Book Review: Opening to Darkness
Facing challenges might be typical of human experience, but confronting the darkness within those challenges is an individual matter, if not a compelling choice—the governing theme of Opening to Darkness: Eight Gateways for Being with the Absence of Light in Unsettling Times, the latest book by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. Bringing together her experiences in Zen Buddhism with influences of African and Native American traditions, Manuel encourages readers to be with the darkness that surrounds everyday life in order to ascend it; to essentially “evolve our consciousness of vastness in every moment.”
Presented as Eight Gateways to being with darkness, there is no formula to be rid of suffering. Rather, we’re given an opportunity to open to a partnership with our authentic nature of darkness, whereby we dispel our distortions and perceptions that keep us imprisoned. Disconnection is another central theme: If we consider the global implication of inherited darkness, we might recognize how it has changed humanity and created a lack of unity between people and the earth.
As readers engage and pass through the gateways, each “ascension” asks us to reclaim the purity of darkness. It’s daring to consider a world where the mystery of darkness is once again embraced and cultivated rather than hidden. Our call through the Eight Gateways, then, isn’t to be somebody new, but to welcome our very present “dark self” and inhabit the mystery of our own inner wilderness. In doing so, we may find refuge in wandering in the frightfully perfect unknown, savoring the sacred darkest dark.
Supported throughout with first-person experiences, blessings, and guided meditations, the seeker is called to form the darkness, once a stranger, into the type of friend you might invite for tea. This new relationship will go a long way to ease our fears while positively impacting our ability to coexist harmoniously on the planet.