by Sharrae Lyon
Illustration by Eli
When I think of darkness, two things comes to mind. That of the Hindu goddess Aditi and the many nights I spent as a child afraid of the bumps, the eerie shadows. One representation of darkness is expansive, the other an experience of fear, replicated in other life experiences portrayed as real dangers.
I’ll start with my nighttime childhood experiences.
Actually, I wasn’t entirely afraid of the dark. I never wanted to go to sleep and spent my nights watching television with my mother. When I would retire into my room, I would lie in bed, staring up at the ceiling where glow-in-the dark stars would reflect back at me. I liked nothing more than standing under a starry sky and feeling so tiny and insignificant, but in total awe that I could possibly exist.Night was in some senses, enjoyable. But it also unearthed many fears of being kidnapped and alien abductions. This probably didn’t help that I watched The Learning Network’s (TLC)’s primetime programming that always talked about serial killers and aliens! I remember lying in bed, unable to sleep, recounting the possibilities that something bad could happen. I’d look over to my wall, and I would see a shadow bouncing on it’s surface, my ears told me that there was something rustling out my window. I would lie there, frozen, petrified. But I decided that I needed to see for myself what was dancing on my wall. I slowly took off the covers and sat on my knees and gently peered through my window. To my total relief there was nothing but a tree outside my window, and of course it was its branches that were playing on my bedroom wall. I would sigh in relief and my ever–pattering heart would slow down and I would drift softly to sleep.
I think as children we all had these monsters in the closet type scenarios. We live in a society that conditions us to fear the dark. In fact, our obsession with escaping the dark can be seen in our need to always have artificial light to make us feel safe and comfortable. It almost seems that we as little children have actually not grown up. This is the case for those who live in urban. For those of us who live in the country, the darkness covers like a blanket. A moment to retire, to slow down and regenerate towards the next day.
Indigenous cultures all throughout the world have remarkable understandings of the rhythms and purposes of the sun and moon. All of which align with their own community connection to the cosmos. In no way is fear and darkness synonymous entities, but the darkness, much like fear are lessons, messages for us to look deeper at who we are, and what drives us forward.
Aditi, The Hindu Mother of the Sky, the Mother of all the planets, galaxies, she is the Mother of all Life. It is through her dark womb that all is dreamed and born. She is the embodiment of Time and Space. The Mother of what we know to be the zodiac. She is the Darkness, the Void and within her endless black darkness of space, lies all possibilities. She is the Mother of the Past and the Future and it is through connecting to the dark reaches of our soul, that we can birth the Light.
I have lived with anxiety and depression, having many bouts and episodes. As I’ve aged and deepened my spiritual practice, some truths have come to light. Three of which will be the premise for this e-book.
1. Our fears are actually clues to our deepest desires
2.We do have the capacity to control our mind, and thus impact our feelings and lastly change our behaviours.
3. Love transforms all.
When we are moving in and out of our days experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, we are in essence living unhappily. We feel that we don’t have control over our lives. We look at our defeats and lose all confidence that we are able to deal with the complexities of life. We may look also at our triumphs and accomplishments and they may make us feel better for some time, but something just doesn’t seem to stick.
Many spiritual traditions talk about the importance of learning how to transcend our circumstances, to ascend to a transcendent consciousness, one that builds our mental, emotional and spiritual resilience.
But how the hell does one do that?
Starting With Self — So within, So without
Indigenous traditions understood that we as humans have the power to self-heal. We once lived intimately with nature, understanding that we were one with nature. We didn’t see ourselves as separate or above plants, animals or other creatures. Instead, we had a great respect to the many beings that existed, and found ways to co-exist. When we needed the meat for survival, or to pick plants and herbs we always expressed gratitude in the form of prayer, not only to whatever name of the Creator we had, but also to the animal or plant that sacrificed themselves to us.
Of course there has always been periods of history where this was not the case. It is so important not to essentialize indigenous cultures or to blame solely European colonization for the ills that we have today. However, the events of European colonization and enslavement of indigenous, African, Asian peoples plays a more vivid role in our contemporary means of existing. But even with this being said, there are others who may not function from this lens. In order for us to move forward towards a harmonious future, we need to develop the capacity whereby we do not force perspectives on each other. Though, because there does exist pockets in our society that desire to spread fear and division, it is important to name it when doing the work of undoing unhealthy patterns to come back to our communities more strong and capable of standing to the values of truth, love and harmony.
However, to change our circumstances, we must do the difficult work of traveling within. In indigenous understandings of the intricate relationship between the individual and the external, they all say that what is experienced in the Self, is experienced without.
But what exactly is the Self?
If we are to accept that we are Human, which is by no means a low status of being, we will need to start to recognize the powerful role that we play in this natural world. We have to begin to challenge the notions that we have been fed of limitation and constraint. To be human, is in fact to be a representation of divinity. However, because we live in a high consumer culture that would rather have us dumbed down and distracted with junk that doesn’t feed or nurturer us, whether that be in food or culture of consumption, we have to struggle to remember who exactly we are. You are not your possessions, you are not what you do, you are not an identity, you are a Being that is consistent of the ingredients of the five elements: water — your blood, semen, saliva, fire— , earth—-, wind—your mind, thoughts, and metal. You consist of a body, a mind and a Soul/Spirit. When we are fed things that do not feed our minds, or bodies and spirits, we become sick. When we are surrounded in environments that do not nurture us, we become sick. When we are sick, we descend into a darkness, we land in perhaps the most fertile soil. The soil of change and transformation.
The first step to healing our lives is by taking responsibility and acknowledging the fact that all the things that seem to consistently be misshaping comes down to us. We cannot blame anyone for where we are, because we are where we are due to the ways that we have respond to all that happens to us. In fact, we cannot even blame ourselves. We have to just accept where it is that we are and give ourselves the permission to move forward. There will be days that will feel like you are going backward, but just keep on moving.
Stillness in motion. Motion in stillness.
I speak from experience. I have felt beaten down after losing jobs, being betrayed, surviving toxic and abusive relationships. It wasn’t until after one particular relationship that literally threw me in the ring when it came to psychological and emotional trauma that I had to say — “wait one minute, how did I get here? To this place where I would allow someone to literally come into my own home and dump upon me all their own warped traumas?” I had integrated their false claims of who I was and identified with it. I had lost a sense of who it is that I truly was. It was tough and it influenced many areas of my life. However, what I didn’t know in the moment that I was experiencing it, is that it actually was preparing me for an entirely new chapter of my life. A chapter that I am only beginning to surrender to and unfold. If it were not for that relationship, I perhaps would still be living my life, an artist not practicing her art, living in a city that didn’t inspire her. Since that relationship I have gone up and down in establishing balance within myself. I still have bouts of depression and anxiety, but with each episode I learn more skills of not only how to cope, but also how to gain balance and solidity. In my dive into my mind and emotions, in addition to establishing a spiritual practice, I learn the teachings of the powers of love, the interwoven co-existence of light and dark, and the ability to greatly transform.
All we gotta do, is let go.
When I realized that it is the pillars of beliefs that I hold and the attached thoughts that are used to uphold those beliefs that were dictating my life, I took it upon me to dive deep and challenge these beliefs. I’ve recognized that many of the beliefs that I have been operating under actually were never mine to begin with, but were adopted by family conditioning, a current friend group, or absorbing other elements of society. I consistently have to challenge my notions around purpose, love and relationships, what is possible, by asking myself the question: what is it that I want to believe? What is that I want to create?
It is there that we begin the journey of healing our lives. It is then, that we realize that we are our own medicine.
About Sharrae Lyon:
Sharrae Lyon is a facilitator, writer, filmmaker and public speaker. Her work is grounded in reframing mental health as transformation. To inquire about current workshops, contact her at email@example.com.
Eli is queer artist residing in Toronto. They are an aspiring illustrator and writer. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out their bigcartel: @piscesprincx , or their instagram, twitter and tumblr by the same names