Learning to Play in the Dark

Learning to Play in the Dark

I grew up outside of St. Louis, in the heart of "Tornado Alley." Thankfully, there were never any serious tornadoes when I was a kid there, but there were a plethora of truly awesome thunderstorms. Every spring and summer, we were blessed with some of the most beautiful storms...and with them, power outages. My mom kept an entire cabinet in our dining room reserved for candles and matches, flashlights and batteries. We had power outages down to a science - food in a cooler, candles at the ready once the sun went down, and cards and boards games to play until we would get escorted to bed with a small flame late at night, eager for our breakfast of melting ice cream and assorted frozen foods.

I remember so many hilarious and touching memories about storms and losing power, that recalling them still makes me laugh out loud or feel giddy and nostalgic. I also remember never being afraid of the dark because of them. We learned to embrace the darkness that would envelop us with its was quiet, thick stillness and shadowy activity.

We never sat and waited for the lights to come back on. We never panicked and insanely checked the breakers or the switches. We didn’t count the minutes or the hours - or sometimes, the days that light, power, electricity eluded us. We lived. We continued to live. We played. We connected. We sat in the darkness and made the most of it, learned what it could teach us. We became it; we absorbed it, and moved with it, not against it. And it is this that I most often remember now. That as a child I so easily accepted and embodied a lesson that has since become so important (and so difficult) to me as an adult.

Sometimes - more than we even realize - we forget our own divinity. Isn’t that the curse of humankind? To forget our divinity, spend lifetimes rediscovering it, only to forget it all over again? I live out this curse in mini-cycles within the vessel of my independent being all the time. Sometimes I step into my power for months at a time, going on what seems like will be a never-ending streak of learning and growth and awe-inspiring manifestation! Sometimes I slip out of it, for days, for weeks, for months... and in those periods - those periods of forgetfulness and ignorance - I feel as if I am trapped in a long-lasting power outage again (minus the ice cream for breakfast and the exhilarating scary stories).

Instead, I am just in the dark stagnating, unable to breathe, to see, to move. In those periods, I ruminate. I wallow. I find myself warring with a looming black hole that threatens to suck me into oblivion. I teeter on the edge in desperation and fear. I frantically attempt escape through an infinity of ways, and never manage to succeed. It’s like one of those nightmares when you are running away as fast and hard as you can, but your leaden legs won’t move.

In those periods, I tend to stop viewing myself as a unified being. I start compartmentalizing the parts of myself that I dislike - the parts that I resent, that I blame for bringing on the darkness - the “bad” parts or the “negative” parts. The fear, the anger, the despair. As if ignoring the rooms that have lost power will suddenly make the rest of the house light up again. As if I could chop up my personality or my soul and pretend like parts of it don’t exist...I start eliminating my power in order to gain it back, in that convoluted logic to which we so often fall prey. Like the paradox of poisoning and weakening the body to cure disease, grow stronger, and heal...

How can we get better if we keep making ourselves sick? How can I accept and wield the full authentic power of my entire being if I’m separating it into pieces and warring with them? How can I create my own light when I am consumed by destroying my own darkness?

These are not rhetorical questions. The answer is I can’t. You can’t. We can’t.

We need to overcome this tendency to disconnect from the bad, the ugly, the negative, the terrible, the painful; we need to stop running away from the dark, stop trying to turn the power on when it is not yet time - when the storm is still raging. We can’t splice our bodies, our spirits, or our emotions up into separate components, or splinter them further into “good, bad, okay; me, not me,” and any other categories we invent in a pathetic attempt at self-preservation. We can never be whole if we are constantly fracturing ourselves, drawing boundaries, dissociating. No - we can’t ignore all those things that we feel. We shouldn’t ignore or avoid the darkness or pain when it penetrates our hearts and blots out the light of our own divine power. We must accept it. We must throw our hands up at the tempest in peace, and know that though it has caused an internal power outage, the lights can and will turn back on.


We must accept that this forgetfulness - its distractions and winding paths - is part of our experience. We must accept that lack of light does not mean lack of growth or lack of knowledge. It does not mean lack of happiness, although the joys we feel in our ignorant and dark times may be smaller, or sour-tasting, or more short-lived. We must accept that we can still be wholly ourselves in these periods. If we accept that we are still whole, we can illuminate our being fully - even if we have only one ember left burning in the smallest, darkest, most distant space of our existence. But we can only do that if we remain open to everything within and without ourselves. We cannot expect to start a fire in our hearts if we cloister it away from the last vestiges of flame burning in our bellies.

We must keep all the doors and windows of our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls open - even when a hurricane strikes, when the sun goes out, when the shit hits the fan and keeps flying. We must accept that the power will go out - the power has gone out, and sometimes, we have nothing to do but to play in the darkness that remains.

So when I am feeling very un-divine and cut off from the magic of my own divinity as the quicksand of my life or thoughts or emotions rushes up around my head and shuts out the light…

I choose acceptance.

I choose play.

I choose peace, and not war.

I choose darkness.

I choose to sink into the shadows, with my arms elbow deep in the muck, squishing it, flexing my fingers in the thickness of its grime and weight of its void. I feel hollow. Our programming often tells us that being whole means feeling full, and we must be whole and full to be happy - and thus, often when we feel hollow inside, we equate that emptiness with despair, sorrow, anguish.

But truly, we never have more potential than when we are hollow - than when we are “nothing,” and therefore can be anything.

We must fling ourselves into that dark and looming oblivion. When we do, we become the void itself, thereby becoming the most vast, infinity imaginable, pregnant with all the possibilities of the universe. We are liberated in the act alone - and even further liberated and empowered knowing that we were our own liberator. That we have already done the most dreaded, fear-inducing thing, and survived.

We become the darkness - the lack, the absence - and this gives us the opportunity to fill ourselves. To discover how to do it, how to do it better, how to do it again. I learn most about myself when I am at my lowest - though I don’t always accept the power of this potential when I’m down there at the bottom...

I get more familiar with the trickeries and treacheries of the mind - the emotions it savagely thirsts for us to feel, to act out - and I get more familiar with how to overcome its fickle, useless games.

It hurts. Like getting punched in the gut over, and over, and over again. Like my heart is one giant, expanding black hole, exploding into infinity. Like a large, invisible hand has closed around my throat - I can’t swallow, I can’t scream, I can’t breathe, I can’t feel. I am left with a chaotic, but brutally silenced mind.

It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable to sit with that inky darkness and its turmoil and its apathy. It’s far easier to trick ourselves out of it than it is to sit with it, deal it with, learn its intricacies and how to undo them. It’s far easier to ignore it by imagining a different reality, by allowing our projections to become our perceived reality, by creating false light and diving in. We convince ourselves it’s real - and over time maybe it becomes real if you stay long enough. But it isn’t. It is just an excuse, a story, an illusion from that untamed beast, our Mind. 

The mind tells us so many different things - it tells us to avoid that darkness and the intense emotions and pain it brings; it tells us to ignore it, to pretend like it doesn’t exist, like we aren’t hurting. It tells us to let that darkness consume us, control our behavior, our thoughts, our relationships, our self-perception; it tells us this, this anguish, is all we are worthy of - all we deserve. Maybe it even tells us we can “transcend it,” simply rise above to a higher plane and move on, leaving it all behind...but all of these are lies and tricks - even the ones that sound enticing.

The only thing we can do in those periods when the black holes loom, when the power goes out, when we forget our own divinity and power - is surrender. Surrender to the experience, fully, totally. So that it becomes less painful, less frightening. So that we can get down and dirty with whatever has been hiding in the basement, with all of the swampy emotions and creatures that lurk within those forgotten places of our being. So that we can know ourselves better - in all aspects, and not just the “good” ones that we are not ashamed to display. So that when we clear it all away and we begin to feel and see our own light again, there are no more secret monsters lurking in the shadows. So that when we feel the darkness on the edge of our being, we know that it is still part of the totality of our existence. We know that it is not a threat, but a blessing - and we remember that it is equal part of what makes us divine.

We surrender so that we may feel true joy and bliss inherent in the total liberation that such surrender gives.

The darkness surrounding us is simply the fallout of our own brilliance. It is not a foreign invader to be cordoned off, attacked, and conquered. It is not a lesser part of ourselves to be shunned or hidden or scorned. It is an equal, powerful part of our complete being. We do not need to be full to be whole. We do not need to radiate light at all times to grow, to experience beauty, to learn. We need to love and accept ourselves when we are our darkest, saddest, angriest. We need to dig into that most extreme part of ourselves, count to three and THROW ourselves into the infinite oblivion of unconditional love.

We might forget that we are divine when we are living those darker moments. We might forget that we are powerful and can conjure our own light. But if we can sit with our own darkness, our own faults, sorrows, and pain - if we can block out the mischievous ways of our minds, and listen to our hearts - however hollow they may feel at times - we can learn to love ourselves again and again and again.


We can learn to accept that we are NOT perfect, that we are NOT always happy. We can learn to accept ourselves unconditionally. And when we get to that point - by familiarity, by awareness, by hard work, by trusting radically (against our own will or mind even) in the universe and in self - we can return to our divinity sooner each time we forget. We return to it with more strength, and for longer.

We forget less easily, less frequently how incredible we are, 
how vast our capacity to heal ourselves is, how simple it is to create our own internal happiness with the drawing in of one deep breath.

We forget that we feel unworthy, and we learn to accept ourselves and others with an uninhibited totality that will make you smile, laugh, and cry without cause.

We forget that the power is out. We discover that the lights may be off, but that ample power remains in the darkness.

We learn to play in the dark.


Written by Samantha Vaughn

1 Response

Nanette Vaughn
Nanette Vaughn

September 30, 2017

Very powerful and insightful and really resonated with me.
Thanks for sharing!

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