“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
This is one of my most favorite quotes!
Unfortunately, we all will experience darkness at some time in our lives. For example, the loss of a loved one, the onset of illness or disability, disappointments in our career, or perhaps the end of a relationship.
Darkness and loss may generate feelings of loneliness and isolation. At it’s worst, darkness may also convince us that life lacks hope or meaning. We may experience darkness as an emotional/existential crisis. We might even call this a “dark night of the soul”, a time of confusion and loss.
In our natural human response to these circumstances, we may focus on the darkness. We refuse to take our eyes off of it. We think obsessively about it, and we resist acceptance of it. Darkness can engulf us.
We can meet this problem with kindness and compassion. After all, we’re only human.
Humans are wired to be negative.
As humans, we have a negativity bias. That means we are wired to focus on the negative. As you may have noticed, negative experiences also impact us more profoundly than positive ones. This is why we dismiss positive experiences – like receiving a compliment, for example — while instead ruminating on insults, worries about the future, or past events. We are wired to focus on any sign that darkness is looming on the horizon.
The great news about human wiring is that it can change! Our brains have a characteristic called neuroplasticity. This means our own choices and experiences can reshape our brain structure, at any point in the lifespan.
What if, instead of focusing on the darkness, we choose to focus on the light that remains within? This is an opportunity to observe the miracle of neuroplasticity! Each time we change a thought or habit, we take part in the reshaping of our own brain, habits, and life!
Choosing to focus on light instead of darkness rewires our brain.
Sometimes it can be very hard to access the light within us. If you feel like this is impossible, you might need help. Pay attention to symptoms of panic, heightened anxiety, or depression and take them seriously! If you need some place to turn, call the national suicide prevention helpline (800-273-8255) or consult your doctor or a psychotherapist for support. Remember, coaching is never to be considered a source of mental health treatment or medical advice.
The onset of darkness can be a wake-up call to look within ourselves. This journey can be a difficult one. Thankfully, we do not have to walk this journey alone. Seek the support of friends, family, a therapist, or a coach.
Sounds like a great idea? But where to begin?
Discovering our inner light
When we first look inside, we may not know how to access our inner light or inner truths. We may have unconscious thought patterns that have obscured our own authentic inner light. For example, the belief “I am not enough” or “I need to hide my feelings” might need to be cleared before light becomes visible.
Remember – with kindness – that negative thoughts are part of your human nature. Start with simple observation. What do you notice about judgment, misinterpretation, toxic shame/regret, blame, fear, addictions, or a lack of self-acceptance? Do you try to please others at the expense of your own being? Do you unknowingly suppress emotions or try to hide your vulnerabilities? Could mental or behavioral reactivity to situations be leading you astray?
As we practice observation, we discover opportunities to remove obstructions to our light. Working to manage these thinking habits can lead to fruitful discoveries – and rewiring of our brain as well.
One place we can look to find these obstructions is within our own story. Taking a hard look at the stories that we tell ourselves about our lives may unearth the realization that WE are subconsciously dimming our own lights.
We can detach from obstructive thought patterns to let our light shine through.
In this personal process, we can utilize several tools. For example, mindful self-awareness, new perspectives, adaptive thinking, and kindness and compassion may be key. It is especially important to be gentle with ourselves as we engage in this process of change.
How will we know when we have reconnected to our inner light? When we are able to revisit those experiences that make us feel most alive. When we are in our truth, we express it through creativity, wisdom, spirit, joy and love. We discover in these situations we are utilizing our personal strengths, living true to our personal values, or thriving within an activity or state of being that causes us to experience a flow state. Our lives begin to feel harmonious.
When do you feel most alive?
Shifting our focus to positive thought processes and the light within ourselves and others can be transformative. We may start to see each and every person around us as a stained-glass window. And the light that we share through our unique lens can be experienced by others. Our light and authenticity brings new sources of connection to others and the world.
As a holistic health and wellness coach, I believe we ALL have inner light and the capacity to shine. It is my privilege to help individuals engage in the work of shifting focus and uncovering their authentic light.
Shine on, beautiful soul!