Embracing Our Shadow & Finding the Light Within

By: Ford Peck, Certified iRest Teacher

Several years ago, I was receiving a guided healing dyad session from a friend. As with all expressions of iRest yoga nidra, the underlying principle was one of welcoming; seeing what was arising within me that wanted to be felt and encountered, and finding the capacity to truly welcome it as sensation in the body.

I was being drawn down into a part of my body that has long tended to hold physical and emotional tension. In this part of my body was a deep sense of hopelessness and futility. As I allowed myself to feel this, an image began to emerge: it was as if I was entering Mordor, a wasted, burnt, blackened land, a place of no redeeming quality or goodness, a place that felt, as I encountered it, extremely foolish to go.

As I stayed present to all of this, sinking deeper into it despite the powerful urge not to, after some time, I was suddenly quite surprised to notice a small spark of light. As I gave my attention to this, something began to open up within my experience. It was a potent sense of inner light, something totally beyond words. It had a tremendous sense of innocence and purity, untainted and fresh, and it clearly was something very core to my being. I was struck to find such a purity and beauty right within such a hopeless sense of darkness, deep within a part of the body that had felt so contracted for years.

This is the quality of possibility that I feel we are especially invited into at this time of year. When it is the most still, quiet and dark outside (at least in nature), it is also easiest to notice the light within. And this is the invitation we are always given by our psyche: to so fully embrace our shadow that we find, often right within it, an inner sense of light, pure and untainted, potent and beautiful.

We often will not literally find this as a sense of light. Most often, it can be felt as a simple sense of well-being, a quiet inner joy, or a sense of wholeness and goodness within. The hallmark of this inner light, this purity of joy or well-being, is that it is not dependent on anything. When we recognize it, we feel it as a simple goodness of being.

Our society is not one that generally embraces rest, so even as the Solstice approaches, we can feel pulled along by a compulsive urge to stay busy. Just as the benefits of resting are especially profound this time of year, the costs of ignoring that need can feel especially uncomfortable. Perhaps this is part of the reason that, truth be told, the holidays can tend to be, collectively, one of the most difficult and unhappy times of the year.

When we learn and explore together the fundamental principles and practices of iRest yoga nidra, we support a simple return to what is most natural and longed for within us: the ability to rest into an essential sense of well-being and self-love. In this spirit of self-love, the body, emotions and mind are best able to heal, to be restored, and to renew themselves. We also then have the possibility of opening to an inner light that is beyond, and yet embraces, all of these forms.

May we all find some time to rest deeply this holiday season. May we embrace the aspects of our shadow that call to be felt and integrated. And may we connect with a true sense of joy within, so that we can share and celebrate it in the times we are able to spend together with family and with friends.

Happy Winter Solstice!