Before there was electricity, our ancestors recognized the dark cycles of the year as a necessary and valuable part of the rhythms of nature. Although they had no choice but to align with the darkness, they instinctively knew to rest, replenish, reflect, and renew, just as mother earth herself was doing. In these modern times with warm, cozy houses, electricity, street lights, televisions, phones and computers, it’s easy to deny the darkness. We are unfamiliar with it and that makes us uncomfortable. We may even fear the dark and wonder what may be lurking in the shadows. The truth is that darkness is a natural and integral part of our inner authentic nature that has great value if we’re willing to explore it.

Honoring darkness comes in multiple forms. Just as our natural surroundings have both light and dark attributes, so do we. When we can embrace both together, sitting in absence of light to go within ourselves, we have an incredible opportunity for growth, healing and life transformation.

What does darkness represent?

Like all things in life, darkness falls on a spectrum of positive and negative connotations. Symbolically speaking darkness can represent night time, sleep time, shadows, nightmares, fear, magic, mystery, death, the unconscious, and all things invisible to the naked eye. But look into nature and you’ll see that dark times are an essential part of life. At dusk, daytime dies to the night. Every month the moon’s cycle fades into darkness only to resurrect into light. And without fail, all four cycles of the seasons end to begin over again. By observing the sky, wild animals, and plants we are able to experience how these cycles of light and dark naturally foster balance, transformation and renewal.

Why should we embrace the darkness?

For maximum health, balance and well being, humans are designed to continually move and change like nature, because we are nature too! Going inward to experience darkness –literally or metaphorically– is a necessary part of rest, renewal and transformation.

Darkness is an opportunity to relax, review, rethink, relinquish and replenish. In that space we are able to rest, receive, sleep and restore energy we exerted in the previous cycle. We are also able to turn our thoughts inward to reflect, review, and release that which no longer serves us. It could be a habit, thought, belief, relationship, house, job, town or anything else we choose. Once we intentionally decide to let go, it’s like cleaning house. We feel lighter and refreshed.

As with all things in life, balance is the key to good health. To be whole we must embrace the dark and light aspects of ourselves. By exploring our inner darkness we are able to revitalized in preparation for our next outward phase.

How does one embrace the darkness?

Being fully present in darkness is essential year-round during the night time and dark moon phases, but it is particularly potent during the wintertime. While it may feel scary at first, be comforted by the knowledge that darkness is like a womb – a safe and sacred place of nurturing, protection and growth. All light comes from the dark. Without it we could not see the stars.

A few practices for embracing the dark:

Sit alone in the dark for 15 minutes with no music, tv, phone, or other distractions. Just sit within the darkness and feel into your body. What wishes to be heard within you? If you feel anxious track your thoughts and the feelings in your body and journal about it afterwards.

Spend time journaling. Write down all the things you are afraid of in one column, and next to each fear write where that fear comes from. The goal is to get comfortable with your anxiety. Make it your friend.

The next time you spend time alone in darkness, pick one point of fear and develop a plan for empowering yourself. How can embracing that fear make you stronger?

By making time to just be within the winter’s absence of light we can come into better balance with nature and ourselves. We are meant to be connected to the rhythms of nature and tuned into her cycles, which encourages us to continually renew. Allow the darkness to come forward rather than pushing it away. Embrace it as a beautiful part of yourself, and it will help you recognize your inner value.