When Darkness Appears


When and how has your dark side appeared to you?

What behaviors, words, and thoughts have arisen?

What were the triggering situations?

What did you do about it?

Should you have better control the next time that darkness is accessed?

How can you transform “negative” feelings of anger, depression, greed, guilt, jealousy, shame, etc. into something useful?

Yes, it is lovely to focus on light and beauty. The fact that we can consciously reprogram our brains is fascinating and extremely useful. Focusing on so-called “positive” thoughts is a great way to unlearn some of the lies we’ve been told or told ourselves inadvertently. We can transform wrong beliefs to engage in a more productive and enjoyable life. 

The truth is, though, we are all made up of both light and darkness. What we often tend to perceive as “good” and “bad.” One cannot exist without the other. We see this reflected everywhere in nature and in the people around us. We judge some emotions as better than others just because they feel good. They are, however, all a part of life. And it’s not healthy to deny our emotions or thoughts even if they are ugly or frightening.

Becoming aware of our true nature is the essence of yoga. That way we can gain some control over emotions and thoughts that may lead to harmful actions and words. We can free ourselves from the stories we make up in our heads, which can seem so true. We can learn to deal with triggering situations and people in a more peaceful manner so we are not left with regret or other “bad” emotions growing inside of us. We can look at ourselves and others with love and compassion rather than judgment or fear.

The Yamas and Niyamas (the first two of the eight limbs of yoga as laid out by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) deal with how we behave and interact within ourselves and with the world around us. Self-study is a very important aspect of yoga. I offer the questions above as a starting point for self-study. Meditating on similar types of questions can help us become our best selves. Taking mental notes, or much better, keeping a journal, can help us become aware of our reactions. We become aware of the transitoriness of thoughts. We realize emotions arise and then subside. We become more aware of the world around us and hopefully grow into an agent of peace not disaster.


  1. Dee

    Jenn, I absolutely LOVE this post and feel a strong resonance with all the points that you have illuminated. However I have to question this statement:

    “The truth is, though, as microcosms of the universal macrocosm, we are all made up of both darkness and light. “Good” and “bad.””

    I get what you are saying here ~ but I take issue with the words “good and bad.” My take on yoga is that there really is no “good” or “bad.” Those are value judgments.

    I believe that yoga teaches us to honor and accept both darkness and light. And I agree that we can label certain emotions as negative and some will refer to those aspects as the “shadow self.”

    But is the shadow “bad” or is the shadow just another aspect of being human?

    I think yoga teaches us that we all have a shadow. It’s not bad or good. It’s the reality of being human. We are all flawed.

    So when I am in a funk and feeling stuck in the “shadow” the last thing I want to do is label that feeling as bad. On the other hand I believe yoga teachings refer to this dichotomy as the higher self and the lower self. Those are 2 aspects of the self. But are the teachings telling us that the lower self is “bad?” I don’t believe so. The lower self is not ideal. In order to transcend the lower self we must first see it, accept it and yes even embrace it. The message of yoga for me is to love yourself unconditionally no matter what. Therefore when we catch ourselves “acting out” from the lower instincts it’s really a cause for celebration. It’s a teaching moment, put in our path as a lesson. The flaws motivate us to be a better person. So in essence, the flaws are quite valuable.

    On the other hand if we don’t “catch ourselves” acting out – – from the lower instincts – – then the teaching moment dissolves like smoke in the wind. We learn nothing and are doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

    As a yogi I can choose to embrace my shadow and love myself unconditionally no matter what. Riding on the wings of love empowers me to chart new waters in my life. Once we accept and fully embrace “the shadow” we can rise above it.

    So as the saying goes: “it’s all good.”

    • Hi Dee! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate so much your elaboration and clarification on these points. You’ve always been such a fabulous teacher and here you have more eloquently said exactly what I’m trying to get across!

      Yes – I couldn’t agree with you more about the “good” and “bad” states of being. That’s exactly why I put them in quotes – they are judgments, not facts. In fact, I edited out a couple of sentences about this for the sake of brevity but I should never just assume people can read my mind.

      So why do we judge the lower or higher self as “good” or “bad?” Just because one feels more comfortable or easy doesn’t necessarily make it better. The uncomfortable sensations are, I believe, the ones that bring about the most growth. The idea is to accept everything without resistance and to work consciously, with awareness, with the shadow.

      • yogaboca

        Yes, Jenn and thx for the kind words. I had a feeling we were on the same page with this. Essentially we MUST experience the darkness in order to see the light! On a similar note, we must know pain in order to experience bliss! Embrace your pain. It’s a big part of who you are!

      • Yes. I am currently trying to embrace chikungunya, a lovely mosquito illness I contracted at the same time I got a new yoga position here. The physical pain, fatigue and emotional states it can elicit … and the challenge of teaching yoga and going about daily life! It does force me to slow down and go inward.

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