Can ‘Embracing Our Darkness’ Lead Us to Light?
“If you would only let go of seeking to be this or that, your natural state reappears; the light and ease of simple beingness.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
Are you one of the many people today who find themselves going back and forth between looking for ways either to rid themselves from, or to embrace, what’s often referred to as a “dark side” or “shadow-self?” Or perhaps you’ve decided to embrace it and look to achieve a better balance between your light and dark ‘halves?’ If so, you’re certainly not alone. Please take the time to read this one through. This one could help you collapse a great deal of time between now and a full, unadulterated and uncompromised Awakening.
Kind, gentle, humble, grateful, peaceful, loving, joyful – most of us perceive these as positive states of being, often believing too that they require our effort to achieve and maintain them. We aspire to them. And yet, these and all the other love-based “positive” attributes like them simply reflect our natural state; they are all natural attributes of our natural spiritual essence. Love is not an emotion. Love is our natural state. Pure, simple, present spiritual awareness – or Awareness – often referred to as Self-realization or “enlightenment,” underneath all the mystery and mystique, is our natural state. Awareness is Light – the Light what is – Light of Life, Truth, Understanding, Knowledge – this Light is our natural state.
Vision, spiritual sight, recognizes all these wonderful attributes as our natural state of being. However, seen through the lenses of perception rather than Vision, these all become perceived as positive (+) attributes. We perceive them as positive only because perception, being comparison-driven, is based in, and insists on, duality. So along side these attributes are also perceived their negative (-), a.k.a. ‘dark’ counterparts – cruel, harsh, arrogant, selfish, hateful, conflicted.
This is a very important distinction to clearly understand when choosing perception as one’s guide: Perception sees negative attributes as being just as ‘real’ as what it perceives as positive states – both positive (+) and negative (-) states are assigned equal reality by minds that are made to perceive. Perception inherently perceives the world based on duality.
“Vision is given you to restore Truth to your Awareness, which also naturally heals this split in the mind.”
Vision on the other hand sees what is, and the absence of what is. Seeing beyond the inherent errors of both perception and duality, Vision sees unity. It does not look on a vast, complex hierarchy and multiplicity of different things separated by space; it sees simplicity, sameness, one unified field of energy with all things interconnected and contained within it. Vision sees that our perceived ‘positive’ attributes are simply our natural, default state. To Vision, they are in fact neutral – they are what is. There is no conflict, no degrees, nor anything opposing what is. It does not see ‘cruel, harsh, arrogant, selfish, hateful & conflicted’ – it sees kind, gentle, humble, grateful, loving, peaceful, and their absence. Vision does not see darkness at all; nothing as opposing light nor as ‘opposite’ of light. Vision sees light, and the absence of light.
In this same way, Vision sees Truth, and the absence of Truth. The absence of Truth – illusion – perception is completely unable to distinguish as illusion, because it assigns the absence state, illusion in this case, with equal ‘reality.’ It sees illusion in the same way it sees negative (-) attributes and gives it the same reality in the mind that it assigns to all it perceives as positive. Vision doesn’t ‘assign’ or give reality to anything, because Truth is – It needs nothing given, assigned or added to make It what It is.
Now, however, because most people choose to see through perception (and it is a choice) – to experience and trust the ‘reality’ of the world by what they perceive through physical senses as a substitute for spiritual Vision – they make, or more accurately ‘make-believe’ their darkness, or “shadow-self,” to be just as real as their Light. Choosing perception as their guide (essentially the human experience), they make all these perceived negative states and attributes just as real and true for them as what they perceive as positive counterparts. Thus the vast majority of human beings immerse themselves in a ‘dream of darkness’ so to speak; a decent into a world of perceived negativity and darkness, an abstract abyss of the human condition. This condition is wholly of our own making.
It’s important to stress again that, from our perspective within that darkness, the states and attributes Vision sees as neutral and natural all shift in our awareness to being perceived as positive (+) attributes. So in order for us to attain what is natural in Truth, we now must aspire to reach them, work for them, strive for them. This is a just one of the heavy costs of choosing perception over Vision: perception hides our true nature from us and make us have to strive just to be natural.
Why This Topic is Relevant Today?
A lot of spiritual advisers out there these days are encouraging you to ‘embrace your darkness,’ implying if not all-out claiming this open acceptance of our darkness to be the way to spiritual freedom – “Embrace your dark side” or “Love your shadow-self.” They reason things like “Nature is full of things with shadows so darkness is normal. Embrace it!” While this may be true to the senses, many spiritually-minded people are also now coming to recognize that nature, the universe and the world are reflecting our state of mind; these all reflect the mindset of the observer. Until we are willing to really see and accept the full implications of this fact, we are missing what its all really showing us.
If this advice to embrace our darkness was intended to say something like, “Expose and accept your darkness, all your perceived shortcomings and all your conscious and unconscious past pain in order to forgive it (see what is false as false) and release it,” then such an idea would indeed be sound advice. Far more often than not, however, these folks are not suggesting that at all. Rather they are suggesting that you ‘accept your darkness as part of who you are’ and choose to compromise in order to find some form of balance between the light and darkness within you.
“What I am saying is take off the lenses of perception and choose instead to look upon yourself, life and the world with Vision as your Guide.”
It’s not hard to see there is a big difference between these two paths of advice, the latter clearly being an attempt to hold onto and apparently try to learn to control one’s darkness. Controlling our darkness has not worked literally for millennia. If you look really close, you’ll see the human experience itself is the endless pursuit of just that futile attempt.
You are always free of course to do whatever you like and follow all the popular voices advising you to strike thus ‘balance with your dark side,’ but be fully armed then with the awareness that, for as long as you attempt to, you will delay the deep, unshakable, lasting peace and unending joy of a full transcendent reawakening – and this awakening is the one thing your heart desires above all the petty pleasures ’embracing your darkness’ may seem to bring you. Reflecting your decision to be guided by perception, you will continue to experience the world as a duality and multiplicity; a world that cannot but reflect more conflict and suffering, until you become willing to change your mind and choose Vision and unity – or that which is your true nature – over perception and duality.
We Demonstrate to the World What We Believe & Choose to Learn
Spiritual teachers and advisers who lead or guide others to embrace their dark side or shadow self are those who are simply also attempting to do so themselves. It will show in their fruits. They’re trying to reconcile what ultimately cannot be reconciled, because Truth and illusion have no meeting place. These folks are seeking a way, like most every other human being on the planet throughout time, spiritual or not, to live with, hold onto and maintain the darkness they’ve made. They teach others to do the same to help make it more ‘real’ and more justifiable for themselves. The point is, not only is this futile, there also is nothing spiritual about embracing our darkness. It’s an ancient human pursuit – we could say it is the human condition.
Getting down to the nuts and bolts of it, while it is considered perfectly normal human behavior, most of us are subconsciously seeking to spiritualize our darkness, a.k.a. naughtiness, so we can ‘have our cake and eat it too.’ As human beings we have conflicting desires wanting to be spiritually awake while still indulging in all the specialness, preferences and pleasures of the physical human experience. People look to spiritualize many other things too that bring physical, emotional or mental pleasure – sex being a very common one; sensuality itself being another (sense+duality, can it get any more physical?). Anytime we elevate the body (form) to the level of mind and spirit (formless), teaching ourselves or others to all but worship the body, we are attempting to spiritualize or legitimize our manifestations as “truth.” We imagine and manifest thoughts and things and then insist they be made part of Reality, and it just doesn’t work that way. But we can sure believe it does, and so perceive it as if.
Let’s pause here and say very clearly – none of this has anything whatsoever to do with ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ good or evil, moral or immoral, etc. We are not interested in judging anyone for anything. No one is guilty of anything. We all share the experience of wanting to hold onto what we perceive as pleasurable. This does, however, have everything to do with cause and effect. ‘Naughtiness’ in any form – and we can all imagine countless forms – is simply pleasure. Pleasure is neither right nor wrong, but it is inherently part of duality. Its polar opposite, something else we’re all familiar with, is pain or suffering. Pain (effect) is the inevitable pendulum-swing for all who seek pleasure (a substitute for Truth), choosing perception as their guide (cause). It’s important to see that, choosing to live by perception and duality, one must accept its terms and conditions.
“Take off the lenses of perception and choose instead to look upon yourself, your life and your world with Vision as your Guide.”
Truth heals. Truth, beyond words and definitions, is the one authentic desire of every heart. We are not talking here about any relative “my truth” or “your truth” – these are concepts related to perception, separation and individuality and are not Truth at all. Truth, like Vision, is unified – it doesn’t change or have versions or spectrums. We’re talking of an innermost, unified Truth that transcends all aspects of personhood and separation. Truth naturally reveals Itself to us by our desire for It. Intuitively, in our innermost Self, we know that embracing our darkness as being ‘part of who we are’ and just leaving it there without going deeper is a cop-out; it’s an attempt to compromise Truth.
Facing Facts about What Is & Isn’t Real
You perceive a darkness in you ultimately because you made it up by using the creative faculties of the mind, primarily the powers of will, imagination and belief, to produce an illusory state of mind; an altered state of Consciousness (of which there is only one, and it is Divine) – one that is absent of your Light; absent of your Self, absent of Truth. Bottom-lining it, this is to say you made up an illusory ‘version’ of you – Freud and Jung called this the ego. How could it possibly serve you then to embrace this ego/darkness, making it even more real to you by doing so, as if this could somehow result in bringing balance? This ‘experiment’ has been re-run literally billions and billions of times over countless human lifetimes. Yet as human beings, within that ‘dream of darkness,’ continue expecting different results.
That you can strike a balance and truly be at peace with both your authentic Light and an illusory ‘darkness’ is a fallacy. It is an ego delay tactic to keep it, the ego, in place and to postpone, and/or altogether block your Awareness of your Self; delaying your awakening so it can reign in your place for a time (most often for entire lifetimes). Any temporary comfort that may come from embracing your darkness cannot last. The ego is conflict and it will not remain calm, quiet or in the background for long. It was made to usurp – that is its purpose and means for existing. Because it can ‘exist’ only in an illusory state of mind, it must maintain illusion by selling you the pleasures of perception and duality, keeping your Awareness distracted by them and away from seeing the ‘wizard behind the curtain’… to keep you from seeing it.
To be clear, we are certainly not saying here to reject any aspect of what you perceive as being part of you – that is never wise. What we are saying is simply this: take off the lenses of perception and choose instead to look upon yourself, your life and your world with Vision as your Guide. Vision will show you that your ‘darkness’ is nothing, merely the absence of your Light, your Self, your Awareness. It will show you that this idea of “embracing your darkness,” or similarly, “making friends with your ego,” is very likely concealing within it a hidden ego motive to hold onto and maintain itself, a made-up-version of your Self that you conjured up in the mind, having no reality in Truth. Your darkness – again, only perceived – is unreal; period. You’re not letting go of something of value by letting it go, rather you are letting go of an idea, a false image of yourself, that has no eternal Reality.
By our desire and subsequent decision to follow perception, the mind is forced quite literally to be split in its allegiance between perception and Vision; between your ego and your Self. So accepting as ‘real’ what perception shows you – accepting your darkness, or your ego-self, as being part of “your truth” – can only result in maintaining a split mind. A split mind produces deep, inner subconscious conflict that surfaces in countless symptoms related to illness, stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, etc. It’s that abstract, indefinable splinter that festers deep in every perceiving mind. Vision is given you to restore Truth to your Awareness, which also naturally heals this split in the mind.
What about Needing to Experience the Negative to Appreciate the Positive?
Many people will claim, “We must first know sorrow if we are to know joy.” This reasoning might be valid if we actually walked away from the sorrow, or more to the topic of this post, from our darkness, for good, having experienced both, to fully embrace joy or the light. However we (humanity, in general) don’t do this at all, do we? No. We return to the sorrow, or look to ’embrace our darkness,’ and so this too becomes an empty and meaningless rationalization. If it really worked like this, we would have reversed our ‘decent’ a very long time ago. This way of thinking reflects some of the ‘fruits’ mentioned earlier, where ideas like this are all so commonly and broadly shared – programmed ideas people accept, believe and spread to others without ever really contemplating them or questioning their validity; without holding them up to the light of Truth.
This thinking is a common way we justify maintaining our allegiance to perception as our guide; to justify and maintain our choice for duality over unity, for illusion over Truth. It’s perfectly reflected in the story of the Prodigal Son (ref. Luke 15:11-24) , playing out again and again and again in so many countless forms in the human experience – the thinking that we must walk away essentially from what we love in order to learn to appreciate it. We will not break free of this narrative, this program, until we make a decision to do so and reclaim what All that we already have. What we have is Vision. Without Vision as our Guide, we have an endless loop taught, learned and played out by ego-hijacked minds that want only to hold onto and maintain the illusion. It is nothing short of a form of insanity resulting in, for one, the inability to distinguish pain from pleasure. The farther down this path we allow ourselves to go (i.e. the longer the Prodigal Son is away from home), the more we loose touch; the more pain becomes pleasurable; the less we can tell the difference. We can observe with sharp clarity this program playing out in the world today on just about any level imaginable.
Perception sees the infamous Taoist yin and yang symbol as representing a balance of light and dark; a symbol of duality as being the ‘reality’ of our world. In some ways it is that – the state of this world, however, as a reflection of the state of our minds. Vision sees beyond its surface-level duality, seeing the yin and yang symbol not as a reflection of Truth, but rather as a symbol revealing and re-minding us what we have made of Truth by attempting to split what is One and Whole into two opposing polar extremes – splitting ourselves off from our own Source, which by nature also means splitting ourselves off from our own Self; our Identity as spiritual beings. We could say that, in our decent into the ‘dream of darkness’ of perception and duality, we perceive a form of ourselves abiding at one polar extreme, while our Self and our divine Source, being One, abide at the other. This most renown of all symbols of duality then becomes more like a map showing us – the proverbial Prodigal Son – our way Home. It becomes a symbol of restoration and reunification.
Expose, Accept, Forgive & Release, Rather than Embracing Our Darkness, Heals the Mind
We have taken ourselves – being beloved extensions of Love, created whole by Wholeness, created Light by Light, created Loving by Love – split ourselves off from our divine Source using (or we could say misusing) the creative faculties of the mind and re-imagined ourselves to have a light half and a dark half; a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. From unity, we made duality. It is we who imagined all this, and it is we who maintain it simply by our desire for it. Lost in our dream of duality and from our perspective deep within that dream, our minds are forced to be split in their allegiance to both ‘sides.’ The way to heal that split, to awaken from it, is not to embrace this ‘dark half’ we’ve conjured up, but rather to see its unreality; not to see “it’s just who we are,” but rather see that in Truth it simply is not Who We Are at all.
“Perception hides our true nature from us and make us have to strive to be natural.”
~~ O ~~
In conclusion, let us stress once more – there is nothing good or bad or right or wrong about any of this. If that were the case we would just be buying into the illusion of duality. However, there are consequences. There is never a need for fear nor ever ‘punishment’ in any form, but there certainly are effects caused by our thoughts and decisions. Embracing our darkness embraces illusion, which delays our inevitable return to Truth, wholeness and Light – the restoration of our one true Self to Awareness, where all that is Light and “positive” is natural, neutral and effortless.
It’s called a “dark night of the soul” for a reason. The perception of darkness is passing. So embracing it, loving it, holding onto it as “part of who you are” is just not aligned with Truth. It is necessary to let it come up so you can acknowledge it and let it go and it is necessary that, with your inner Comforter you face it; just not that you hold it and keep it, grasping at some form of balance. There is no balance to be struck between the light and the dark, no bridge between Truth and illusion. Let thousands of years of human trial and error on this be research enough. Is it not time we stopped trying to compromise Truth, and fully embrace only It instead of our illusions?
Choose then not to embrace your darkness, neither to deny it, but rather to expose it, accept it, forgive it and release it. Choose Vision as your one Guide for seeing, going forward. Ask for Help within you, desiring only to be shown Truth. Duality and all its inherent conflict will naturally fade away to be replaced with a deep, unshakable peace and serenity that stays. All those positive attributes and states of being – kind, gentle, humble, grateful, peaceful, loving, joyful – and so many more will again become as natural and effortless as breathing.
“This place of darkness is not your home.” ~ A Course in Miracles