At this time of year, we suddenly find ourselves waking up in the dark. Some days, a sense of gloom hangs around all day. Daylight feels in short supply. How do we make it through these long, dark nights?
We look for the light.
Traditions around this time of year celebrate light and fire. The candles we put inside Jack-o-Lanterns to ward off evil spirits and the festival of light – Diwali – often falls at the end of October and beginning of November. We use fireworks to light up the skies so we can gaze with awe and wonder at their beauty. If it’s going to be dark, we try to make the most of it.
Looking for the light suggests a practice of looking for the silver lining in the clouds, seeing our glass as half full and looking on the bright side. This can be really helpful. I’ve talked before about our human tendency to focus on the threats and difficulties and that we often need to work at looking for the good stuff. However, I am also mindful that sometimes a relentless focus on looking for the good in every situation can be draining and even counter-productive.
The quest for positivity somehow feeds an idea that we should be happy all the time when, in fact, we are humans who experience a range of emotions. Emotions which give us information about the world and which we are allowed to feel. So when I think about looking for the light, I think about how we adjust to the dark.
Imagine you are in a dark cave. At first, it is black, you can’t see anything. It is unrelentingly dark. We might stumble around or stay very still. We might imagine all sorts of monsters lurking in the shadows. Gradually, though, something changes. We begin to adapt to the light levels. Our eyes learn to look for the slight variations in tone and if there are shafts of light, we begin to be able to see them.
Sometimes, we need to sit in the dark for a while, to understand it and to feel our way through it. If we are suddenly exposed to bright light, our eyes are dazzled and we feel disoriented. It is too much and we are left having to adjust once again to the dark. So when we sit in the dark, we give our system a chance to acclimatise. When we are ready, we can see the light when it starts to break through.
There are always shades of dark, some are lighter than others. If we are gentle with ourselves, we can notice where the light is and to begin to seek it out. Looking for the light can turn our attention from what is dark and hard and seemingly relentless.
As the seasons take us further into the dark, let’s make the most of the light that is to be had. Go outside when it is daylight, create our own light with fire and candles and celebrate the opportunities that the dark night skies offer us for dazzling, colourful fireworks.