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The lessons of sacred darkness: Deborah Eden Tull


We’ve all heard of “enlightenment” in the context of spiritual practices like Buddhism. But in this episode, my colleague Deborah Eden Tull walks us through the equally important practice of “endarkenment” and other wonderful explorations from her new book, Luminous Darkness: An Engaged Buddhist Approach to Embracing the Unknown. I very much enjoyed reading this book and appreciated her invitation to explore the realms of mind outside of our “daytime” consciousness as we practice receptivity and learn to be more comfortable as we encounter what’s unknown to us.


To listen to or watch my conversation with Eden, just scroll down. To read the transcript from Otter.ai, scroll down even farther.


You can find her new book on the Shambhala site or on Amazon, available today!









Full transcript


Claire Villarreal

Well, it's so nice to talk with you today about this wonderful book, luminous darkness.


I'm just wondering if you could explain, first of all this term that you use throughout this book endarkenment, we've all heard of the Enlightenment. I'm curious about endarkenment.


Deborah Eden Tull

Sure. Thank you for that question, Claire,


for at least a couple of years before I actually wrote that book, that term kept coming up into my awareness. And it really resonated with my heart. And there was one retreat in particular, I was guiding land of Medicine Buddha in the Redwood Forest of Santa Cruz Mountains, where I was asked a particular question about the state of our world and how our practice supports us through it. And I heard myself say that it's important to bring into our hearts, the medicine of endarkenment, alongside enlightenment. And I realized that for me, part of what it points to is, in my practice, darkness has been such an informative and steadfast teacher, in my experience as a woman, and a female practitioner, and teacher, in my experience, as someone who's been an environmental and social justice activist, in my experience as someone who's navigated trauma and chronic illness. In my experience living in our world today, there's a way that when I look at the contemporary meditation and mindfulness movement, I see some, perhaps unnecessary residue of a bias that the dominant paradigm holds towards light and against dark, and a desire to find transcendence, to get to the light to push away the dark. And so that's part of what this term and dark admin points to is, learning instead to recognize what darkness actually is, what darkness as a teacher, in our spiritual practice, and in this age of global uncertainty could be for us. Also to recognize that darkness in nature, and in consciousness really represents the Yin, restorative,


slow aspect of nature, rather than the bright, expressive light. And I certainly am one who feels that we need more and more welcome of that in our world. So ultimately, embracing both light and dark, endarkenment and enlightenment.


Claire Villarreal

And I'm just curious, you've thrown out these big, I think, you know, ideas that animate a lot of our spiritual practice, at least, you know, speaking for myself as a white ish woman from America, you know, this idea of, we're gonna get somewhere there's something to learn, or, you know, I'm going to polish up my mind. Could you just explain, as you do so beautifully in the book, could you explain what light often symbolizes for us in spiritual practice? And what actually dark means? Because I think often we misunderstand darkness, particularly living in this culture that's so much about light and, you know, everything it represents?


Deborah Eden Tull

That's a great question. Yes. And just before I'll answer that, I'll name that. I grew up in sunny Southern California. As someone who is always a sensitive, attuned being who really loves depth, and I was aware from a young age have a tendency in the culture I grew up in towards sun shining, again, this kind of keep it light, avoid difficult conversations, avoid multi dimensionality, that kind of approach. So that's


Claire Villarreal

some affirmations if you're not feeling good, so you got


Deborah Eden Tull

it again. Again, so we can push away the dark rather than turn towards and be with it back to more directly answering your question. I've certainly witnessed in my many years as a meditator and teacher, a real bias and also just a human being living in today's world, but a real bias towards the rational mind, which we might think of as the light or lamp of knowledge, as opposed to other forms. terms of knowing intuition, relational forms of knowing. I've seen a real bias towards as I named with sun shining, keeping positive in opposition to what's considered negative, instead of learning how to which practice invites us to rest in the awareness that's not so bent on the duality of positive negative but can actually be with what is with compassionate welcome. Yeah. Also, we can see in light, even when we acknowledge the processes, which are light based in nature, spring and summer, the forces of acceleration, creation, the forces of illumination, again, trying to get to the light, but with a sense of pushing away, the slower, more invisible again, more again, processes within ourselves and in the natural world. There's tends to be in the dominant paradigm, more of a push toward celebrating summer than winter time, for instance. And yet, we're human beings, so we contain all of it. Our life is a spectrum that includes all of it. And I just feel like in the world we're living in right now, the ramifications of this kind of pushing away. Dark, which I share in my book goes. So far, so many implications, but that it's, it's getting tiring that I sense more of a hunger, within humanity in general, for a greater wholeness, that includes all of us, the light and dark within. And so just to name a couple more of the ramifications, obviously, it's informed a rift in the tear in the fabric of human relationship, judgment of part of humanity, and prioritizing, again, light over dark, it's informed the over lighting artificially of planet Earth, which is accelerated wildly in the past 50 years, it's informed xenophobia, just pushing away judging the unknown. So I could go on and on. But hopefully, I've given a glimpse of what I mean by some of the symbols symbolism that light versus dark holds and how we perceive it. And then what the deeper invitation is,


Claire Villarreal

I think, part of what's implicit in what you're saying, but something that really resonated with me and kind of struck me again, and again, as I read through this book is, you know, there's like a relationship or a light is often an analogue for knowing for clear kind of cognitive, rational mind knowing. And often darkness is the unknown is the place where we don't want to go. So when you're talking about xenophobia, you know, I'm not sure who that person is, do I want to let them in? And I think part of what's so beautiful about this approach, is that okay, I'm just gonna geek out here for a second I wrote my dissertation on basically emptiness that the relationship between emptiness and and Buddha nature, how do you put words to something that doesn't fit into words? And I think, this whole question of like, can you be comfortable with something you cannot name, you can feel it, you can know it. But you can never name it. You can never relate to it out of that sort of, you know, cognitive rational daylight, mind, but it's the ultimate nature of reality. And I don't know, I just I wanted to throw that out. Because I feel like it's such a subtext in your book. And just here, if you have a comment on that.


Deborah Eden Tull

Well, I so love what you're pointing to and how you're pointing to it. Can you love what you can't name, what you can't label, categorize again, find a comfortable place to organize up here in the cognitive mind. And so this book has a lot to do with our relationship with the mystery, our relationship with the unknown, if nothing else, circumstances humans are finding ourselves in in recent years are certainly inviting us to examine our relationship with the unknown. So much of like, for instance, the systems that we've relied upon and considered set in stone have been dissolving, have been fraying on the edges. And so going back to what you shared, emptiness, I asked people The question in the book, if darkness were not the absence of something, because we think of it as the absence of light, what is it the presence of what is your felt experience when you give yourself experientially to resting in darkness? And again, physically and metaphorically? What is emptiness, the presence of not the absence of something. So I really love what you're pointing to.


Claire Villarreal

To me, it really resonates, I mean, not to make it about my dissertation, which is not readable at all, which your book is very much. But you know, part of the reason that I was so fascinated by that question is that some of the folks I wrote about in my dissertation, their theory, you know, in sort of 13th 14th 15th century Tibet, the Vogue, if you will, the philosophical Vogue was all about, you know, negation. It's not this, it's not this, it's not this, like emptiness, reality is not that, and these folks said, Yeah, but after you've done all that, all that peeling away all that, you know, paring down, there is something that you land in, you just can't express it with words. And, you know, I think for me, that was a really important piece for being able to appreciate, you know, what you're writing about as the darkness that it's not, you can think of it as an absence of something, you can also think of it as the only space in which something else can blossom.


Deborah Eden Tull

Thank you, the only space in which something else can blossom, darkness being the field from which everything, and certainly all of light emerges. Darkness being the field from which all life arises and returns, and it can only be touched through experience. So again, if we want to be people's focusing on rational mind orientation, or you've already named this and it's in the book, that daylight orientation, what I can see what I can label, what I can measure and compare, versus dropping into one's actual experience, which calls for certain qualities in us of attunement, deep listening, learning to rest and being which is the nature of meditation to really feel and sense the consciousness of darkness. Yeah.


Claire Villarreal

Yeah, it's so true. And, you know, I think just again, speaking for myself, like when I think of myself as a, as a baby meditator, I think I thought I was doing something that leads me into that realm of darkness. But I think it's much easier to kind of stay focused on thoughts or you know, consciousness, the content of mind, rather than sort of the the vastness of mind itself. And I think it's, you know, it's like, our culture offers us meditation, and spirituality as a way of exploring the darkness. But I think it's so easy to end up finding yourself just searching for light in a different way, searching for certainty in a different way.


Deborah Eden Tull

That's a great way to put it searching for certainty. Different way? Yeah, my Sangha was just talking about something similar to this just, even throughout those experiences of resting in to the spaciousness of awareness itself, the boundlessness, the nonjudging, nature, the welcoming nature, it can still be easy because the human mind loves habit to go into focusing instead on what I'm aware of, in this field, what's arising and passing in this field, but forgetting that I can find this ground of always existing quiet in the Awareness itself. Yeah. In the darkness. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I had this


Claire Villarreal

question so many times reading your book. In this conversation, too. It just keeps coming up. Did you write this book during COVID? Like had that already started when you started writing this book?


Deborah Eden Tull

You know, it's kind of amazing. I first got the calling to begin this book, before COVID. In fact, a couple years before, but just wanted to hold it in my awareness for a while, wanted to spend some more time listening to the dark. And then my plan was after leading a retreat over New Years, giving birth to 2020 I was going to be diving into this project and it was just Just a wild irony that that's when COVID hit. Not only did it invite me even deeper into the writers cocoon, but the topic was just fully aligned. There was a sense of, okay, I've had a little bit of resistance to this project, but guess what it's medicine is needed. So I can find my willingness. Yeah, yeah,


Claire Villarreal

yes. I just I think for so many people, you know, first of all being quarantined. It's like an enforced period of darkness. And it's been really interesting to just see all the different responses people have. And now, after a couple of years of this, you know, the burnout and the fatigue and the great resignation that we're experiencing, it just feels very topical, like for right now. Also, and I'm just wondering if you have any advice, you know, for people who are sort of involuntarily going through this period of either, you know, willingly or unwillingly leaving a job, maybe being at home more than they would like to although now that's the, the quarantine is is a little bit better. But I'm, I'm just wondering, is there advice for how to get the most out of these periods of, you know, darkness, rest? That Yin quality?


Deborah Eden Tull

Great question. And one thing that arises is, there's a chapter in the book called befriending the night. And I feel like, just the night metaphorically is something so many people are facing right now, their life circumstances having changed in different ways, job change, place change, the state of our world changing. And so, the night again, the field of that which we do not know, cannot see also cannot recognize our daytime identity in. And so the book talks about how much we claim, right to that identity, this is who I am. And this is how I want to be seen and almost try through the ego to build scaffolding in our lives to find safety or okayness, the right identity, the right job, partner, income, whatever it is, and befriending the night, this is about really being willing to let go of that, looking towards who we are in daylight for security, and actually bring reverence. Curiosity, I want to say ah, to be experience of the night, remember that darkness is also the field in which all possibility exists. So it's the field of that which is unformed. Rather than formed, we can even say invisible rather than visible. But if we've been conditioned to focus so much, again, on that domain of what we see is real and set in stone. Who am I in this very human? Focused world? We're missing a whole other dimensions. Does that make sense?


Claire Villarreal

Oh, that definitely makes sense. Yeah. You know, what strikes me is the, the words he used about this sort of encounter with darkness, curiosity, or, I mean, these are emotions you cannot feel in a world you're familiar with. It can only happen when you're, when you're willing to kind of step a little bit over that edge into the unknown. It's


Deborah Eden Tull

so true. And even think about how one tends to feel when looking up at the night sky, whether the new moon when it's pitch black, or when the sky is filled with stars, but there's a sense of Oh, I am gazing upon the mystery now. Yeah, so yeah, you got it.


Claire Villarreal

For me, that's one of my earliest memories of just a state that every now and then I feel in meditation or in practice, you know, that sense of like, looking out into the universe, and I grew up mostly in the country. And you know, every now and then, like, all three of us kids and my dad, we just lie there and look at the stars. And I remember like, once I got old enough to realize how far away they were, you know how far I was looking back into time. It just, it kind of cracked open the way I understood reality. You know, from like, you're saying it's very human centric. Like, we're on one little planet in the middle of this vast universe. And that seems like that's all there is. And then you open up and realize, wow, it just the scale of what exists is beyond what I can understand.


Deborah Eden Tull

Yes, and it's so interesting because sometimes even in the name of it Practice, people can become a little more self centered or self focus, then universe focus. And in our world today, you know, I grew up in Los Angeles, which is a ginormous city, and there is access to nature, but it's quite easy, especially also with our reliance upon technology, computers, social media, to become kind of forgetful of the world beyond the human centered world. And this book on darkness is really inviting us also to to open back up again, to remember a deeper earth connection. Earth teaches us so much about the interplay of light and dark, day, night, dusk, Dawn, this continual flux and the seasons. And yet, in our conditioning, there tends to be a very strong bias towards Just one. Just towards the light. Yeah.


Claire Villarreal

Yeah, I think it's, it's especially it's like a blind spot for like, contemporary, at least, you know, Western, I don't know, spirituality, sometimes. It's, you know, I get this feeling that people, they want to move toward that light, and like, that's better than moving toward, you know, exploitation of self and others, and, you know, out and out destruction of things. But it does feel like there's something really precious that gets lost, when that's what spirituality is about. I think sometimes even through, you know, the mindfulness movement, as much as it's really opened up practice to so many people. I think when it's not presented in its fullness, it does become just one more way of having a happier self, rather than perforating that that solid sense of self and opening to a wider world,


Deborah Eden Tull

that's a great way to put it, trying to have a happier self less self and caps, rather than opening to a wider and trickier expression of who we actually are. And one thing that came up when you were speaking, you know. In my experience, it's time spent resting in the dark that I've become the most clear about the unwavering light within, you know, I talk in the book about how this light was never lost, so it can't be found. So no need to go striving for it. I talk a lot about effort over efforting in our practice or life towards it. It's by resting and surrendering to the dark that we remember it is unwavering. Yeah. And also, you know, the the word darkness is used in different forms in the book that sometimes we're acknowledging, when we are asked to go into those places or experiences that are going back to what you said the most unknown, unfamiliar, also uncomfortable, seemingly difficult, or adverse, that we are able to turn to our inner resources and actually find, again, this light that is untouchable. So light and dark exist in this dynamic interplay. Yeah,


Claire Villarreal

yeah. Yeah, for sure. Maybe this is a good time to ask you to read these five characteristics of a, of a spirituality that's kind of informed by this principle of in darkened mint.


Deborah Eden Tull

Sure, happy to, to read this excerpt from the book. Thank you. And I talk about this as really five principles that in documents celebrates five aspects of embodied meditation and spirituality. The first is our awakening through embodiment, and earth connection, that only by bringing our awareness down into our bodies and affirming our connection with the earth, away from the realm of concepts and ideas, do we remember who we really are? Second, the restoration of our ability to see clearly with the heart, by surrendering to receptivity, and by taking responsibility for the lens through which we are perceiving and I'm not referring solely to the organ of the heart, though it's an extraordinary organ of relational intelligence. I'm speaking of the heart of our beings, the sacred integration of body, heart mind, accessed through meditation. Through the reclamation of our true nature or original consciousness by releasing hierarchical perception, all hierarchical thinking is a distortion in consciousness. There is no exception. hierarchy was invented by humankind, and it has been passed down through the generations. For the deepening of our relationship with ourselves and others, and our Inter communicative relationship with nature, the visible and invisible matrix of life, and dark human invites us into multi natural awareness, intervening through Pathways for communication, and collaboration with life. These pathways already exist within our bodies, while earth based and animistic traditions have celebrated multi natural awareness throughout history. contemporary society is limited by a human centered, and technology centered paradigm. Number five, and lastly, the willingness to meet all life, including shadows, with fierce compassion, embodied meditation embraces all aspects of our humanity, rather than, as we've been talking about, trying to transcend dark to get to the light.


Claire Villarreal

It's just beautiful. And obviously, it's, it's coming from Buddhism, it's coming from your own practice, but I feel like there's a lot woven in there, or maybe put into words you wouldn't necessarily find in like a classical Buddhist presentation of principles of meditation or embodiment,


Deborah Eden Tull

I suspect so, I suspect so. And I've been deeply informed. For as long as I've been meditating, I've been an organic farmer and gardener. And I've had a deep daily practice of putting my hands in the earth and of practicing what I call partnership with nature, which of course, is present and evident in Buddhism. But at least in the places where I trained, there wasn't so much emphasis on what has become equally valuable in my own practice, which I would call animism. I've been deeply informed by shamanism, just direct experiences I've had from the receptivity of presence, which are practice cultivates of really getting a deeper sense of what it means to live in daily communication with life. Yeah. Yeah. And I think so many people are hungry for this right now. And others know this experience well, but perhaps have discounted it a bit. In a world where rational mind is considered more valuable than our relational intelligence, which is what I'm talking about. Yeah. Yeah. I'm just wondering,


Claire Villarreal

and I mean, there's a lot of instances that you give in the book, but in your own life, what shifts when you include this kind of, you know, animistic, or relational with the earth? And you know, Mother Gaia herself, which shifts in practice? What, I don't know, what how does your practice look different? It? It seems very much like the how do I say like the locus of authority for your practice begins to shift from outside to inside? As these kinds of you know, deep listening practices come online?


Deborah Eden Tull

Well, there's a couple of things I would say. The first is perhaps a shift from outside the inside, as we really learn to embody our physical bodies, much more intimately and intentionally. So really, I want to first just say something that for instance, in the monastery where I trained for seven and a half years the language used pointed to honoring the body and pointed to being in our bodies rather than our heads. But it actually wasn't until I left the monastery that whole wider dimensions opened up for me, because I was no longer holding so tightly as I was for a while as a monastic to a particular form, there was an opening up much more widely to what it means to live in communication with all of life. And there was something else arising that I want to see if it's still here in my awareness Hold on one moment. I think I want to acknowledge that I lived for years in the kind of partnership with nature, that acknowledged the intention of sustainable living. I've written a book about a mindful kitchen and sustainability principles in that domain of life. And yet, there's a way that until we're really willing to honor our, in my experience, our bodies as a portal to a more shamanic existence. We might be closing off, or discounting, guidance and support and collaboration that we're receiving from the more than human realm. Does that make sense? So that my definition and experience of partnership with nature, once upon a time because I for years, I taught workshops about sustainable living, and the principles of partnership with nature, but it wasn't fully embodied. Because, ironically, I was holding to sort of rigidity in my Zen practice, that seem to point elsewhere. And I love when anyone's practice becomes more freer, more inclusive, and more aligned with what your actual true experience is. And so obviously, Buddhism is not a practice of beliefs. But as I point out in this book, no matter who we are, there's a point at which we notice our spiritual practice itself has taken on some beliefs, or is carrying some of the conditioning of our society that we might not have seen so clearly, and if we really want to reclaim the authority of the heart, and by that I mean, the shared heart, we need to free ourselves from all of that, and to let our practice itself become much wider. Yeah. Because that's the truth of practice, of course. Yeah,


Claire Villarreal

absolutely. When I was studying martial arts, studying Tai Chi, I remember there was, there's a saying that like, at first you do the form, and then the form does you. And I think for me with like, the ongoing, you know, meditation and spiritual practice, it feels like that at first, it's like an ego, like, you have to learn the mechanics of how to do it. But then you also have to learn how to start letting go of that, you know, so called control we never actually have over practice.


Deborah Eden Tull

Yes, I love exactly the words you use, we have to get out of the way and let practice do us and get out of the way also means we have to effort less we have to surrender. We have to rest in the receptive aspect of our nature. We have to let go of the eye who's trying to do practice? Yeah,


Claire Villarreal

which you can't decide to do. It just has to happen and you have to go with it.


Deborah Eden Tull

Yes, if it's okay, I would like to say one more thing about the partnership with nature peace. Yes, please the animism piece, I'll just say and this is for people listening to consider. I know that in my own childhood, and throughout my childhood, I had experiences continually as a sensitive being of deep connection and friendship with other forms of life. With trees, information and communications I received through my dream world, my entire life. A sense of my natural connection with the more than human realm. And even when I first came to Buddhism, I somehow discounted that a little bit, almost pitting the harder qualities of realization, spiritual attainment, philosophy and understanding, hitting those harder qualities above the softer qualities of receptivity. Just kindness, pure kindness, willingness to rest in Not knowing. Also things like intuition, imagination. And there's so much freedom when we let go of that pitting one against the other, and recognize the power and value of, again, when I'm going to call relational forms of knowing. And it was actually the experience that took me out of the monastery that instigated that was getting Lyme disease from a tick bite, and I actually had it for years. And it was a real rites of passage for me and spiritual teacher that required simply to navigate that experience, which is facing the absolute unknown thing and a completely unfamiliar body and ever changing body sometimes feeling like a familiar self, again, sometimes completely dissolved, things slowed down being less strong in the left brain, all of it, it really invited me to rest into the question have I called in Am I willing to call in all of my allies, am I willing to as courageously as possible turn to true nature, and call in the allies that exist both in the visible realm, the Sangha and community members and loved ones, but far beyond to the plant world, the mineral world, the realm of animals, ancestors, and it just opened up so powerfully for me when I was willing to do that. So it was just kind of a another layer of awakening, from what I might call modern world paradigm, it tends to diminish that a bit. Yeah.


Claire Villarreal

Yeah, for sure. I suspect a lot of people can relate to having those, you know, early experiences of connection and communication. And, you know, it just it makes me think of my own Buddhist tradition, the Tibetan tradition, which has a strong, strong shamanic component to it, you know, the greatest masters of novasure Yana Buddhism, and all these really, very profound advanced practices are also the greatest masters of the shamanic because they're not actually two different things. Yes. And I feel like well, as a I'll put on my, like, scholar religions hat here, you know, during the transmission of Buddhism to the West, and particularly Tibetan Buddhism, you know, there's so much that's profound, that's, again, like light oriented, that people wanted to import. But you know, often people say, Oh, well, all that shamanic stuff that's just cultural accretions onto this beautiful, pristine Buddhism. And you just can't, you can't draw that line. You know, I think I think what's weird is those of us in a modern sort of physicalist influence culture, not not having our own set of shamanic practices that we then integrate into the dharma as it comes into our context. But, you know, I think there's something I think sometimes people who are drawn to Buddhism get really uncomfortable with these, you know, nature, spirits informing us through our own bodies, or, I mean, there's a bunch of multiple lifetime stuff that can happen. There's all sorts of things that can come through us. And I just really appreciate I feel like what you're putting into words is like a new way of maybe expressing, for our culture, a way of understanding that, that deep, dark, nurturing soil that like Buddhism has always needed to draw from when it comes to new ground.


Deborah Eden Tull

Yes, that the dark, nurturing soil, and just as you were talking, a couple of things that arose, were one just considering anytime we're drawing lines between to use the language you use, right, we want to investigate. There's some conditioning at play here. What's the play, and there's so much collective conditioning throughout history, even going back to the Cartesian era, the 18th century Age of Enlightenment, all about rationalization. The burning times and the demonization of anyone practicing the more earth based wisdom and body based wisdom. Just to point out that there's a great healing I think, is both ancestral and cultural. That needs to happen in terms of our relationship with Planet Earth right now. And so it feels really Wouldn't that give people permission to reconnect with more of an animistic sense of existence? You only have to turn to your own experience for that. Yeah, yeah.


Claire Villarreal

Yeah, definitely. That we have an internal authority to, you know, when Christianity says there's original sin, you can't trust yourself because your your impulses are, you know, tainted in some way. I feel like this is a direct rebuttal of that, you know, it's pointing towards something of a completely different nature than just, you know, my own personal ordinary impulses are wishes.


Deborah Eden Tull

Yes, yes. Beyond my personal impulses and wishes, if we're going to align ourselves with that question of what is best for all, and how do I align my life on behalf of consciousness rather than me and my little bubble, it is my experience that it serves to travel far beyond the human realm to open our field of experienced interconnection, interdependence. Well, the phrase tick non Han us intervene really to all beings. Yeah. So


Claire Villarreal

this is beautiful. I'd like to kind of ask you to comment on the on the larger opening out of this principle of endarkenment. You know, our climate crisis, systemic racism, these like large systemic things, you know, getting more toward the later sections of your book. What does this approach offer to us in these times, as we face these just such large issues?


Deborah Eden Tull

I think the first thing that I'll say is just something I've been present to throughout this time of increased and continually increasing disruption, and something that's been present as a threat and conversations with many colleagues and with the fierce compassion Sangha shyguy, there's a sense of really, one thing that has felt clear throughout my life was how to be of service. And the question of how to be of service has been a real guide. And even that question has so been turned upside down, as we navigate, increasing adversity as we navigate the reality which for most human beings, is hard to really actually integrate and take in of climate change, for instance, in species extinction. So there's a beauty through and dark element of being really, really willing to rest in not knowing to really rest in emergence, and letting ourselves be so devotedly present and present, free of this bubble of isolation, to kind of a deep listening with life, that it becomes more of what I would call visionary activism, trusting the process of being guided, and trusting the process of sometimes just being, really, truly, not knowing. But in the trainings that I guide, there's a whole field about lead. This is a training for leadership, leaders and facilitators, leading in the dark and being led by the dark. And there's sort of a different set of faculties, which meditation positions us well, a meditation practice to us, which I think are phenomenal for preparing us for these times. Yeah. So we can, in other words, hold the question of how to be of service in a really emergent way, not looking so much to and circling in the mind through thinking and doing and thinking and doing and gotta find the answers, but understanding it as a co creative process of emergence. Yeah, it just sounds.


Claire Villarreal

For those of us who are highly sensitive, it sounds so much more sustainable than like an action only model of activism.


Deborah Eden Tull

Yes, and I'll share as I speak about in the book, but for years, I've also guided the work that reconnects which I found when I was about 20, which Joanna Macy created for honoring and transforming our pain for the world. And in that work as well, there's such awareness of the many dimensions that need to go into our inquiry of how to risk respond to the adversity in our world. I come from a family of activists. So I know the value and power of the doing the actions that organizing. But that alone is not enough. That alone is just one piece. That's what happens in the domain of light. And that's what arises from time spent in darkness. But we equally, I especially now need to be honing our willingness to drop into the receptive, our willingness to feel, integrate, and metabolize all the feelings that get stirred our willingness to learn how to see with the heart rather than through the lens of me versus you or right, wrong, good, bad. There's just so much opportunity now, to understand the value for something more than the active realm and the action realm. Does that make sense? Yeah, definitely.


Claire Villarreal

Yeah. As you were speaking, it made me think of plants, you know, well, it made me think of mushrooms specifically, where there's just all these roots and little, like most of the biomass is underground. And then for a few days, you get this sort of, you know, flowering, and then all the activity goes back under ground again, until it's time to flower again.


Deborah Eden Tull

Yes, and I'm inviting people to spend much more time and bring much more awareness to that which is underground, the amazing mycelial network as a metaphor for for our lives for our Gaia connection with everything. And everyone. And that which again, is unformed, unseen, invisible, unknown. Yeah, that's it. Yeah,


Claire Villarreal

that's beautiful. I'm just wondering for anyone who's like feeling inspired by that would like to connect with your Sangha. I know you have a lovely website, what would you recommend them to go to on your site?


Deborah Eden Tull

Sure. There are all kinds of offerings on my website from a regular Sangha, the fierce compassion Sangha, which also has drop in meditations on Tuesdays, to retreats and workshops. At this time, of course, both online and in person. But I will be holding, as my book comes out, this will start a monthly gathering just on luminous darkness and the teachings of endarkenment. And there are also certain retreats that speak to those themes that I would love for people listening who feel enlivened by this conversation whose curiosity feels piqued, to come and join us. Yeah.


Claire Villarreal

And I didn't know you were going to do monthly gatherings on luminous darkness, I'm gonna have to check that out. The book comes out September 25. So this podcast will also come out then. So by the time you're hearing this, these gatherings will be available. If somebody were to like get on your newsletter list, would they just get updates of everything you're doing?


Deborah Eden Tull

Yes, they will get a monthly or bimonthly, no more than that update on what's being offered. And there are retreats coming up in both North Carolina where I live, and on the west coast in California, north and south, and also online. And I just want to say that, you know, I'm asking people in this book to bring awareness about kind of an imbalance in our world regarding light and dark and artificial light included like most of planet Earth 90%, now of the US, and Europe has that dimly lit, artificially lit night sky. Now, that's astounding, because true darkness is so valuable for nature. But I want to also acknowledge that I appreciate the ways technology like this, these bright lights can bring us together. And it's been deeply, deeply rewarding to me, and affirming to acknowledge all throughout COVID The value of how deep and embodied our gatherings together can be how much these teachings can all be transmitted through connecting on the screen. While we are perhaps at home. It's been such a gift and such an affirmation. So whether I see you in person or online, please come. Yeah, and of course


Claire Villarreal

information on how to find you how to connect will be in the show notes. And so I encourage people to check that out. I'm just wondering, would you be willing to close our time together with a little guy Good practice on maybe helping people ease into this listening and argument.


Deborah Eden Tull

Sure, absolutely. Let's invite listeners. If you're somewhere where you can close your eyes, to let your eyes rest. And let's just take in a couple of D, full body breaths together.


And perhaps notice how even closing your eyes and resting in the dark, invite some of your other senses to become even more attuned to open just resting here feeling the earth beneath you, the ground, the gravity supporting you. And I'd like to invite people just imagine for a moment that you're sitting next to a window. And this is a window, not to the light of day, or the outdoors or window directly into darkness. The dark of the night, the mystery itself. The field of wide open possibility. Just notice for a moment how it feels. To sit next to the darkness, there might be a sense of thrill or openness. There might even be a little bit of fear. And I invite you just very gently to rest a hand on your heart and to take a couple of minutes to find your willingness to express a sense of reverence towards the darkness. reverence towards the unknown. Acknowledging that this is a part of human life, part of life on Earth and just notice what's arising in your heart. As you let yourself Express and perhaps offer compassion towards the unknown. Even perhaps, appreciation gratitude towards the unknown recognition of the unknown with love and then just notice if you would like to ask for any blessings or compassion towards yourself from the mystery and just listen and notice what might arise.


And I'd like us to all feel a sense of togetherness while we do this. Wherever we are in time space, sense that we are meeting the unknown together a sense that we are invited to open our hearts a little more together in this time to darkness, the field from which we all came to which we will all return let's take it one more deep, full body breath together. Breathing in letting go Oh and then whenever you're ready, very gently. Now your eyes to open was beautiful. Thank


Claire Villarreal

you so much.


Deborah Eden Tull

Thank you, Claire. I've really enjoyed hanging out with you today.


Claire Villarreal

Likewise, likewise, I loved this book, I hope everybody who's interested, can go grab a copy, you can find the link to that also in the show notes. Just thank you so much for sharing with us what feels like the fruits of a lot of a lot of wisdom, a lot of pain, just a lot of time spent practicing.


Deborah Eden Tull

Thank you. And I would add a lot of a lot of joy to this, finding everyone that the more and more in my experience, more willing to spend time with reverence in darkness, the more it simply opens up our capacity for greater joy, greater connectivity, greater and more vibrant aliveness. So to remind people that because again, even the word dark has a funny set of associations in human consciousness, but to associate dark with joy and freedom. Yeah, yeah.


Claire Villarreal

Yeah. And of finding the ultimate source for these qualities. You got it. I will stop recording unless there's anything else that you want to add.


Deborah Eden Tull

Just thank you. It's it's really a pleasure to spend time in conversation with you.


Claire Villarreal

Yeah, likewise.






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