In winter the earth lies fallow; nature appears frozen and dead. In this deep stillness of nature, winter calls us to look into our depths, to reconnect to our inner being, to befriend the darkness within us and around us. In winter—like the seeds that are beginning their metamorphosis and starting to manifest their destiny in the deep recesses of the earth—all of our energies are being called to examine the depths of our being. — Jason Elias, Five Element Healing
Journeying into the darkness of ourselves is the aspect of embracing winter energy that most of us resist most. The onset of winter is filled with holidays that are all about finding the light and being merry: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Year’s. We will our time with socializing and parties — quite the opposite of going dark.
As much as we may not like to dive into the darkness, it can be fruitful for our productivity.
How can journeying into the darkness help us boost productivity?
(1) Defeat Self-Sabotage
A common misperception is that to overcome self-sabotaging patterns we simply need to develop more discipline and willpower. The problem with this approach is that discipline and willpower can only help us overcome conscious sabotage.
Most of our self-sabotage is driven by our unconscious.
Have you ever found yourself slacking off just when you need to get moving on a big project?
Do you know someone who never seems to get angry or frustrated or upset about anything, until one day the person erupts in a fit of anger, releasing the bottled emotion that was stored under the surface?
At some point in your life, typically as a child, you learned that it was not ok to express certain parts of yourself. Maybe you learned it was not ok to be too talkative, to ask too many questions, to challenge authority. Perhaps you were admonished if you showed your emotion or dared to cry. Maybe you were taught that self-promotion was a bad thing. You may have been rewarded for hard work and effort, and admonished for laziness.
Based on the rewards and accolades and admonishments you received, you learned what was acceptable behavior and what was not acceptable. You formed your personality around the more acceptable aspects of yourself, and suppressed the other parts.
Everybody does this.
The parts that we buried are what Carl Jung referred to as our shadow.
According to Jung’s theory, these rejected pieces of our personality lurk unseen beneath the surface of our consciousness. They secretly control much of our thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
The only way to break out of your self-sabotaging habits and patterns is to bring dive into the shadow and bring it into the light of your conscious awareness.
In this process, you recognize that there are no “good” parts or “bad” parts of yourself, just parts that serve you differently at different times. By diving into the darkness, you see the light that lives within.
(2) Uncover Your Fears and Limiting Beliefs
In addition to the shadow self, our fears and limiting beliefs also like to hide out in the darkness. The most effective way to “overcome” fears and limiting beliefs is not to try to overcome or conquer them or crush them, but to embrace them.
Your fears are just expressions of the parts of yourself that need nourishment and friendship. Imagine going into a dark room to comfort a scared child. This is what we do when we dive into the darkness to embrace our fears.
Once you embrace your fears, the invisible blocks you face that keep you stuck fall away. They lose their power to control you.
(3) See Things We Can’t See in the Light
We are often hesitant to explore the darkness for fear of what we will find there. But the darkness can show us things that we cannot see in the light.
Santa Catalina, Panama is a small town with only one main road. The area is filled with undeveloped land. Many of the restaurants are down unpaved, dirt roads without streetlamps; even the main road that runs through the village has spots of complete darkness. Each night as the sun goes down, I have an opportunity to practice embracing the literal darkness of night as I head out in the darkness to go to dinner.
Each night, I find myself stopping in the middle of the road and craning my neck to look up in awe at the stars that fill the sky.
Seems pretty obvious, right? The sky has stars everywhere.
But stars are something I don’t get to see often in New York City, where the ambient lights from the city that never sleeps pollutes the darkness.
In the dark night of the Santa Catalina sky, the stars pop and shine like nowhere else I’ve seen.
If you look closely, you can see some in this photo that I took with my iPhone (so, not quite optimized for taking pictures of the night sky):
As the moon wanes this week, I’ve noticed more stars each night. Without competition from the moon the stars seem to shine even brighter. As I’ve become familiar with the unpaved paths, I’ve relied less on my flashlight and more on the light of the stars to guide me.
Each of us has this light within our own darkness, the parts of ourselves that shine in the moments of tragedy, or in the depths of a difficult situation. This inner light provides us with strength and guidance. When you access your inner light, you need less direction from outsiders on which path to take or how to navigate it.
You find that the answers you have been seeking are illuminated from within.
A Productivity Boost
Expose the fears and beliefs that limit you and keep you stuck.
See things that you typically can’t see at all, or in ways that you typically can’t see them.
Those feel like productive reasons to embrace the darkness.
What do you think?