Welcoming the Darkness

So, here we are again. Reaching the end of another cycle, and welcoming the darkest (at least in the Northern hemisphere) part of the year. 2017 was a bit of a doozy. I have yet to connect with anyone who called it easy. It’s been a year that’s stretched us to our limits in almost every sense. It’s been demanding, and sometimes relentless. Also, it doesn’t seem like it shows any signs of stopping.


Then what can we do to welcome these times rather than try to get them over and done with, or wiggle away from them? Talking about staying present is merry indeed, but when the present is painful (even though every spiritual teacher will swear up and down that in the present moment is only the bliss of the Self, as long as we are in the shitty anti-chamber to the absolute present known as the relative present, equanimity is not always available) how can we be with it?


There are those who would say that there’s nothing out there. No Donald Trump (yippee!), no sex scandals, no predators, just a bunch of mirrors. The outside is just a reflection of the inside.


When we recognize that we are moving toward something – whether it be toward a goal, toward happiness, or simply evolving as a human being – and we identify that as something beneficial, something that we want, we can see the shadow as a gift. It shows us exactly where we are not able to move forward, not able to say yes. If I want health, but find myself eating foods and behaving in ways that I know bring strain to my body, instead of seeing this as a reason to become dejected and consider it a loss, I can look at it as really valuable information. Whatever force that caused that to happen comes from me. Actually, believe it or not, it is a force which is trying to protect me, to make sure that I won’t repeat a painful event from the past which would bring me in contact with a wound that is still open within me.


All logic and reason would tell me to stay away from that wound, its painful and festering and best left alone. And that’s what we do; we spend our lives protecting this core of pain...but as long as it remains unhealed our growth is limited; we can only go so far, develop so much. When we start to strangle ourselves at the end of our leash and want to be free of our constraints, the force returns, pulling us back, keeping our range stunted, keeping us in fear, in doubt, insecure about our own abilities, and as a result, frustrated and cranky.


The natural response to this feeling of being held back is almost always blame. There is something that doesn’t let me fly, doesn’t let me be myself. I am being controlled. And this is true, but the reality is that this something is me. There is something in me that I don’t know, something that works in opposition to what I consciously am working toward. As long as that something remains unnamed and in darkness it will wield a great power over my life. I have no chance of understanding something that I don’t know is there. As long as I am unconscious I will think that this force lives outside of me; it’s the stupid architecture of life, it’s the patriarchy (no, but seriously – down with the patriarchy), it’s my mom, it’s my ex, it’s the weather…


Right now, the shadow is rattling the windows and thumping on the doors and will not be ignored. The invitation is to let it in. Sit it next to the fire, and have a talk, because this force has information which your conscious mind does not. It has the ability to show you, right now, in practical terms, where it hurts – where the wound in you is unhealed and needs care.


Whatever it is that is triggering you the most right now, be it your own behavior or the goings-on in politics, it makes no difference, it’s all yours – there’s nothing out there – breathe it in, look it in the eyes and ask it what it has for you. What is it that you aren’t seeing? What is it that you think is coming from outside? How are you keeping yourself small? How are you keeping yourself unhappy? And why? The shadow’s movement in the world is always of destruction, of tearing down, brick by brick, exactly what you were trying to build, but it is not punishment and it is not fate. This seeming self-destruction is an old friend that you hired a long time ago to keep you safe.


From what? What kind of monsters do we believe in? That if we let someone close to us we will get hurt? That if we try we will find out that we are incapable? That life is unfair and cruel and it’s better to stay on the sidelines? That the only joy available to me is fleeting, so I might as well do what feels good and forget the long term?


We have an unprecedented opportunity right now to find out the answers to these questions. To find out what we are afraid of, and to use that information to get closer to the truth of who we are. You in?

Photo: Morbid Anatomy