So often we hear the expression “light-workers”, “light healers” or “messengers of the light”.
In the personal development and wellness world, we are inundated with this idea that we must lighten up, shed light, be the light, spread the light. Especially with all the tumultuousness around us these days, and as we explore the shadows of systemic violence, oppression, bigotry and division here in the US, we find ourselves wanting to open the metaphorical curtains and let in more sunshine.
Even in the health industry the past decade, there has been a lot of rhetoric on clean eating and cleanses. We use language where we are trying to expel, to clean, clear, to let go of, to erase, to send away, wash away, detox, shed light on the dirty, the dark, the gunk, the shit, the toxic.
There becomes this unassumed polarity between light and dark, clean and dirty, alkaline and acidic, black and white, open and closed, green juice and a steak.
I recently returned from a pilgrimage to Peru, and more recently a mini-pilgrimage upstate to Soul Camp. In Peru, I sat in ceremony with a shaman and 9 other sisters, exploring our deepest fears through cavernous introspection in immense darkness. At Soul Camp, I danced and hugged my way through four days of my deepest desires through enthusiastic extroversion under sunshine.
Both experiences – me, my truth, and my authentic expression.
This is my range. This is your range. This is our range. This is what it means to me to be balanced, powerful and in full integrity.
The danger we may sometimes come across in our beautiful bubble of well-intended personal growth is an imbalanced and unhealthy focus on the light.
Not just in our mindset, but our bodies too.
Think about it. Our physical bodies purge daily through sweat, tears, blood, mucus and bowel movements. Yet we try to sanitize them with scented mentrual pads, 3 showers a day and anti-perspirant. We try to sanitize our nervous system responses by stuffing down tears, shakes and the impulse to scream. We try to sanitize our ecstasy by bottling it up into bedroom-only orgasms and we try to sanitize our wildness into productivity with a specific trajectory, a specific purpose.
But what happens?
We don’t sweat out the toxins and get sick instead.
We don’t shake out our trauma and spend years at the therapist’s office.
We don’t allow ourselves to tap into our erotic energy at work and so we forfeit living life in technicolor.
(photo by Karen Kalou)
Now, I’m not saying ditch the deo and spend the rest of the day running around like a madwoman (although hey, more power to you if that’s what feels true for you!). I’m just pointing out that we have swung the pendelum a liiiiitle too much into the realm of squeeky clean & nice. A little too much value put on being open-hearted, optimistic and having the unicorn emoji in your “most used section”.
It’s time we got comfortable sitting in the dark. Sitting with the truth of our raw, primal, wild and dangerous side.
The recent solar eclipse was also such a beautiful reminder from mother earth that beauty and power can arise from the integration of light and dark, masculine and feminine, wild and focused, open and closed.
Let me give you another example. If you are someone who is hyperflexible, more openness is harmful. Instead, closing, engaging and protecting your ligaments is what is best for you. But in a world, where we tend to value openness and flexibility, we just assume that being more bendy is the goal.
If you were happy all the time, you would use up all your stored serotonin and then you’d go into full on depression. If you were sad all the time, your body wouldn’t have the right amounts of neurotransmitters & hormones to send the right messages to your organs and you’d get sick.
If the sun shone all 24 hours, our planet would deteriorate. If it was night all the time, our planet would deteriorate.
We must remember to embrace the entire spectrum, our whole range. Not just what looks and smells good but what feels real and true (which sometimes also smells good, thank god!)
But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it sucks and stinks and stalemates you. Sometimes it humbles and stretches you. Sometimes it awakens and entices you. But this is YOU. All of you. Your dark, your light. Our collective dark and light. Our healthy and balanced dark and light.
So the next time you find yourself wondering why no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get that pretzel position yoga pose,
Or no matter how many times you cleanse, you just keep finding yourself reaching for that chocolate bar,
Or no matter how many times you mantra your way into positive thinking, you still feel surges of hopelessness, please know that you are exactly where you need to be.
In your human experience. In your range. In the oscillating between light and dark.
This is balance. Because just like a tight-rope walker finds steadiness in their sway, we must find steadiness in ours.
This is life. And the second you let go of the shoulds and be present with what is, the full range of what is, that’s when you’ve accessed your full potential power.
(A big thank you to both Javier Regueiro & Julian DeVoe whose work in the world inspired this piece.)