
    Is it our secret, inner-selfishness? our deviant, forbidden sexual-impulses…? Something maybe more ‘evil’ than this..?

    I agree that there are overly-positive, ‘new-agey’ types that cause me/my humanness to instinctively baulk when they claim they have ‘no fear’, and that ‘anger is bad’ – partly because it certainly feels it is from some ‘spiritualised ego; but then, in turn, there are articles bashing this, say nothing truly new.

    What would be useful, (for me, people like me, at least ) would be to encourage support in helping each other face, bear and overcome the difficulties one has met; anecdotal,and honest- dialogue and share and support one another, in this (in my opinion, which goes beyond what is suggested here) ultimately completely independent path to ‘traverse’
    I don’t wish to be negative; but something wanted to respond with these comments…

    • wow, that was an amazing answer, I am myself really aware of the dark side of me, I called it violence. For me it I guess all mechanisms that exist within us to make us feel good regardless of your responsibility in the world, in our relationships.

      It is also a force that promotes discontinuity, for instance in regards to history. i come myself from a colonized countries, it puzzles me how people self-proclaim their spirituality and identities and politics (in the west) without necessarily taking into account what happened and what is happening in the world.

      For me, we need more communication with each other, like you are suggesting it, to see how we navigate into this complex world, in a way to learn from each other but much more important: to be feel trust love and compassion for each other because that what can help us bear things in life.

      merci encore!

  18. I Love this article! I just had this experience with myself this morning. Facing my Fears! This week has been very Magickal! It’s been like a roller coaster, highs and lows. As, I’ve grown closer to Nature, I’m coming to understanding the saying, “Know Thyself”. I told Mother EArth, Myself, Universe, Ancestors…that my Desire is to Transmute Fear into Unconditional Love for Myself. I can see the Future in Being this way-No Judgment of Myself, and Others, Seeing/Feeling Beauty in All Things, Dark and Light. So, I have this Deep Desire to attend an Event that includes Mother Earth and other Wombmen to hold the space for the All; and I just learned about this function this past weekend; right after, I Heard Creation through Vibration answer my question, “Who Am I, Why Am I here, Why all of the Suffering? I contacted the young Wombman hosting this precious Ceremony, and told her I would be there. This morning, the Vibrations of my Soul were asking to let them out, reminding me, I asked for this moment! I admitted, “I’m Afraid”, because of my finances, no income, etc! I was afraid to say this out loud because I thought it was wrong, because I’m a “Spiritual Being”. My Spiritual Team, rejoiced and said, that’s great, this is how to transmute, admit your True Feelings so they may be moved from the Darkness into the Light! A rush of Emotions flooded my Heart Space and washed over me. Then, I proclaimed, I Will attend and Everything is in Divine Order!

  19. Definitely is a struggle when you become enlightened and now you and your companion are on a different frequency. What do you do?

      • Not true, your talking about being psychic, not everyone who is enlightened is psychic, or ready for that yet. There are many degrees of enlightenment, until your aura becomes visible and you fluores you really aren’t even more than a starting monk, or yogi.

        Ego tries to convince us that we are there, but reality is that there are many levels of ascension.

    • I have this scenario as well Danielle, i also think my partner is having their own path to walk and i accept that. I’m not here to change their experience , and sometimes for this reason it shows me things i need to pick up on as well.

  20. 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!


  21. 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.

  22. 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…..

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

        • 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?

          • 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?

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

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

  26. 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

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