Endarkenment: Embracing the Medicine of Dark and Light

As we navigate the darker months of the global pandemic, I feel the unshakable recognition that darkness has great teachings to offer us. As a female dharma teacher, one who has navigated chronic illness, and who has been engaged in the heartbreak of environmental and social justice work for many years, I believe that darkness — literal and symbolic — has offered profound medicine, serenity, and healing to offer us. But it has taken me time to realize the value of what can be called Endarkenment alongside Enlightenment, in a world where there is a bias towards light over dark, in a world where illumination is not only so celebrated but has become the “goal” of spiritual practice. In reality, Enlightenment is neither an end nor a goal, and this is in part why we need Endarkenment alongside Enlightenment…to help us restore a more integrated path for collective awakening.

I grew up in a world where darkness — physical and symbolic — was rejected and even perhaps demonized. I have seen people assume that what they perceive as darkness within themselves equates to failure, and thus try to hide it. I have seen humans judge one another for perceived darkness again and again. I have witnessed well-intentioned practitioners cling to an effort to elevate, gloss over pain, and thus transcend it.

Darkness is a vital, essential, and restorative expression of nature or consciousness. It is the mystery from which everything is created and to which everything will return. Darkness connects us to the qualities of nature which are receptive, yin, restorative, and still, as opposed to active, yang, productive, expressive, and bright. Yin and yang, moon and sun, night and day, receptive and expressive exist in balance together.

Practice points to the freedom that is possible when we let go of trying to attain light while judging dark, or even perceiving light and dark as separate. Join me for an experiential exploration of Endarkenment, the process of awakening to wholeness through turning towards and embracing the dark. We cannot access our inner light — personally or collectively — without doing so.