Tuesday, April 6, 2010
In the cover of darkness
How come in the darkness of night, everything seems so ominous? I awake at 3 a.m. (I used to more often and am grateful it's not so frequent) and everything, I mean everything, weighs so heavily on my mind. I think I had had a very heavy dream, which woke me ... although I don't recall it.
This morning all of that worry seems like a mere shadow ... the one under my eyes. However, at the time, it seemed disastrous and anxiety-inducing. Not a nice place to be when sleep should be rejuvenating.
What is it, exactly, that kicks into gear in my mind (primarily) and body at that hour to instill such panic? Is it connected to whatever I had been dreaming? Is the sense of isolation and loneliness when no one else is awake the culprit? Is it hormones and aging? I've read that as we get older, our sleep gets less and worse. I used to be such a fantastic sleeper. My head would hit the pillow and I would be sacked out til light and fully rested. Ready to tackle anything.
This morning, I drug myself out of bed shortly before the alarm at 5:25 a.m. and headed to the gym. I was shocked, and not pleasantly, when our longstanding instructor had been replaced. And, perhaps because of my 3 a.m. mindset, not very generous in spirit and a bit grumbly. Until I started to pay attention and found she was, indeed, a terrific instructor and taught an amazing workout. My body is still basking in the afterglow. I also suspect my change of attitude happened as the sun rose, absorbing the darkness.
I know I adore the light: warm sunshine, reflections on the water, sunset and rise. But, early evening as the sun blurs to orangish-red has always been my favorite time of day. When the daylight hours have been rewarding and there's the promise of more to come with evening. That darkness looms close. That liminal, transitional time.
I was re-introduced [because I tend to forget important lessons] last fall to the idea of spiritual darkness being a productive and transformational space. Much like hibernation when things are happening beneath the surface, under the cover of dark. I had not thought it it quite in that light before -- as a positive and necessary place. As a Quaker, we're always talking about being in the light as if darkness is the evil antithesis. Quite frankly, I've probably felt more in the dark than in the light in my adult lifetime. And it was affirming to know that it's ok. I think I have been striving for that illusive enlightenment or nirvana where everything is placid and nothing should matter. I have never achieved that and am not sure I ever will. I feel like my heart's too big. It picks up so much, perhaps more than it can hold. I guess I don't know how to release all of that and still be me.
A friend at the pool this morning told me a neat trick to use at night. "Think of your thoughts as clouds," she said. And I quickly added "and let them pass." "Well, no," she said, " try to go to the spaces between the clouds."
Wow – what a concept. Perhaps that's the liminal place between light and dark and the balance.
Think I'll try it the next time I'm awake at 3 a.m. or, maybe, even in a daytime meditation.
• How do I settle my mind when it becomes anxious?
• What are my triggers?
• Where's my balance of living in light and dark?
• Have I been able to safely navigate the darkness?
• What are those spaces between for me?
on my body
how do I
can I begin
to think of