“Compassion is knowing our darkness well enough that we can sit in the dark with others.” ~Pema Chodron
You don’t want to talk about your dark side. You probably don’t even want to admit it to yourself. You can talk about your pain, your heartbreaks and suffering. Nowadays you can even talk more openly about depression, negative self-talk and death wishes.
But there is still a part of you that is so dark, so scary, that you never want to admit it in public and rightly so. Some things should be kept away from the public eye, like Mark Twain said, “Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
So I will not tell you much about my dark side, but I will tell you how I work with it. Because you too have a dark side, and like me, you might be at a point in your life where you need to deal with it.
In the dark cave scene of the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker enters a cave where he faces the dark enemy, Darth Vader. After Luke’s lightsaber decapitates Darth Vader, Luke discovers that it was actually his own head underneath the Darth Vader’s mask. It was his own dark side that he killed in that cave.
I love this scene because it presents the potential of dealing with your own darkness. This is the key to becoming a Jedi. You become so powerful; you can heal yourself; you can heal others; you can work with the forces of the universe in ways no one else can.
What I do not like about this scene is that Luke kills his dark side. In real life, if you try to kill your dark side, you find out that it is indestructible. You might think you won, but your darkness will come back in a different shape or form. The only way to win over the dark side is to accept it and embrace it.
This is easier said than done, like most spiritual practices. How can you embrace your dark side? How can you make peace with it?
- First, you need to acknowledge your darkness.
Few nights ago, while putting my son to sleep, I found myself thinking some horrifying thoughts. My immediate response was to push them away, to tell myself don’t think about that, this is horrible! When I was younger, I had an image I used to conjure whenever I become aware of dark thought or feelings. It was an image of a peaceful stream in a forest, with colorful flowers and butterflies dancing around it.
When you push away your dark thoughts and feelings you run away from your darkness. Obviously, this is a natural response. But how long will you keep on running? Your darkness will always catch up with you. If you want to become a Jedi, you must enter the dark cave. You must look at your own darkness in the eyes.
The other night, I managed to get back to my horrible thoughts and acknowledge them. This is what you just thought. I allowed myself to be with the nasty feeling that these thoughts brought. I stayed with the unease of admitting them to myself. It was hard but so rewarding, like standing face to face with Darth Vader and saying I am afraid of you, but I won’t let the fear hold me back.
- Once you acknowledge your darkness, the next step is to confront it.
I recently had repeating nightmares of a huge, disgusting spider. After three times I’d had this dream, I started this practice: before I fell asleep, I closed my eyes and imagined the scene in my dream where I saw the spider coming towards me. In my imagination, I faced the spider and asked what is it that you want to teach me? Why are you coming to my dreams?
As soon as I performed this practice, the spider stopped showing up in my dreams. Sometimes you just need to be willing to face your fear. Sometimes this is your lesson. In this case I also learned that the spider was me. It represented a part of me that was terrifying. When you ask to be taught, you receive the teaching.
- When you are willing to acknowledge your darkness and confront it, you can take a step forward and embrace your darkness. This is probably the hardest task of all.
Few months ago, I went to a past life regression therapist. She told me that in one of my previous reincarnations I was a murderer. It was so hard for me to accept. Me? A murderer? How can it be? I want to serve and heal others, I pray for world peace every day, I could never hurt anyone in my life.
I will never know if what she said was true, but it forced me to make peace with my darkest side. The story of Milarepa was a huge inspiration. Milarepa is one of the leading Tibetan Buddhist teachers of all times. Before he became a Buddhist saint, he used black magic and killed many people. It was actually his dark deeds that brought him to Buddhism. His tormented soul needed a relief which he found through his spiritual practices.
If Milarepa could make peace with being a murderer in his own lifetime, I could surely forgive myself for maybe being a murderer in a previous lifetime.
Working with your darkness by acknowledging, confronting, and embracing it, is more important than you might realize. Very often, dealing with your darkness is what leads you towards your higher potential and towards being in service for the higher good of all.