I love when I can bring nature and its benefits into a conversation. As a budding Ecopsychologist, I’m finding it pretty easy to incorporate my love of the outdoors into every conversation, especially when it has to do with living well. In preparation for a Wellness Forum on Lightness which I co-led with Bob Bartlett at Phoenix Process Consultants, I found a Ted Talk by Paul Bogard on Why We Need Darkness. Bogard spoke of how our fear of the dark and our desire to keep working all hours has led us to put too much light into the world, causing light pollution. This type of pollution wreaks havoc on the lives of the many wildlife species that conduct life’s work by night.
I have realized that some of our society’s anxieties are the result of consumerism and pollution, but I hadn’t thought of light pollution before. We’ve become a little neurotic in our fear of darkness. Bogard also stated that about 80% of people living in the U. S. cannot see the Milky Way. Growing up and living in Minnesota and attending college in northern Wisconsin, I can’t imagine not seeing the stars the way I’ve seen them, especially the Northern Lights. No wonder people are going a little crazy. We’ve forgotten what it is to wander and wonder because so many can’t even see the cosmos.
Thankfully, I maintain my sanity in nature but also have the pleasure of wondering with a group of people that make up a Wellness community in the Western Twin Cities. We joined together this week to celebrate Lightness and the Winter Solstice. We connect four times per year to discuss Wellness topics and simply to join in a rare place we can all fully be ourselves and share both our darkness and lightness. The following is a summary of the evening that was shared with my Wellness discussion group and I wanted to share it here.
If you ever want to join us, just contact me and I’ll tell you more about the Wellness program and how you can join this amazing community.
Sharing our darkness and light
The Wellness Forum opened with the Chinese Proverb in the picture. We celebrated the winter solstice and were reminded of the importance of both light and darkness in our lives. The Celtics believe that all spirituality starts in the darkness and our session began with a review of how our feelings of inferiority and fears can seem like the darkness in our lives. Participants shared their darkest moments and in talking about darkness people quickly referred to light points in their lives too – the overcoming themselves or with the aid of others. In fact, some lightness in people’s lives weren’t even visible, like a granddaughter’s birth on the same day as a lost grandmother and a supportive brother who appeared in dreams to help a wounded brain, or simply an extended prayer.
We talked about the need for darkness, not just to move us to learn but biologically. We need darkness to rest and rejuvenate our bodies. Nocturnal and crepuscular animals need darkness to live; 60% of vertebrates and 30% of invertebrates move at night. Stars are best viewed in a clear night sky. In our fear of darkness, we have taken a neurotic turn and are now dealing with light pollution. Sea turtles using moonlight to direct them to water from hatch sights are now becoming confused by the city lights nearby. An astonishing 80% of people living in the United States can’t see the Milky Way.
Sparks of light
We had turned the lights out early in the session and asked participants to light a candle as they spoke of their darkest hours. As the session proceeded, additional candles were lit as others “sparked” a moment inside of them. Everyone was grateful for the vulnerability that could be shared in this community without judgment; deep feelings that could be honored while aiding in the enlightenment of others.
The session ended with the Tia Chi symbol. The opposite sides flow into each other to make up the whole. The dots signify that each force contains a little of the complementary force. Neither is good or bad, the interaction between them is necessary for the universe to operate. The same is true for us; we need both darkness and light in our lives and they flow as we live and move.
Gathering the light
Participants were encouraged to share their light with others as we go about our holiday busyness. In closing, some commented that we need more of these communities in our lives; places to share our darkness so we can also enlighten and brighten each other. What can you do to create such a community?
Go out and be the light for someone in the middle of the forest. Thank others for being a light for you. Get out and use the darkness to find the stars.