Let me tell you a secret that lies behind my smiles, laughter and positive affirmations: I am fascinated by the dark side. In a strange and grotesque way, it attracts me.
I have an ever evolving relationship with this darkness.
When I was younger, I thought that the “bad boys,” I dated would be comfortable with it, with me, when I was raw, but they were all show. The pot smoking and tequila shots were just their way of keeping pain at bay, never feeling true darkness. Then there were the moody ones, wearing their frowning masks to hide the fact that they had had an emotionally sheltered life, cracking and running the dark Kali came to visit me, but wanting me there when Shiva came to visit them.
They were just boys.
Like me, like a lot of people, they only knew that the dark was bad and needed to be fought at any cost. It is what we are taught. We learn at an early age that emotions like anger and sadness are bad. The seven deadly sins lists a whole bunch of emotions that are sinful (I’m a Muslim but went to a Catholic girls’ school), and you haven’t even done anything yet. And somewhere along the way, we learn to deny these feelings. We sit on them, letting them stew inside us, like poison. When we get angry or sad, we don’t know how to deal with it and in our heads we automatically become “an angry person,” or “a sad person.” Somehow, that feeling has taken over and defined us.
Yes, I have definitely had a relationship with the dark.
When I was a child, I was often labelled as “angry,” or “moody,” or “hot tempered,” and I grew up believing that that was what I was. You see, sometimes to make things easier, we create labels, and this is what we believe ourselves to be through our lives. For a long time, I believed 100 percent that this was the person that I was, and it was just the way it was. Enter the bad boys, the moody boys, the emotionally unavailable boys, somewhere in my head, I felt that as I was what I was, these were the only boys I was worthy of.
No, I never saw a therapist. Instead, I went and got a Post Graduate Degree, because you know, that would fix everything. It didn’t. I stayed drunk through about five years from that point on, living in alcohol induced darkness- a darkness that brings your soul to ground level, leaving you feeling heavy and strangely empty. Deep, dark, black tamas, but I lived there because that’s where I thought I belonged.
Then the year I turned 30, I got on the yoga mat.
I wanted to fix my back, and if I could be happy like all these affirmation sprouting hippies, all the better for it. The early days were an adventure. There were Saturday mornings when I would enter the studio still fucking drunk, get into child’s pose and stay there for 90 minutes, passed out. There were practices where every pose had me falling over. And that was just the physical stuff.
Then the other stuff came up.
In the stillness, Mother Kali, the one I had thought was me, and yet turned away by numbing myself with alcohol, finally caught up with me. As we sat in the abyss of reclining half pigeon or frog, she wrapped me in her embrace. With nowhere to go, the darkness came up. Maybe I could have walked away, but something made me come back to it again, and again, and again, sitting in the anger, the pain, the sadness. Sitting in all the emotions I had not let myself feel because they were “bad,” emotions. I cried into my yoga mat like it was the first time I had cried, and in a strange way, it really was. Things from years and years ago came up, sat close to the surface and went through me.
I flirted with real darkness, and it flirted back with me.
We chase the light, wanting to be in the sun all the time, but we forget that the world is equal parts shadow and light. In the darkness of night, Mother Kali, the bogeyman, or whatever you want to call it, might make themselves known, but it is also in the dark that we rest and fall into slumber. The dark hides us and holds us, and in the darkness and silence, we find the parts of ourselves that we fight so hard to keep at bay.
When I flirted with darkness and really sat there, I realized that although there were parts of me that were made of it, I was not it completely. In time, I stopped labelling myself as an angry person, or a sad person, and instead became comfortable with the fact that sometimes, I was angry, and sometimes, I was sad. Once I started acknowledging them, they became less threatening and less likely to attack when I wasn’t looking.
Acknowledging without attaching… for this too will pass.
Sometimes I am raw, often times I swear (occasionally it slips out when I teach, but hey, I’m as human as the next person), and although there are beautiful quotes, there are some times when you just have to be naked in Kali’s embrace. Sometimes life’s lesson comes in the light and sometimes, it comes in darkness. It is definitely easier said than done, but on days when I acknowledge and accept the dark side, I find a certain peace in it.
There is an element of surrender, and knowing that even though the darkness is tough, I am held.
Azra Mustafa: Daughter. Cousin. Niece. Sister. Muslim. Malay. Budding yogini. Ex-fiancee. Ex-girlfriend. Former traditional dancer. Urban hippie. Maybe future yoga teacher. Sometimes blogger. Serial hugger. Wonderer. Wanderer. Gypsie. Shoe freak. Beach bum. Dreamer. Music appreciator. Movie liker. Disciple of tea. Social networker. Kitchen experimenter. Constant friend. Often lover. Still looking for my Dharma.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta