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Integrating Darkness and Light

We are just coming out of a season of darkness, moving out of the winter solstice and anticipating the coming spring. In our dualistic culture we associate darkness with depression, evil, and something to be avoided, an opposition to the light. And yet note, how in this season, we decorate the darkness with lights. I invite you to consider a more holistic view of darkness, seeing the gifts in darkness, life-giving creativity that comes from integrating light and darkness. In the ancient Celtic world, November 3 to the winter solstice was a hallowed time of darkness, a time to rest, a time of re-creation, a time of new wonder, new dreams, and new beginnings.


The Celtic Tree of Life is a symbol of holism, integrating darkness and light. The roots stretch down into the darkness, the underworld; the trunk is the present reality; and the branches reach into the skies, connecting with the light, and possibilities beyond. Trees represent us as humans, and we are called to hold all three worlds together. The roots are our core resources, our depth, our history, the potential we come from. The trunk is our present reality, the manifestation of our creativity on this earthly plane. And the branches are our connection to the light, the spiritual realm, that which is more than us. Divine Love is present in all three worlds, and all are necessary and important. Our wholeness requires integration of all three worlds. Life-giving creativity comes from the integration of all three worlds.


In our culture, many of us run from our shadow, our darkness that we want to hide and avoid. And yet it is often from our darkness and wounds that comes inspiration and passion to share our gifts and to make a difference in the world. When we know and embrace our darkness, we give life to creativity, and through the integration of light and darkness, soar into ever-expanding possibilities. When we run and hide from our shadow, we are stunted, denying a part of ourselves. Consider the integration of darkness and light in the poem by Rumi:


Shadow and Light 


How does a part of the world leave the world?
How does wetness leave water? 

Don’t try to put out fire by throwing on more fire!
Don’t wash a wound with blood.
No matter how fast you run, your shadow keeps up.
Sometimes it’s in front!
Only full overhead sun diminishes your shadow.
But that shadow has been serving you.
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.
I could explain this, but it will break the glass cover on your heart,
and there’s no fixing that.
You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.
When from that tree feathers and wings sprout on you,
be quieter than a dove.
Don’t even open your mouth for even a coo


What is your darkness and shadow? What depth and resources do you come from? What boundaries do you need to expand beyond? What is your re-creation in this season of darkness? What gifts do you have to offer the world?



Shari Derksen, MA, is a Registered Psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists and specializes in the areas of relationship issues and intimacy, as well as many others. For more information on Shari, her work, or other articles she’s written for Living Well click here to link to her full bio page.