The other morning I sat in the pre-dawn darkness on my porch, wrapped up against the cold, staring at the stars with their piercing, distant magnificence. I listened to invisible raccoons running through the trees, saw the inky outline of the branches bending under their weight. I heard the soft clopping of deer hooves, and then the owl’s resonant, echoing call in the middle distance. And then, none too slowly, the sky began to lighten and within moments the moon and stars disappeared, washed over by a swath of blue.
I am entranced by that sky, how all those stars and that darkness is there still, blanketed by the light. It is staggering to think of how much life is out of sight and mind as we go about our days. We are, in a sense, somnambulant creatures, asleep to so much of our lives. Attuned to only what we can clearly see and identify, we miss what lies just beyond the obvious.
We commonly think of light illuminating what “is.” We talk of “seeing things clearly in the light of day.” But the truth is that light limits our vision as much as it expands it. Our lives, like the multiverse of which we are but a pinprick-sized part, are so much more than what we can see when the sun is shining. The dark times open us to a greater revelation. The darkness opens a dialogue with soul.
I don’t meet clients when their lives are clear and bright; I meet them when it gets dark and they feel lost. They come when things begin erupting from some unknown place within and their lives are disrupted. They come when they begin to feel that there must be something more but they can’t quite make it out in the changing light.
And there is more: much, much more. The “dark night of the soul” is an opportunity to peel back the sky and reveal the stars that lie deep within us. The darkness reveals our destiny and our depth. We become enlightened, the psychologist Carl Jung said, by making the darkness conscious. It’s a beautiful and intriguing thought that darkness enlightens.
The great work of the second half of life is to go inward, into the dark, to discover our deeper selves. Our outer persona, like the blue sky, covers an infinite, eternal self. While blue is a lovely color, it is but one color on the spectrum; black contains all colors. Our full potential dwells in darkness. It takes a little effort to become comfortable in the that darkness with it’s strange rustlings, a little time for eyes to adjust to the shadowy contours; but if we sit in that night, learning to look and to listen deeply, we discover a deeper life that was always there, waiting to gather us in.
You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! –
powers and people-
and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke