“You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! –
powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.” – Rainer Marie Rilke

Befriending darkness can take many forms. In an over-illuminated world, could it be that we’ve let go of some of our ancestral connection to the gifts of night? Some have even proposed that because of light pollution, kids growing up without the wisdoms and mystery of the night sky are deprived of something essential to being human. Could we begin to treat darkness as a long-lost lover with whom we can reconnect?

1)Noticing Illumination

Practically, we can begin to notice how our easy access to nighttime illumination in our homes and neighborhoods can override our body’s messages or the season’s recommended daily allowance of darkness. Or what about that all-too-common modern urge to scroll our phone before we lay our head down for the night? Where are we banishing darkness? What effect do these habits have on our nervous system? Our quality of sleep? Our natural rhythms?

2)Silent Night Walk

Just what it sounds like. Find a nice, safe area to take a meander when it is dark. What do you notice that you don’t notice in full visibility of daylight, in yourself and the surroundings? If going alone does not feel good, go with a friend and make a commitment to keep part of the walk in silence. 

3)Dark Bathing

You’ve heard of forest bathing. You’ve maybe flirted with rain bathing. Dark bathing is  like sky-gazing but you sit or lay in complete darkness. You allow yourself to float on the waves of darkness, becoming permeable to its soothing waters. In darkness, our perception of form dissolves, which can allow us to experience different textures inside and out.

4)Invoke your inner slug

We might spend time with slugs, snails, mushrooms or other slow creatures, or evoke their image and energy. Can we meet the slow ones at their pace? Sometimes even watching a video of them regulates my nervous system and brings out a deeper breath.

For regular things you do, try it 80% of your normal pace. Now how about a half of the speed? Do you notice any resistances within to letting go of freneticism and list-making?

This isn’t about not getting things done. But about bringing presence to what is being done. We can also practice delayed responses and pregnant pauses, becoming comfortable with silence, not filling the space. 

5)Sense Walk (see handout in week #2)

Evoking your other senses while covering your eyes

6)Saying no/saying yes

To support our own pace, we might practice saying no to another’s rhythm, and say yes to your own. For some, this is actually the hardest, because of ingrained people-pleasing coping mechanisms, though it can be where the real juice is. 

This is where we also notice narratives that arise and accompanying emotions like guilt. How can you also invoke your inner slug and fungi to help compost those narratives and emotions?

7)Slow Eating and Eat for the First-Time Challenge
How would you approach a banana if you’d never seen one before? A pomegranate? A few years ago I started doing a video-taped “eat for the first time challenge”, where I encounter a fruit or vegetable as if I’d never seen or tasted it before. It was meant to be more humorous than ecospiritual, but it was a good way to experience with beginner’s mind. It also re-awakened the simple awe and mystery of the things we put into our bodies everyday. An extension of this can be to bring to mind all of the processes and people, human and not human, that it took to get that particular food to you. Guaranteed to keep us rooted in gratitude and slowness.

8)Befriend the Smalls and Nighttime Creatures
What about those ladybugs? That blade of grass with one bulging dew drop? That snail and the piece of lichen they are munching on? Or how about the unseen, but heard critters in the night? The owls and coyotes?

Have you ever noticed that when people are asked to envision an animal ally it’s often a majestic bird or mammal, like a jaguar or eagle? I remember when slug and soil and beetle came to me, it felt like I was no longer overlooking a whole world under my feet (literally).

Don’t forget the Smalls in your basket of Whos
Don’t forget the smells when you’re looking for clues
Don’t forget your nose when you’re searching for hints
Don’t forget the sense of all of the scents
Don’t forget your ear, to put to the ground
Don’t forget the slow when you forage for sounds
Don’t forget to see from the snail-point-of-view
Don’t forget the Smalls in your basket of Whos

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