Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Go Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, 
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
     ~Wendell Berry

As we passed the equinox in September, I wrote about the season of darkness, about entering the mystery of darkness. As the days grew shorter, I did not mourn the light but instead embraced the darkness, accepting the invitation to dance in the unknowing.

At my cabin this weekend, I walked with the dog as the winter sun slanted through the trees. The cabin faces south along a creek, and across the creek a forested ridge rises. As we approach the darkest days, the sun barely clears the ridge in the morning and drops out of sight by mid-afternoon, leaving the cabin in shadow most of the day. Twinkly lights and a fire keep it cozy and cheery, but I step outside before bed to breathe in the cold darkness.

At home and at the cabin, I have been trying something new with my meditation practice. Since I awake early, my morning meditation is always before sunrise. I’ve been turning out all the lights to meditate in the darkness. And I’ve added a before bed meditation, again in darkness. I’ve been surprised by how much I like it. I’m much less fidgety, and my mind is calmer. It’s like I “go dark” inside, in harmony with the darkness outside.

In a few days, winter solstice will call back the light and the days will start to lengthen. But I will hold onto the darkness a while longer, embraced by the night, resting in deep stillness.

Darkness darkness, be my pillow
Take my head and let me rest
In the coolness of your shadow
In the silence of your dream
Darkness darkness, hide my yearning
For the things that cannot be
Keep my mind from constant turning 
Towards the things I cannot see
     ~60s song by The Youngbloods, lyrics by Jesse Collin Young

14 thoughts on “Go Dark”

  1. A beautiful post, Galen. My husband bemoans the winter because of the lack of light, people get seasonal affective disorder because of it.But I really believe it is in one's attitude and mindset towwards the lack of light, and hence the dark,that the problems can arise. So embracing it as natural and cyclical and finding some value and resonance in it is surely the better 'way'for one's spirit, replacing resistance with harmony.

  2. Here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, winter is a season of darkness and shadows. Even during the day, it is often cloudy and rainy, so our natural indicators of time passing, like the sun and the moon, are hidden. To me it is a magical season. What is winter like in Scotland?

    I used to feel melancholy as the summer light faded into fall and winter, but now I welcome the darkness as an invitation to mystery. It is exciting, in a quiet way.

    And no matter my attitude about it, it is what it is. Resistance, as the Borg say in Star Trek, is futile. And as Buddha said, resistance brings suffering. So best to release the struggle and marvel at the beauty that is then revealed.

  3. As you've reflected here, Galen, I do believe darkness is conducive to meditation and prayer. When it's light outside, we want to open our eyes to see, and so many distractions can overwhelm us in a twinkling, dispersing our inner thoughts and quiet time. The darkness does welcome mystery and silence into our lives, both of which we need to connect with God.
    Blessings, and thank you for this most meaningful post!

  4. Galen, the weather in Scotland sounds pretty much the same as where you are. During the day it can be very dark, and therefore in the home too, and of course it rains frequently. But there are bright days in winter too! I get around it I think with painting, where I'm seeing bright colours under an angle poise and writing is great because there isn't much pull to go outside!

  5. Oh my dear friend, I loved reading about your times at your cabin. It sound so peaceful, cozy and a perfect place to go and enjoy quiet moments.
    I could use that right now. I would love to meditate a bit more. Prayer becomes that for me especially when I can converse with Heavenly Father and actually take some moments to listen. That is the peaceful seconds of my day.
    I like the idea of meditation in darkness. I do spend time at night maybe not in meditation but more in reflection. I continue to want to be in the light more than in the darkenss. Although, I did learn from your post today more about the good found in the darkness.
    Sending loving thoughts and hugs your way!

  6. I love your description of "going dark." I am always a friend of quiet contemplation, and it does seem somehow more normal in the dark. It's like the world is closing its eyes to rest. I am reminded by one of my blogging friends who lives in Australia, that half of the world is in summer right now! 🙂

  7. I know. I think it's interesting that our new year is in winter, but half the world celebrates the calendar new year at the beginning of summer. And then of course, there's the tropics. I lived in the tropics (near the equator) for five years, and I was always disoriented by the absence of familiar seasons. We only had three there — hot, cool (meaning less hot), and rainy. And the days/nights were roughly equal all year.

    So greetings to our other half who are "going light" right now!

  8. I do meditate in the dark often, there are less distractions. Its the same with noise or even music , I prefer to meditate in silence. But, there is the whole idea of needing to accept what is around us, now, that is also a good discipline. The accepting what is there now is so important. Speaking of darkness , I went through what is called 'the dark night of the soul' about ten years ago and it was perhaps the most revealing time of my life. It was the beginning of waking up from illusion. So darkness can be a time of deep contemplation and renewal. When we become still, without light and sound we discover an inner light.

  9. Thank you for these reflections on darkness, Brian. I agree that part of meditation practice, maybe all of it (!), is about accepting what is, whether that is silent darkness or noisy brightness. Did you ever read Hesse's Steppenwolf? There is a passage in there, if I remember correctly, about appreciating Mozart's music even when played over a radio with terrible reception. Not sure my memory is accurate, but you get the idea.

  10. I never read that book Galen, but the idea relates to what we are talking about. Beauty is often hidden beyond all the distraction.Its found in darkness and its found in the noise. When we perceive intently we can pick up the signal clearly.If we can be content in darkness we will be over joyed in the light. If we can be at peace in the noisy main street we will be ecstatic alone in nature.

  11. I worked in a noisy industrial environment all my life. We know that noise at a certain level is harmful to us. Usually noise just causes stress for most of us. But, what I am referring to is the feeling that under all that noise of human activity is a stillness and an order of some kind. I experienced it this summer at a local pizza-fest, the park was full of people of all ages, the band was playing,children were playing and laughing, traffic was humming, yet, I could sense a peace, and stillness beyond all that. There was a spirit of Joy coming from the crowd. Most of the sound was a noisy cacophony on the surface of my perception, but in a much deeper sense, those sounds were all coming together and blending as a wonderful symphony for me…. There was beauty in the noise.

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