“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.” ~C. G. Jung
I’ve spent years trying to ignore and/or outrun my shadow, but all that has done has made me considerably less good that I want to be—or imagine myself to be, in many cases. The times I got glimpses of my shadow were horrifying to me because what I saw was so ugly and because I was convinced that there was nothing I could do to change it.
Over the last few months, I’ve stopped running and started trying to face my shadow to see what is really in there. Being able to look at my shadow as a curious observer has not made it pleasant viewing by any means, but it has made me able to take a long, hard look without being driven to despair. I’m discovering that being more conscious of my shadow is allowing me to take steps to change the patterns that lead to that place.
I came across a post on Elephant Journal the other day by Ben Ralston titled The reason why most alternative healing doesn’t work: Secondary Gain. As a Reiki Master and general advocate of alternative healing arts, this title immediately caught my eye and generated an immediately indignant response.
However, the post turned out not to be one that was opposed to alternative healing at all. Instead, the author suggests that most of us have something that we gain from our illnesses and problems (known as secondary gains) and that until these gains are addressed, we are unable to heal. In fact, this can be the case for traditional allopathic treatments just as much as it is true for alternative therapies.
“You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don’t have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you’ll stop at the first giant hurdle.” ~George Lucas
I think he’s got the right idea. The path to any dream is filled with hurdles and challenges, and unless I love that dream enough to take whatever risks are necessary to make the dream a reality, I will never make it past the challenges in the way.
My challenge has always been trying to clarify which dreams I love enough to have that kind of passion for following. It seems like those should be easy to identify, but I find that (at least for me) the biggest dreams also seem to provoke the biggest fears. Fear then has this way of masking the dream even from my own view, so I can’t always tell which dreams spark the deepest love in me.
“All wisdom traditions insist upon a healthy mistrust of other people’s answers—or even the revealed experience of others. Yoga, at its truest, insists upon giving us not answers, but a way to find our own answers.” ~Stephen Cope
I love books of all kinds. I love to read them. I love to be surrounded by them. But scattered among the many beloved books in this world, there are those few that touch me so deeply that they absolutely take my breath away. These are the ones that make my heart sing as I find Truth shown in them in ways that help me more deeply recognize it. These are the ones that ignite my soul as I see myself and my world mirrored back to me in ways that allow me to see more clearly and more deeply.
I found another book of this kind in Stephen Cope’s The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living. Continue reading
“Being with joy means being willing to be stretched, to expand to hold it all. With joy, we are stretched to take in the enormity of it all—ourselves, the world, the mystery. And this frightens us. We have been taught that if we have too great a sense of our own largeness, we will lack humility or invite dangerous envy.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I’ve mentioned before that I am participating in a book discussion group of The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. In previous weeks, we have talked about longing, fear and sorrow. As someone who tends to live beneath the surface of life, these are all comfortable, familiar topics to me. While I still have room to grow in my relationship with each one of them, I do have an intimate relationship with each one. I know them. I live and move and have my being in them. I breathe them in and know what it is like to have them permeate my being.
Tonight our topic was joy. For most people I know, this would be an enormous relief after the weighty topics of the last few weeks. For me, the moment I saw the topic, I felt my body tighten in an instinctual preparation for a blow. Continue reading
I came across a blog post on Elephant Journal earlier today that has me feeling very excited. The post was called Why Psychotherapy Alone Doesn’t Really Work by Yogi Michael Boyle. In this post, he claims that because our emotions and memories reside in our limbic system, and our logic, reasoning, and understanding reside in our neocortex, the understanding of our issues that is produced in the neocortical part of our brain is not able to make a difference in the limbic part of our brain to make a lasting change because the two parts of the brain do not communicate well with each other. This is why psychotherapy alone has not always been able to make the kind of progress than many of us have hoped for.
He argues that because the traumas of life become embodied in us, the body needs to be part of the healing process—not just the mind. In fact, he claims that it must be a mind, body, and spirit approach and that the time-tested combination of yoga (as a full philosophical system, not just the physical postures) and ayurveda is the best way to promote healing.
“Always ask yourself, in every situation, whether you’re just repeating an old pattern … or stepping up your game.” ~Marianne Williamson
As the pace of life has slowed for me and the level of stress has diminished over the last weeks, I am noticing that my ability to tap into my inner curious observer-self is increasing. I have finally reached a point where I have slowed and stilled enough that this self-observation is becoming second-nature almost without me realizing it.
I was writing in my journal earlier today about several situations and conversations that had provoked an emotional response from me. As I did so, I found that two phrases kept popping up over and over again.
It is finally the first full day of spring—complete with warm, spring-like weather in this part of the country. With all that I have been through these past few months, it has felt like winter has lasted forever this year. I don’t remember ever being quite this excited to welcome the arrival of spring.
The warmer weather lured me outside after work to spend some time working in the yard and the ponds to prepare for the coming growing season. Signs of new life are all around in the bulbs bursting up out of the ground, the buds swelling of the limbs of trees and shrubs, and (unfortunately) the first algae bloom of the season in the ponds.
In Susan Piver’s book How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening Your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy that I wrote about yesterday, she told a small story about self-hatred that I have not been able to get out of my mind.
She recounts that in 1990 the Dalai Lama met with a group of Westerners and Sharon Salzberg (who is a Buddhist teacher from the US) asked for his advice in dealing with her students that had low self-esteem since this was a common problem that she was encountering. The Dalai Lama was quite confused by this question because he had never heard of such a thing and could not imagine how someone could dislike themselves. There was not even a Tibetan word that corresponded to the concept of self-hatred.
“It Is The Unreal Part Of Us That Breaks… ” ~Robin Rice
The closer I come to breaking as the mound of straws piles up, the more I struggle to even put this journey into words. How do I narrate a journey when there is no more “me” to tell the story?
Everything I try to write sounds to my ears like whining. I am going in circles chasing my tail. I can’t see how my flailing about in confusion and despair could be of any interest or encouragement to anyone who may be on a similar journey through the chrysalis.