Sometimes I read things I have written and I think, ‘who is this wise soul?’ and it takes me a minute to realize, ‘oh yeah, that wise soul is me.’. It takes me that minute because whenever I am asking that question, I feel anything but wise. I feel vulnerable, fearful and, at the bottom of it all, fraudulent. I feel that way because I will write about something I have learned or that has become known to me and, yet, I am unable to actualize that knowing. I am a little bundle of nerves, all raw and frayed at the edges; simultaneously wanting to pull everyone and every safety net tight around me while at the same time pushing everyone and every safety net away so I can curl into my shell, which has just enough room for one, and, wallow.
Which is all to say, I feel bad sometimes about what I write because I can’t always fully live my own knowing. It’s like I cannot reconcile these two halves: a dark, shrinking and incredibly fearful human walking side-by-side with a light, expansive and brave soul. Which is, I suppose, the trick of being human thereby making being human, both, a trickster and a mothaf*cka. I’m starting to think though that maybe these two parts of myself don’t have to be reconciled mostly because they can’t be. Even though they live inside one human body and need to see each other they don’t have to be reconciled because they are not even close to the same things. It’s like trying to fit the square peg of being human into the round hole of the soul. It’s no bueno and not only a really bad fit, but, a literally impossible one.
It is because our souls are the truest truth while the human parts of our experiences are, if not total lies, at the very least, how the media describes everything Donald Trump says: “full of falsehoods.”. Our human parts and our darkness can become more truthful though (because there is truth there) when we welcome them in and let the refracted light of our souls shine on it all. Our darkness isn’t a lie as it is truly part of the human experience and it is so as much as our light is. Our experience of being human becomes truest when we are in touch with our souls and when we let our light not just reflect itself but our dark too and we act from that place of honesty.
I can’t help but think of the salutation at the end of yoga class, “Namaste”, which means “the divine light in me honours the divine light in you.”. I think we need a namaste day for ourselves. Not so much namaste as “namastdark” which, in my translation, would mean “the divine light in me welcomes and honours and trusts the divine darkness in me too.”. Because both, being from the same source, really are divine, it’s just our sight that doesn’t allow us to see that as being so. I think we need to give ourselves that permission slip. I know I do.
My darkness intensifies and magnifies, feeling infinitely worse when I resist it and its attendant vulnerability, fear and anxiety. This season of Covid is one of the clearest examples we have of darkness and light not just coexisting, but, also, of not being able to exist without each other. This season has been one of the darkest and lightest seasons of my life and I know I’m not the only one feeling this confluence of experiences. As my friend Anne-Marie says, “the process is crazy but we still have to process it.”. This crazy process has been rife with uncertainty and anxiety but also joy and the gift of time of which there never seems to be enough. Yet, for me, recently, the anxiety was starting to take over. It was infecting everything and the infection spread and got worse when I didn’t welcome it into my house as the exalted and valued guest that it is.
Rumi would totally have welcomed his anxiety in. In his poem “The Guest House” Rumi wrote, “treat each guest honorably…the dark thought, the shame, the malice. Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”. He would have offered his anxiety tea and lit a candle and sat down for a chat like they were the oldest of friends. Cue the shame spiral. Except, maybe he wouldn’t have? Maybe Rumi would have written a poem about welcoming darkness but would not have quite been able to actualize it without some struggle and practice? The real truth is I don’t know what Rumi would have done but I know that whatever he did would not have made him any less wise or valued; it would have just made him human.
I was discussing all of this with my friend who said that when I write or someone else sings or paints or dances we are trying “to reach the best parts of us. That doesn’t mean a person will be perfect or always feel the way they do when they create. Even those that really know their stuff get trapped in egoic pain and confusion. But when you are writing that feels true and right. That’s the real deal.”. She reminded me that I had lost sight of the fact that I couldn’t create a lot of what I do without my anxiety. And it doesn’t make what I create, my writing, untrue. If anything, it makes it truer. What could be construed as an element of my darkness, my anxiety, has as much, and maybe even more to teach and to offer me than my equally and very real joy.
Our darkness can, if we let it, push our creativity further. My recent travels with darkness had to teach me further vulnerability, to create new ways to ask for help that I was not accustomed to and to surrender to forces that were less than pleasant. Turns out the human part of me was anxious and resistant and until my soul was allowed to welcome my anxiety along for the ride, it was just getting worse. Elizabeth Gilbert has said she envisions her fear like a passenger in her car and while she used to lock the doors and slam on the gas, driving the car like it was stolen to get away from it, fear always caught up to her. It would either jump on the windshield from an overpass, slip in the trunk or jump her from the backseat and garrote her. Until she invited fear into the car. Fear was definitely never allowed to drive (too skittish) but, eventually, it was welcomed.
It is hard though to relax with and welcome what we don’t trust. Glennon Doyle says real love, of others and ourselves, involves trust and trust means not trying to control. We only try and control that which we do not trust. I did not fully trust myself when I tried to control and didn’t trust my darkness and my human as much as I trusted my light and my soul. I’ll give you a guess as to which one was easier to trust…..give up? Okay, I’ll tell you: it was much easier to trust my light rather than my dark. Turns out though, without trusting both, I didn’t really or fully trust either. They are two sides of the same exact coin. I am, as we all are, a spiritual being having a human experience and my spirit has to trust my human and vice versa. And I have to trust them both if they are ever to truly and peacefully co-exist. Not be reconciled but, at least, cohabitate peacefully. This season has been dark but one of its joys has been teaching me to fully trust all parts of myself so that I may live and create more fully too.
In one of her greatest songs, and maybe one of my favourite songs ever, “My Tears Ricochet”, Taylor Swift sings “If I am on fire, you’ll be made of ashes too/You had to kill me but it killed you just the same.”. She goes on to sing, “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace/ ’Cause when I’d fight you’d tell me I was brave.”. I fought my darkness because it seemed brave. It wasn’t. Whenever I set my darkness on fire, I burned a piece of my soul too. When I tried to kill my darkness, I killed a piece of my light too. I need them both and they need each other. I’ll say it again, this being human is a trickster and a mothaf*cka but it is also the truest truth.
I will read this piece again someday, probably in the not so distant future, and my dark feeling human will wonder again, ‘who is this wise soul?’. And I hope, because I have learned to trust all the parts of myself more, I won’t fight it and, instead, will just allow my light filled soul to welcome it with kindness and grace filled trust. I hope my soul will say to my human “namastdark: the divine light in me welcomes and honours and trusts the divine darkness in me too.”. Namastdark to every human soul out there.