The Bright Side of Owning your Darkness.

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For as long as I can remember, New Age gurus have been telling us to ‘stay in the light.’ They tell us to meditate, generate and emanate positivity, warning us that we create our own reality and negative thinking begets negative results.

But if you have ever found yourself cringing before all that Spiritual Correctness and wondered what was wrong with you, I am here to tell you that you are not broken and you do not need fixing.

As an Ambassadress of the Darkness, it is my duty to sing the praises of wrath, rebellion, grief and destruction. I am here to champion the wild, unapologetic power of nature. I am here to urge us all to drop our composure like sandbags and get stirred up into the real storm of living.

While the New Age movement has awakened many to the power of creative intention, it has simultaneously pathologized the negative emotions, striking them from our social palette of acceptability, and is driving us all into repression.

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First of all, what if those negative emotions are not wrong, but totally right? What if the real problem is the misguided attitude that we need fixing in the first place?

When we try to live up to impossible images of spiritually enlightened, all-knowledgable, selfless superhumans, the dark side of our nature just gains in power. Like shoving a beach ball under water, you may succeed in disavowing your unsavory bits for a while, but it is so destabilizing that, when you least expect it, that ball always bursts out from under you.

Negative emotions do not cease to exist because we are ignoring them. They just find other ways to express themselves. Sometimes we lash out inappropriately, have confusing crying fits or feel protractedly numb. Most commonly, we slip into depression and, if left to fester, become prone to accidents, physical disease and crisis.

True creative responsibility for one’s life involves more than positive visualization and action towards our dreams. It also means destroying that which is no longer relevant. Destruction is the counterpoint to Creation and, like the day setting into night, summer falling into winter, life circling towards death, for one thing to be created, another thing must be destroyed.

In the Hindu tradition, the Goddess Kali is worshiped as both the creative and destructive, womb and tomb aspects of the Great Mother.

 

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In one of her four hands, she holds the head she has just severed, which fills a goblet with blood. She is often wielding a scythe, surrounded by a snarling fire, adorned with bones, and dancing on a bewildered corpse.

Far from the flaccid suggestion that when something is not working we must ‘let it go,’ Kali is the ruthless power behind ‘negative’ emotions which clears the way for new life. She is the boundary that Anger wants. She is the pounding of Grief’s river, rushing us to new lands. She is the freedom that Anxiety shakes for. She is the siren of change that Boredom signals. She is the bliss that Fear promises.

Owning Your Destroy means not only taking a metaphoric machete to the outdated stylings of your stuckness in present time, it also means rewriting your stories of loss. Those things you feel have been taken away too soon, done to you and never been your privilege, are places of untapped power.

As we clear even excellent things from our lives which no longer serve us, we are preparing our possibility space for the unimaginable blessings waiting to be born there.

Just as fire can transform food from its raw form into something digestible, our darknesses are radical transformers. Instead of airbrushing our personalities, they coax us to exaggerate our blemishes, lean into our stagnancy, wounding and limitation.

If we really want to evolve, all we have to do is be exactly where we are. It is only once that you can own your sad, stifled, regretful, pissed-off self, that you can blaze up your loving ferocity and have at ‘er.

 

{Rewrite your stories of loss.}

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Toko-pa Turner
A writer, musician and authority on dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio, and her Dreamspeak column has appeared in publications across Canada and the United States. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or at toko-pa.com.
Toko-pa Turner

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41 Comments

  • Bob Weisenberg commented on June 21, 2013 Reply
    Enjoyed this, Toko-pa. Just posted to my new experimental site “Best of Yoga Philosophy” ​ http://bit.ly/13WYsIM Bob W. http://bobweisenberg.wordpress.com/
    • Toko-pa Turner
      Toko-pa commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
      Glad to hear it, Bob!
  • SR Atchley
    SR commented on June 21, 2013 Reply
    Burn it down, I shall. I’ve some destroying to do. Thank you for the reminder that all is only balanced when the creating and destroying are both allowed to happen. Great, wise piece!
    • Toko-pa Turner
      Toko-pa commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
      Yes! Thanks so much for reading, SR!
  • Bob Weisenberg commented on June 21, 2013 Reply
    Great article. Just posted to my new experimental site “Best of Yoga Philosophy” ​ http://bit.ly/13WYsIM Bob W.
  • naglee commented on June 21, 2013 Reply
    in the wake of loosing a friend, I’m learning to embrace my anger, hate and pain as a part of what makes me human. And even though it’s uncomfortable, not denying myself the privilege of having it has been especially helpful to my grieving. It means I had something to loose in the first place. Thanks for writing this. it’s always nice to not be alone in the darkness.
    • Toko-pa Turner
      Toko-pa commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
      That sounds like potent work, Naglee. Keep going.
  • Tracy Wisneski
    Tracy Wisneski commented on June 21, 2013 Reply
    Love, love, love this Rebelle yell!
  • Carolyn Riker
    Carolyn Riker commented on June 21, 2013 Reply
    Wow! Brilliant! Rejoicing in: “…you are not broken and you do not need fixing….” I can hear the drums beat with Kali dancing around the fire of my/our personal transformation!
  • Amulyn commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
    As someone who does energy work, I find myself white-washing my darkness for people because I know it doesn’t jive with the expected presentation of someone who does what I do. It’s harder than I’d like to admit to never feel like I’m able to let the swelling of that beautiful blackness seep through when all I want to do is revel and rejoice in it. Thank you for reminding me that the divine exists in the dark as much as in the light.
    • Toko-pa Turner
      Toko-pa commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
      My pleasure, Amulyn!
  • Ren commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
    Yes, yes and yes!
  • Celia Ingrid Farber commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
    I was just encircled and subjected to spiritual correctness last night after reacting the ‘wrong’ was to a psychic and verbal beating from my stepmother. Within minutes an Eckert Tolle book was pressed into my hands. I felt so alone. I realized I had to agree to everything the spiritual correctors were saying. But inside, as the Quadrophenia line goes, I kept ambition. Thank you for this lucid, brilliant piece.
    • Toko-pa Turner
      Toko-pa commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
      Oh my. I am glad this came at the right time to remind you!
  • taradixon commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
    A wise and well written piece. Thank you Toko-pa.
    • Toko-pa Turner
      Toko-pa commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
      Thanks for reading, Tara!
  • Tanya Lee Markul
    tanya lee markul commented on June 22, 2013 Reply
    AH! So tremendous! THANK YOU! xoxo
  • Mr. Anderson commented on June 23, 2013 Reply
    In the West we heal the inner child, in the East they digest it, thus the grueling depictions of Kali’s wrath. Kali the destroyer of Ego…
  • Zara commented on July 3, 2013 Reply
    What an empowering and well written essay! Every word of it resonated within me. Wow.
  • Neta commented on July 10, 2013 Reply
    OH YES!!! darkness, darkness, my old friend….its all about balance, isn’t it Dorthy???? clicks heels of ruby slippers….THANK YOU for sharing this, spreading this, offering this…..it is NEEDED!!!!!! My sistar!!!! Many destructive/creating blessings!
  • Dawn Marie Richards commented on July 11, 2013 Reply
    Brill.
  • Geni commented on July 11, 2013 Reply
    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Tori Rodriguez commented on July 11, 2013 Reply
    Fantastic piece! Thanks for writing it, and so beautifully. You might like to see a recent article I wrote regarding recent research on this topic, as well as my experience with it as a psychotherapist. It’s called “Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being.” Here’s the link: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=negative-emotions-key-well-being
  • Lynda Skinner Pirtle commented on July 11, 2013 Reply
    A “breath of fresh air” comes to mind. This “work” is so important…and ultimately raises compassion in all of us. Thank you, Toko-pa…..and to the many others who have embraced the work of the shadow. Your voice is heard, felt and embraced. <3
  • Deborah Mauldin commented on July 11, 2013 Reply
    “… for one thing to be created, another thing must be destroyed.” During this past decade of my life it has been intensely satisfying to lay siege to cities of ideas that poison my mind, slash and burn situations that suffocate my soul, and rip out the the skulls and spinal chords of relationships that would have me subjugated, Predator-style. Not too long ago some people in my yoga community suggested that I “get over” having been a Marine because I’m “so much more than that now.” Yeah. My final answer to that suggestion is “Hell no and go fuck yourself.” I will never surrender my pissed off, steel spiked, hard charging, blood craving, Devil Dog Warrior Self. Who else has the discipline, strength, courage, and fortitude to advance into the Darkness and slit the throats of demons? In me, the modern yogi bows in gratitude to the ancient warrior, understanding that her 8 Limbs are rooted in the loam of battle and the disciplined dedication to victory so that Life may prevail. And the warrior bows, in service, to the practice of the yogi, understanding that true freedom is rooted in the 8 Limbs. The yogi practices because the warrior stands ready to infiltrate the Darkness, ready to do violence on her behalf.
  • William Frank Diedrich commented on July 11, 2013 Reply
    Spiritual growth isn’t about learning to be nice. It involves integrating the light and the dark within us. We can only do that by facing the dark head on and immersing ourselves in it. You have to feel it to heal it. Be positive is a good thing often, but the real power lies hidden beneath the negative. I take time to face my demons every day. Sometimes it’s on my schedule but often it’s on theirs! It hurts, and it hurts so good! Thanks for your well-written and thought-provoking article.
  • Therese commented on July 12, 2013 Reply
    There is no light without darkness, no joy without sadness, no calm without turbulence. I am currently working on writing my life story (about illness, depression and so on), and what has become very clear is that I wouldn’t be who I am today without everything I have suffered. Although I want to find a positive way forwards, I can’t do that without embracing all my negative aspects, maybe destroying and discarding them along the way, and then re-writing my life. I see, in some ways, my shadow side as a badge of honour, evidence of my ongoing strength, and I wouldn’t be without it. So thank you, Toko-pa, for writing this. It was exactly the confirmation I needed.
  • John Hardman commented on July 12, 2013 Reply
    Kali is the Hindu goddess of empowerment, worshiped as the ultimate reality, or Brahman. Her name means time, her blackness representing her existence before creation and light. Her consort is Shiva who symbolizes the rest of creation. Lord Shiva lies in the path of Kali. Her foot on his chest subdues her anger. There is blackness deep within me, a fierce power of creation and destruction, a force more ancient than time itself. Kali that unfettered, unforgiving ruthless might. Caring not for humankind’s adoration, a purity beyond our feeble comprehensions. To invoke her terrible presence by the uninitiated can unleash furies beyond expectations. The wise know it best not to seek her full presence, but to humbly ask her only to whisper to you her bloody truth. There, too, Lord Shiva dwells within me, white with funeral ash a god with more mortal purpose. A gentle god to soothe the passage from the primordial to profane. Less dark this aspect of me, playful, light dancing with Kali’s terrible might. His heart singed mercilessly by millions of cremation fires, to rise again to embrace his consort. His light is balanced by her deep darkness. His joy an antidote to her cruel despair. Kali mercilessly burns away Shiva’s vanity, her foot holding him firmly into the ground. Their erotic dance blazes within me, trading leads, irritating the neighbors, sometimes breaking furniture. These raucous lovers, Good and Evil, Evil and Good.
  • Feenkreis commented on July 12, 2013 Reply
    I simply loved it. Thanx for stressing duality.
  • Sally commented on July 14, 2013 Reply
    The more I read this, the more I like it. Such important truth :-)
  • plaintain1 commented on July 15, 2013 Reply
    Hi Have you read Debbie Ford’s The Dark Side of the Light Chasers’? Have more or less finished it and she says similar to yourself!
  • Zack Orr commented on July 24, 2013 Reply
    Thank you for this…. The ideas you are addressing and our societies’ obsession with Anti-Depressants, is the exact reason I wrote the song “You Were Made to Suffer.” You can hear it on Spotify if you look up my name , Zack Orr. Reposting this link now.
  • wishmelove commented on July 28, 2013 Reply
    Thankfully not all new age teachers only teach about light. Debbie Ford was a great champion of looking at your shadow. Eckhart Tolle teaches about the pain body. There are many great teachers who give strategies on looking at what is broken so that you can get to the light. The ideal space to be in is love, not fear but we can’t get to the love without addressing and embracing our dark side. <3 Thanks for the article.
  • McKay commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
    Brilliant. I’ve banged against the Cult of Positivity in my spiritual journey and have long felt at odds with it, knowing that while allowing any emotion to run unchecked and without our awareness can be a problem, our full range of emotions and feelings and ways of being are us, are integral parts of us like our limbs. And they too can be useful and they too can be celebrated. It is not easy when things like anger can lead to such terrible actions, but anger too can be part of us and accepted in our whole. Thanks so much for your well-written words.
  • RSDperson commented on August 5, 2013 Reply
    This is where I have problems. I have chronic pain that is very hard to deal with. I’m stuck I still have so much hate and anger plus sadness that I cant find my way to happiness like I should. I loved who I was and where I was in my life. I don’t see where I can turn it around to be happy with my pain. I keep trying but this is so hard. Its not easy to just say I’m okay with what I have become, because I’m not.
  • ndo (@ndo) commented on August 8, 2013 Reply
    Yes. Just, yes.
  • Jackie commented on October 5, 2013 Reply
    I just found this site recently and I love it! I know exactly what you mean about owning your own darkness. I have always had trouble working with people who are very disrespectful or blatantly rude. I try ignoring them, extending friendship, minimizing their effect on me, and I’ve tried staying focused on my work and thinking maybe they will go away (oh brother—that sounds almost childlike). It’s my challenge’ that’s for sure. I continue to work on this and learn more effective ways of dealing with difficult people. It’s a challenge because each situation is different and one solution doesn’t fit all. Sigh…..
  • Tricia commented on October 17, 2013 Reply
    Yes, perfect, thank you (o:
  • lynhicks commented on October 17, 2013 Reply
    Excellent! So clear and well stated! To embrace our unlike able is to claim its power, will clears the path through destruction!
  • Constance commented on February 13, 2015 Reply
    That’s a smart answer to a diuficflt question.

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