“Sometimes in the darkness you can see more clearly.” - Robert McFarlane
I recently read a book by Robert McFarlane called Underland, about the rich and varied life underground. He started out as a mountaineer and then became a spelunker, going from the highest of heights to the deepest darkest realms of the world beneath us.
It got me thinking about a winter a few years ago when I would wake up at 4am without fail, every morning. And that time, awake in the dark when everyone else is still asleep, I would pop outside with my coffee to check out the stars, orient to the phase of the moon and listen to the aliveness of the night.
There is a very different quality to existence, overwhelming mysteriousness and deep abiding peace were felt at the same time. A certain kind of awe arises out of the wee hours of the night and it seems that cave explorers feel the same in the underland. As Robert says - Sometimes in the darkness you can see more clearly.
It is easy to get spooked in the dark confines of a cave, just as it is easy to get spooked in the enveloping darkness of the night. Of course, our access to artificial light remedies any spooky feelings we might have lingering from childhood fears. However, we can also choose to enter the dark with a sense of curiosity.
What comes alive in us when we allow ourselves to linger in the dark, whether that’s late at night or well before dawn? Winter is the time to explore this frontier inside that requires the kind of stillness, peace and clarity that only the darkness can conjure. What insights arise when we have nowhere to be and nothing to do?
We often think of ourselves as time-poor, however the times that I have woken far too early in the morning to be anywhere or do anything feel timeless. Time seems to stand still or disappear altogether. The great darkness of long winter nights are a blessing that the natural world bestows upon us, so that we may accept the dark nothingness and find out what is alive there.
If you find yourself in this liminal space, don’t blast it away with bright lights and devices. Light a candle or several candles, and let yourself linger in the darkness. These months of darkness won’t last for long, now is our chance to go spelunking, metaphorically, into depths of our own minds and see what treasures await.
Listen to our UNDERLAND meditation to find peace, stillness, insight and renewed light in the darkness. Take a moment after listening to this meditation to journal your insights.
What did you notice about your state of mind?
What thoughts were recurring?
How did you feel in your body before and after?
Did anything surprise you about the way your mind responded to just one minute of intentional silence?
Create a reminder on your phone for one minute each night for the next week to sit in silence, just one minute.
If one minute feels like the beginning of something helpful for you then keep it scheduled and up the time by a minute each week for the next month... It may effortlessly evolve into a 5 minute daily meditation practise.