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Stepping into the Darkness

Himalayan Mountains, Nepal 2010

With each step, the ambient light from the house dissipated. The ground was cold and my eyes strained to see where I was going. I dared not turn around or look up, too afraid that doing so would cause a giant creature to materialize from the darkness and swallow me in one gulp.

I was nine years old and although I had long since overcome my fear of the darkness inside the house, the dark forest surrounding the yard still held me hostage.

It was holding me prisoner, preventing me from exploring those places that my siblings wouldn't dream of going. I wanted to take that next step. I wanted to conquer darkness altogether.

One evening, without telling anyone in the house, I opened the back door and stared into the forest. The darkness was incredible. It shrouded everything in mystery, turning the daytime-yard that I was so familiar with into an unknown world of terrifying possibilities.

What was hiding out there? What creature might emerge from the darkness and attack me?

Pushing those thoughts aside, I clenched my fists, held my breath, and walked into the darkness. I repeated in my head over and over, "Nothing is going to attack me, nothing is going to attack me, nothing is going to attack me."

After walking about five hundred feet, I turned around and looked back at the house. There it was in the distance: The safety of a home, the warmth of my family, and the comfort of light.

I stared for a few moments and then realized that I had done it. I had faced my fear of the darkness and... wait, I still have to walk all the way back!

Each step towards the house seemed like an eternity. Each step seemed to increase the pressure behind me, the feeling that there were creatures stalking me in the darkness and waiting for the right moment to pounce.

I resisted the urge to run, knowing that doing so would only prove that I was still afraid.

Reaching the house I looked back from the doorway. I smiled to myself and felt a sense of accomplishment and pride. Only a few minutes earlier I had left that very same doorway shackled by self-inflicted fear and doubt. Now I had returned. Victorious. Free.

I had conquered the darkness and I was no longer afraid.

# #

That story is one of the pivotal moments in my childhood that I recall as being a steppingstone towards adulthood. To this day, I often intentionally do things in the dark to remind myself of that story and of the lessons I learned on that day.

As adults we've learned to accept that the darkness holds unknowns. We don't allow ourselves to remain paralyzed by those uncertainties and we don't stand around and complain that we cannot see into the shadows.

Instead, with the full knowledge that we may stumble or fall, we move forward anyway. We accept the darkness for what it is and we begin walking towards where we believe we will find the light switch.

In the same way, it's OK to be unsure of what obstacles may lay in our path. It's better to walk somewhere and stumble than it is to stand in one place terrified about what might happen if we move.

The expression "fake it until you make it" really means to accept that you don't know everything right now. It means that by remaining confident and moving forward you will find a way to succeed anyway.

I'm still afraid of the dark, only now the darkness presents itself as imperfection, creative resistance, and a fear of success; the imaginary monsters that lurk in the shadows are rejection, regret, ridicule, and remorse.

My writing in particular has suffered. Too many times I've let the quest for perfection get in my way and I've given resistance way too much freedom. But that's it. I'm tired of being shackled inside this house of resistance and insecurity. It's time for me to get more vocal and spend more time practicing the craft of writing.

Life gives us a choice. We can sit around and wait for the light to shine on us or we can stand up and start searching for it. We can live a life paralyzed by the things we fear, or we can clench our fists, hold our breath, and step into the darkness.

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49 Comments

  1. It’s those moments where you realize there is so much more than you could ever have imagined out there, Raam.

    I love Terence McKenna’s play on Plato’s cave analogy. Basically, the more we shine a light around us, the more darkness we see. It’s knowledge.

    The more we know in this world, the more we realize we don’t know.

    As you stepped into the darkness, you began to see a lot more than what you had previously seen just by standing at the end of it all.

    Since you’ve ventured inside, you now know there are more boundaries to be explored and that’s such a wonderful thing because so few people will ever make that first step.

    Sorry if this comment is a bit all over the place; sometimes it’s hard to explain things with just words, ya know?

    • I know what you mean, Murlu!

      It’s all about self-discovery. Like you said, the more we know, the more we understand we don’t know. Accepting that we will never know everything — we’ll never have all the answers or achieve perfection — gives us the freedom to explore and overcome our fear of making mistakes. When we really accept that imperfection is part of success, the barriers that hold us back begin to disappear and the light begins to shine through.

  2. Great childhood memory captured beautifully. You perfectly brought back my own nameless nightmares and faceless foes! It’s time we quit agonizing over our imperfections & shortcomings, shine a light into the darkness and get over the hurdles of fear and frustration. You are going to have an amazing year, Raam! (remind us to tell you about our Kona hike story, darkness and flashlights and yet more darkness…we won!)

    • Thank you, Gena! The brief description of your Kona story brought an instant smile to my face. πŸ™‚ When we face the darkness with light on our side (or in our hands!), we always win!

  3. A wonderful metaphor for embracing our monsters. I’m still afraid of the creatures in the dark though!

    You are an excellent writer and will only shine more with practice. But I know what you mean, it can easily feel like there’s a standard to live up to each time we write and that can be paralyzing. I wish you well on this new walk into the darkness.

    • Thank you, Sandra! Your comment made me feel like you were standing in the doorway wishing me good luck as I walked off into the darkness. πŸ™‚

      I think we often set unrealistic and unnecessary expectations for ourselves when it comes to things like writing. Publishing that writing for the world to see only amplifies the risk we feel is associated with not meeting those expectations, which then amplifies the resistance we feel when we sit down to write. I’m definitely going to be focusing on writing and publishing more often and not worrying so much about imperfections or being off-topic.

  4. “Action attacks fear, inaction reinforces it.”
    It is so wonderful that you were able to face your fears at such a young age. All too often we go through life side-stepping, and not moving forward, because we are too fearful to face that which we are unsure of. How often do we then look back and feel some regret?

    Life is full of opportunities each and every moment, we have but to take a chance

    • Agreed, David! Those opportunities in life will dry up so quickly if we’re not willing to put aside our fears and risk stumbling around in the darkness. πŸ™‚

  5. Oh, my gosh, Raam. This is SO WELL written, you had me totally sucked in at the first two lines, totally. I could not stop reading…very well done. YES, please let yourself fly free and write, write, write! I am eagerly awaiting your next chapter.

  6. Raam,

    Thanks for your transparency. It’s good know I’m not the only one to struggle with fears.

    I get the sense your teeth are tightly clinched and you are ready to move forward – I’ll be right there with you, cheering for you…and cheering for myself, too.

    Alex

  7. Wow..I *love* your writing..when you focus more energy on it, I cannot imagine the result, but I’m excited for you!
    As for darkness, I’ve learned to revel in it. I rise at 3am for ‘me’ time before work..and I love to be outside in the dark, looking at the moon and stars..I walk around the park adjacent to the marina. I find the dark like a comforting blanket. And when my eyes focus, it allows me great clarity, which I believe translates into clarity within as well..
    I understand fear of unknown..I am currently in a stage of huge transformation and I’ve been uncharacteristically hesistant. For a while, I forgot to enjoy the process of creating and began to let doubt about the outcome shadow my progress. I did not want to step at all..lasted a few days, then nature came in and literally Wind gusted my little boat and said come play..so, I’m stepping..into the very great unknown. Knowing there is always Light if I need it:) Can I run back home? Probably, but isn’t home where the heart is, where would I run to?? *grin*
    Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Joy, thank you for the kind words. Your boat stories always bring a smile to my face… How amazing it must be to have nature itself literally nudge you along right when you need it most!

      I have no doubt that nature would guide us through every challenge if we only listened more closely. πŸ™‚

      I’m also someone who thoroughly enjoys the night. It’s an amazing thing to look up at the stars and a sense of where we are in the universe, to be reminded how alive we are even in the absence of light.

  8. Hey Raam, Great post. Victory is sweet. Walking in the light is something that I need to overcome everyday. But I know that when I’m walking in the light, I can have confidence and no longer fear what lies in the shadows. Those childhood memories are valuable because they remind us that we are able to overcome the things that hold us back from freedom. As we become older and “wiser” we sometimes loose the simple trust that we had as children. You know that you’ve already had a victory over those enemies in the past…so what’s stopping you from facing them now? When you’re in the dark, things are hidden and not easily seen, so they can be scary and our mind can create all kinds of false ideas about things, but when they get exposed by the light, they can be seen for what they really are. Thanks for sharing from your heart.

    • You’re most welcome, John!

      I think there are so many lessons our childhood stories can teach us. Age brings wisdom and experience, but youth is full of courage, insight, and a fresh perspective of the world.

  9. Awesome. I remember going through similar obstacles as a kid. I love the the imagery in this piece. I love how descriptive you get in your writing. Looking forward to your next.

  10. Hey Raam, wonderfully written. It’s definitely tough walking through the darkness. But after some time, you start adapting. Your eyes adjust to the lack of light, you start relying on your other senses more, like sound and touch. Our body has tools to help us through the dark, but we have to know that they’re there, and learn how to use them.

    This is my favorite line, “Life gives us a choice. We can sit around and wait for the light to shine on us or we can stand up and start searching for it. ”

    Too many people are stuck waiting! The way I see myself now, more and more, is like a rock climber axe-picking her way up the cliff, held secure by a harness. There’s no marked path, only a cliff to scale. One looks for the best place to throw the pick and guide oneself upwards. Yes, it’s very frightening. At the same time, very liberating, and exciting. And well, I can’t wait to hit the top. ;D

    I know your writing can only get better, so I can’t wait to see it transform!

    • Hi Lynn!

      Thank you for extending the metaphor and reminding me that I need to focus on my strengths, on the senses that work well even in the darkness (like courage and a sense of adventure). πŸ™‚

      I also really enjoyed your rock-climbing metaphor! I feel much the same way… taking steps in the direction that I feel makes the most sense and keeping a laser focus. The stream of distractions never seems to end!

  11. I like to believe I exist in that adult world where the metaphorical dark no longer bothers me. I am on the verge of doing something quite blindly because it feels right as we speak. This article was very inspiring and perhaps just what I needed tonight.

    But I’m still afraid of the literal dark. I will take a flashlight with me into the yard, thank you very much. πŸ˜‰

  12. Raam,

    You’ve unpacked the meaning in some of my archetypal favorites: “Where the Wild Things Are” & “There’s a Monster in My Closet.”

    After my most recent encounter with the deep dark — a reminder that I have fears unsettled — I half-comically wrote about “conquering our dinghies” — http://ow.ly/3Jw6S — about accepting half-victories on the childlike imperfect path to freedom.

    I call this harvesting risk and cultivating imperfection.

    Look forward, Don Dev, to further conversations.

    • Hi Mark,

      Thank you for sharing your story — it goes very well with this one and I really enjoyed it! I grew up on a small lake and often swam to a small set of islands about 500 meters from the shore, so I know exactly what kind of distance you were referring to in the post! That’s plenty of time to let our fears get the best of us.

      But by taking small steps towards overcoming those fears and regularly challenging ourselves to go a little further — pushing our boundaries a little more each time — we can eventually overcome the obstacles altogether. I’m sure with enough practice, you could swim the English Channel! πŸ™‚

  13. I enjoyed your prose and thoughts here, Raam.
    I can relate, as a kid I used to trek across our dark yard on the farm to attend to chores, sometimes when dusk had fallen, and I remembered being scared out of my wits. I eventually surmounted that obstacle, too. πŸ˜‰

    I can also relate to your closing comments about writing. Yes, unlock those shackles and let your phalanges fly across that keyboard. (Love your writer voice, Raam.)
    ~xo

  14. Depending on the circumstances, fear of darkness can be well founded.

    When walking in the dark it helps to bring a light or even better a more aware friend – the faithful dog.

    • Agreed, ET. There are plenty of scenarios where we should stay away from the dark for our own safety. Even still, I think it’s better to be confident that if we found ourselves in the dark, even in a dangerous situation, we should be confident that we will handle the situation to the best of our ability. πŸ™‚

  15. Hi Raam.

    What a certain post!

    Fear is something that only with character and courage will disappear. It’s normal have fear for something new or unknown, but not to all things in life. The same life trains us to fight with our inner fears, but it’s a decision to face them and give them back. We cannot hide of fear, because it will become in a giant. On the contrary, with attitude fear paralyzes and dies. It’s just believe in our capabilities and go forward. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Viviana!

      Believing in our capability and potential is so important. When we recognize what we’re truly capable of, we gain confidence is overcome challenges that would’ve otherwise seemed impossible. πŸ™‚

  16. Great post! Great way to tie together an interesting story with an important lesson and how it impacts us as adults.

    • Thank you, Kat! I love garnering lessons to apply to life from real stories like these. I think it’s such an awesome way of sharing insights and lessons and for remembering them ourselves! πŸ™‚

  17. Great post Raam.

    I always find it facinating with post like these as it give an insight into the lives of others. The more of them one reads, the more you realise that we are all very much alike.

    • Thanks, Jonny!

      I also find it amazing how many similar stories we all share and how much we can learn from each other through sharing those stories! πŸ™‚

  18. “We can live a life paralyzed by the things we fear, or we can clench our fists, hold our breath, and step into the darkness.”

    I love that. It is better to try, than to do nothing. Often walking into the darkness ends up being not as scary as we thought. Instead we find adventure, fun and passion. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Sherry!

      The areas that hold the most potential are often shrouded in darkness, just waiting to be explored! I have learned that over and over throughout my life. Just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be anymore opportunity, one appears! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Niall! Judging from your latest posts, you’ve been doing quiet a bit of walking in the dark lately! That is, walking in the dark with a bright shining light of courage. πŸ˜€

  19. Beautifully written, Raam. I loved the part where you tried not to run back to the house. So many times in life, we panic and run instead of trying to embrace the uncomfortableness of any situation. More often than not, I find that people underestimate their resilience. How many times have you spoken to someone who has gone through a rough time and wondered how they got through it all…only to be surprised when they themselves were at times uncertain about their resilience. We are more resilient than we think, and should be enough of a reason to go out there and to the things that scare us.

    • Thank you, Stella!

      I’ve recognized that lesson of dealing with uncomfortableness in fitness training as well. There is a fine line between pain/uncomfortableness and injury. It takes a lot of training to learn how to interpret the difference, but when we do we can learn how to constantly push ourselves past that point of comfort — constantly live on the edge, challenging ourselves to grow and strengthen but not causing injury. We learn to overcome the mental blockages and that helps us grow exponentially.

      We are incredibly resilient and I think we all underestimate what we’re capable of!

  20. Raam, I am terrified of the darkness of the forest, I could *never* do what you did but I’ve always been tempted. Brave, brave man that you are – and why are you writing less when you can write so brilliantly and tear even determined me away from something else I was doing….Write for us. We crave your writing and you – as well as all the writers in the world – can use the practice. I hope to see more here soon. Thanks for sharing a childhood story (my favorites!).

    • Thank you for the beautiful words of encouragement, Farnoosh! I think it’s my inner perfectionist… that need to always “make sense” and be “cohesive” in everything I publish. I need to let go of that resistance. I think it’s also because I’ve had times of incredible creative output, where everything just flowed perfectly — my inner perfectionist keeps trying to convince me that I need to wait for that to happen before I can write anything worth publishing. I know that’s not true and I know everybody experiences those seemingly random creative moments — I just need to stop telling myself I know better and start doing better. πŸ™‚

      • You know, if your inner voice is telling you so strongly, maybe you should listen *but* also coax it into giving you those creative moments. Maybe it takes a little work on your part to create more of an environment and atmosphere where you experience just the right creativity. Sometimes, we have silly fears – I am the queen in this department – other times, it’s intuition telling us (just ask Angela :)), so figure out which is happening and I would never tell you to ignore your inner voice. But remember this also: When you let a routine go, say regular writing in this instance, it gets harder and harder to pick it back up the longer it goes. You will just not like it and you don’t need to go through that if you have ideas that are almost fully baked. Put it out there and create the zone to get you to the *good enough* part so all of you is ok with hitting *Publish*!
        I can’t wait to see your evolution, dear Raam. Keep at it – and remember, our friend, meditation too.

  21. Listening to the voices of your community, the ones who cared enough to share their own thoughts…

    Give us you, raw…
    It’s what all of us are asking for, is it not?
    Emotion, utility, openness…

    Your community has grown by leaps and bounds since you started opening up this way. πŸ˜‰

    Your vulnerability is extremely compelling, attractive, and what people are searching for in today’s noisy buzz of marketing/advertising sites.

    People are searching for YOU to guide them out of the darkness and embrace their own light. I know I certainly was when I found you, and I’ll never be the same again.

    Is there a better soul blending word than namaste?
    Words are but pale copy of our heart’s beauty, and you have mastered the art of painting with them fully.

    Thank you for being you, dearest friend. If I could…the entire world would know your spirit and draw inspiration from it as I have. <3

    • Thank you, Jeanie!

      I’m far from mastering the art of painting the beauty in my heart (can anyone really become the master of anything?), but I really appreciate your words of encouragement. πŸ™‚

  22. Amazing post, please keep stepping into the darkness! I love the message, the story, the metaphor, and the meaning.

    Uncertainty is hard, and to keep moving forward when you don’t know where you’ll end up is even harder. But to me, it’s the only response, I don’t like being paralyzed, I like moving. I may imagine fleeing the darkness/uncertainty, but I always come back for more. Hopefully, not always clenching my fist, but sometimes in freedom.

    • Thank you, Marci! πŸ™‚

      You’re right that moving forward is the only response. Time, which never stops moving forward, makes sure of it!

      If we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by fear, the fear consumes us. But if we face the fear and move forward anyway, we learn and grow, becoming stronger and more able to face challenges.

Webmentions

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  • davidlfbreathe May 13, 2011

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  • January 2011 reflections May 13, 2011

    […] Stepping into the Darkness – by Raam Dev of Raam Dev- we can live a life paralysed by the things we fear, or we can clench our fists, hold our breath and step into the darkness. […]

  • Nomad Finance Report for January 2011 May 13, 2011

    […] This month I’ve only posted on average once per week. So many times I fell victim to my own inner perfectionist and the great resistance it held up. For the month of February (and every month thereafter) I’m not going to be afraid to step into the darkness and shine. […]

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