Category Archives: Psychology

An invitation into the darkness: the value of rumination and notes on finding your own inner guru.


The darkness of winter: time to turn inwards.

The northern hemisphere is swaddled in darkness, as it is each winter. Today is the longest night of the year; the shortest day. The sun will rise late and quickly dash off, leaving us behind to contemplate the cold, wind, and dreariness of night. Despite the prominence of electric lights and bright screens, and cheery holiday tinsel lining the streets, it's still dark by early afternoon.

It makes me tired, it makes it harder to work. I struggle to keep going in the afternoon, wanting instead to curl up and hibernate. For many of us, we forget that this is the darkest day of the year. We'll notice it only through our increased desire for caffeine, a twinge of melancholy, or a lack of motivation. As Clark Strand writes in Bring On the Dark, "few of us will turn off the lights long enough to notice" the winter solstice happening right around us.

"There’s no getting away from the light. There are fluorescent lights and halogen lights, stadium lights, streetlights, stoplights, headlights and billboard lights. There are night lights to stand sentinel in hallways, and the lit screens of cellphones to feed our addiction to information, even in the middle of the night. No wonder we have trouble sleeping. The lights are always on." — Why We Need The Winter Solstice 

These dark days are a gift: it's an opportunity to turn inwards, to reflect, and to ponder.

Darkness invites contemplation, reflection, and inner reflection. Dwelling in it can also, for me, bring up deeper sadness and sorrows. It comes in waves, for me, the periods of stillness and rest, of quiet and solitude. Sometimes my mind dips into periods of darkness; I know that I'm deep in restoration and rebuilding. Patterns emerge; ideas begin to form. My other senses sharpen as I rely less on my eyesight.

We're called to go into the darkness. To find our own inner guru.

When you dim one sense, you brighten the other senses, adding clarity, range, and acuity to your abilities. The ability to feel a range of emotions increases your emotional depth. The upside of darkness, however, is that it is a beautiful time for rumination and reflection.

In yoga, inviting the darkness in is an invitation to find your own inner wisdom, your own inner guru. In studying with Sara Neufeld recently, I learned more about how darkness is an invitation to find your own inner wisdom.

The word "Guru" comes from two words, gu (darkness) and ru (light). From a seat of heaviness or darkness, we go through experiences that bring us to light. One who has experienced both darkness and light has accumulated wisdom. In the yogic tradition, we all are our own gurus — capable of finding our own inner wisdom when we go inwards and close our eyes to contemplate our being.

"The night was the natural corrective to that most persistent of all illusions: that human progress is the reason for the world." — Clark Strand

Sometimes, finding lightness requires going through the dark. We go not around, but through. The earth spins into darkness every year, so should our souls.

The upside of being busy

Being busy – being full, having a lot to do, filling your calendar to the brim — can be overwhelming, tiring, exhausting. Sometimes we’re busy for busy’s sake. And answering “busy” to how have you been is, well, annoying. But sometimes there’s an upside to being busy. When you’ve got a handful of projects toContinue Reading

Have you ever lost your temper?

This is an excerpt of an essay from my twelve-essay short series on Grace and Gratitude. Each day, I send a story with a nugget, an idea, and a practice — everything from losing your temper, to finding small happiness, to practicing meditation. The program is here; or just enjoy the essay below as aContinue Reading

Ship. Iterate. Improve. Repeat.

How do you make something great? Start small. Build something that you can do today, this week. Ship a little piece of it. Stop holding on to it. Maybe keep the idea big, but just start with something so small you can’t not do it. Make the smallest version possible. Give it away. Share it. SellContinue Reading

When you fall down, break your routine, or stop writing: notes on re-starting.

The rhythm breaks. The routine falters. You write, so diligently, and then a week slips by. Getting back into the structure of things — writing — is even more challenging when traveling, moving, changing. I can make a million excuses; writing and making time for writing is and always seems so hard. It’s easier when I’mContinue Reading

How to practice saying no.

I walked into the restaurant and something didn’t feel right. The prices were too high, the waiter a little stuffy and dismissive, the air a little cold. I can’t tell you exactly what it was, but I do know that my body was decidedly uncomfortable. While none of the particulars was enough to make a fuss—shouldContinue Reading

Why are stories so important?

The world is overcrowded with information. We’re wired to tell stories because it’s how we make sense of the world around us. Stories let us distill large, complex ideas and important messages into sticky, memorable pieces that we can carry forward with us in our minds. In the absence of a person or a phenomenon,Continue Reading

Words to fill your mind: the power of a mantra.

The words that fill our minds… We all have words that we cycle on repeat in our minds—from worries about being late to songs we sing or words we repeat. Don’t be late, don’t be late, don’t be late, we repeat to ourselves as we rush from subway to office to meeting to appointment. Gotta finish, gotta finish, gottaContinue Reading

Hustle is a dial, not a way of being.

There are appropriate times to hustle in your business. Sometimes you’re hustling for a year or two on the side, creating your escape route and freedom business to jump ship from your corporate job. Sometimes you stay up late and hustle the night before a course launches, or when you’re putting the final tweaks onContinue Reading

Project hangovers, self-criticism, and the necessity of making messes.

I have a confession. Sometimes–more nearly like every time–after finishing a project, I hate it. My writing class? Sucks, obviously. Last week’s essay? Good God, that could have been better. All those open and empty drafts waiting to be finished? Seriously, could have worked harder to get those done.  And on and on… My brainContinue Reading