Lean Into The Dark: A Winter Message

I love the seasons and the beautiful gifts and blessings that come from each time of year. I treasure the winter solstice – a time of change and transition. It’s also true that the time of year around winter solstice can be challenging for me, both leading up to it and shortly thereafter.

Normally this time of year is often rather bare, cold, and dark early in Maine where I live. This can weigh down my spirits at times. I have to make an effort to keep my spirits and my attention up. This ties into something else about me that’s certainly true this time of year, but it’s true more generally as well, which is I’m continually looking for inspiration around me for better ways that I can act and think about things, approach my life.

It’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful for ecopsychology. Not only is it a core part of my professional life, but it has been influential in my personal life for as long as I can remember. In particular, psychological biomimicry: Looking at the core principles, teachings, lessons, qualities that characterize the natural world and how we can psychologically integrate them into our lives. I found that this is transformative and helpful all times of year.

I recently had some inspiration that ties into psycho-spiritual biomimicry that was brought to me by a beloved EPI community member, a treasured elder, a woman named Ann Carroll. Many of you might be familiar with her because luckily for us she participates in a number of our programs. This happened to be a program of hers that was based on a book that she recently wrote, “Reading In The Dark”. To start this event, Ann shared the story of a man named Malidoma Somé from the Dagara tribe in West Africa, who’s been a very influential spiritual teacher and writer.

Somé was taken to a Jesuit school and quickly acquired a lot of learning and knowledge. He was very bright and precocious, so picked up things very quickly. At some point, Some ends up going back to his tribe while he was still young.

His tribe recognized his intelligence, learning and booksmarts that he picked up, but they said, despite all of this, you’re missing something just as important, maybe if not more so. And that’s your ability to see in the dark. They were likely talking both about the literal ability to see in the dark and the psychospiritual one as well.

We know from the natural world, darkness, night and shadow play a critical role in our planet and in ecology. Many plants and animals, ecosystems, and organisms depend on the nighttime, not to mention the season of darkness, which is late autumn and early fall.

Unfortunately, many of us and our cultures have lost contact with our relationship with the darkness and the shadow. We have fallen out of balance more often than not. We try to light things up or get rid of the darkness and the shadow, eliminate it, cast it away, avoid it, deny it. At times we find ways to bypass or distract ourselves from it, and this likely explains a lot of the problems that we see in the world. Certainly planetarily we’ve lost connection to the whole and to the balance.

I had two different responses hearing this talk. One, I was feeling a little bit humble because the truth is being in relationship with the darkness and shadow is a core part of psychological biomimicry which I talk so much about, and yet, I’ve kind of fallen out of balance with that. I’ve lost my way a little bit.

The other part of that is that I was really grateful and inspired because I realized then that that’s going to be my theme moving forward – as we move into solstice. I want to lean into the dark in the coming wintertime.

I want to spend more time outside at night with the stars and the moon and the night sky without headlamps, without outdoor yard lights. I want to spend more time in the darkness inside on my meditation cushion or practicing yoga. And when I do need light, I want to avoid the tendency to turn it as bright as possible, and instead get familiar with darker shades and hues of light.

My desire to connect with shadow is also true psychologically and spiritually. I want to deepen and lean into the areas of my life that are edgy and uncomfortable that I have aversion and judgment contraction. All the many responses that I, maybe like you, have towards areas that are shadowy and uncomfortable.

Not only is darkness and shadow important ecologically for the whole, but it’s true psychologically that we’re in a balanced and healthy relationship with this. Because if we don’t, as we see in the world around us and probably also in our own lives, shadow and darkness cannot be moved through. Rather it comes out in unproductive, unconscious, and messy ways that explain a lot of suffering and struggles.

I want to lean into the dark and find the beauty, the gifts, and the teachings to see how transformative that can be. Engaging our shadow is crucial for health., balance, and all the things that I know I want, that our world is needing as well.

So I’m feeling inspired to lean into the dark as we start and venture into solstice last year at this time of year.

My inspiration to lean into the light, which was based on a song by Carrie Newcomer, served me well this year, and I want to do it a little bit differently this year. The both-and: I will still be super excited when the days get a little bit longer and there’ll be more daylight. And I want to celebrate the darkness.

I hope you find solstice to be a very meaningful celebration for you. I hope you lean into the dark in whatever ways that feels appropriate. If you’re interested in engaging this subject in more and deeper ways, I hope you’ll venture into some of the programming that we’re offering.

Psychological biomimicry is the seasonal focus here at EPI. We have an upcoming free Fireside Chat on January 8th that’s looking at regeneration, and we have a seven-module immersion training. That’s going to go deep and comprehensively into principles, teachings and qualities that comprise this Toolkit that we have. We’re going to show you how simply and easily you can integrate these into your lives so that they can feel really empowered and seamless for very meaningful results. Not only for you but to be part of the changes and transformations that we want in the world around us. Connecting with them experientially and with the teachings and lessons is really the path forward. It’s why the tagline at EPI and the title of our upcoming training is “Nature Knows The Way”. As part of this upcoming training, our fireside chats and all our programming you will receive practical teachings and practices, plus community and connection with people like Ann Carroll and many others who are similarly inspiring.

They help us see our blind spots. They help us remember and realize things that maybe we have forgotten. Or maybe it’s new ideas and insights that we hadn’t thought of before. All of that can help us better engage our lives and live in a more positive way as part of the healing and the health and the change that we’re wanting for our world.

“Nature Knows The Way”: Psychological Biomimicry Training

Registration Closes Friday, 1/14

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