March 22, 2011 § 6 Comments
This evening, while taking a walk through this gorgeous spring night, I re-listened to Seane Corne’s podcast: Yoga – Meditation in Action. It’s incredibly beautiful and perhaps the best explanation of yoga I have heard. I was especially struck this time around by this:
“To really understand love, to understand what they call the Light, you have to understand the opposite. You have to understand and embrace the Shadow, or what love is not. The Shadow is also considered the Dark. The darkness within us. And that’s the beautiful part, because if it’s in me, it’s also in you. And if I can understand it in me, then I can also understand and recognize it within you without judging it. I will only judge your Shadow if I am judging my own.”
There are so many aspects of myself – of my own Dark Shadow – I want to understand and transform. Many times I feel selfish spending so much energy towards this when it’s so petty and small, but Rolf Gates says, “What you heal in yourself, you heal in the world. And what you heal in the world, you heal in yourself.” So I hold fast to the belief that if I can transform my own darkness into light, then I can help to transform those dark qualities in the world as well.
Words I am drawn to lately include: healing, clean, light, love, surrender, gentle. For a while now, I have been actively intending these qualities and seeking them, but they haven’t really been showing up in my life except for love, which I have in spades from my family and friends. I have been frustrated by the fact that I keep doing the same things I always do, saying the same things I always say, thinking the same thoughts I always think. I have been making baby steps at changing my diet, but not really. I have been toying with joining a running group but I haven’t yet. I have only now, in the last month – after a decade of trying – been making meditation a daily practice. I want my life to mirror my yoga practice but I don’t stay plugged in to that divine hook-up past noon. I forget. I stay solidly human instead of remembering that we are all made of light, that we are really spiritual beings having a human experience instead of the other way around.
Last week, I told Alana at Life After Benjamin that I was doing a 21-Day Challenge and was going to give up wine, chocolate, and dairy products and see what happened (I picked these because these are things I am “attached” to). It’s 6 days in, and it would be an understatement to say that it has been perfect. But I don’t think that is the point. The point I think is to notice what a change in habits brings up in me: Anxiety. Fear. Craving. Aversion. What I learned by doing, is that true freedom requires letting go and letting go is scary. Intense feelings come up but intense feelings are only sensations. And sensations pass. Change is uncomfortable, but by holding our discomfort and breathing through it, the burning pain becomes a cleansing fire. I learned that I will inevitably fall but that I can always begin again.
This small act (which let me be very clear here is not being executed perfectly or even very well) gave me a bit of courage to look into more intense feelings, such as my own Dark Shadow. Bruce, at Privilege of Parenting gave me some guidance lately to look into my own Shadow. He suggested that my fear of raccoons on my morning runs might actually be able to tell me something about my deepest self if I approached it with a sense of curiosity. He told me this a few weeks ago, but I have been too afraid to look very closely until now. The Shadow concept is so obtuse for my linear, analytical mind.
Last night while meditating, I imagined the raccoons and their terrible arched backs, their dirty fur, their sharp, yellow teeth, those beady eyes. Bam. There were those feelings of terror and aversion and extreme distaste. I tried to breathe and not think, to imagine “raccoon” without thinking “raccoon.”
What came into my head was the word Protection. Instantly, I thought of Lindsey’s reference to one of my favorite U2 song’s “Kite” in her post. “You need some protection, the thinner the skin.” Then I thought: Protection? What needs protection? The raccoon? My dark side? Myself? And I reminded myself that I was meditating for crissakes, and I wasn’t supposed to think.
Today, the word Protection has been in my thoughts. I have often been told I am too sensitive. I feel many times as if my skin is on inside out. I am very anxious, I always want to do what I am supposed to do, I am deathly afraid of Doing It Wrong. Many times, I am a doormat, throwing my own needs aside for someone else only because I believe that if I don’t, they won’t like me, that I will be filled with regret and guilt and sadness. And then of course, I suffer, my family suffers, and most people that come into my path suffer when I am in this space. I have no boundaries. Actually, I have no Protection.
Yesterday, on Facebook, my yoga teacher, Jessica – the one who said that if you are going to walk through this world with an open heart, you better have a strong core – posted this:
“I am ready to really “Spring” forth along my path and without apologies or hesitation open up the the full realm of womanhood. There’s a certain fierceness with me right now that has been unfamiliar but I’ve prayed for it to come and balance out the softness of the mother and to support the young one within. Here we go….”
Fierceness. Ah. That word lit a fire within me. Yes. Tonight, listening to Seane Corn’s podcast she said that yoga was “anything but fluff. It’s a fierce journey.”
I keep trying to analyze my shadowy raccoon teacher. I try to understand it, but shadows defy logic. If you turn to look at them, they move, they shift shape and mock our attempts. But somehow, out of my own darkness, I have retrieved two words: Protection and Fierce. All along I have been trying to cultivate Gentle and Good and Light, but these qualities cannot survive without protection or ferocity.
Tonight as I was walking, I stopped to touch the buds on the trees. For a month now, I have been watching them through a snowstorm, sleet, rain, grey skies, and cold temperatures. They stayed closed, refusing to yield, safe under their tough shell. Only now, when it is safe, have they come out, gentle and soft. I think of the raccoon who stood on her hind legs in front of me a month ago in the snow, who refused to let me pass, while I stood, my heart pounding and breath steaming in the cold air. “Maybe she was protecting her babies,” my husband said at the time.
I am grateful to Bruce for his gentle guidance and wisdom and to all those who have stopped by here. Each comment is full of grace and wisdom. I am so grateful to this glorious spring. After a decade in California I forget what a reprieve it is, what a gorgeous rebirth it is, what a celebration of color and light. And I think now I may also be grateful to the Dark Shadow, what I try constantly to cover up. Perhaps it was only trying to give me its own dark wisdom. Maybe it was only trying to give me what I needed all along.
March 21, 2011 § 4 Comments
I love this whole blog space. There is so much love and wisdom here. There are also free things, which I didn’t see coming. On Alana’s beautiful blog, “Life After Benjamin,” I won a cool parenting book (yay!) without even knowing I was in a contest. And Bruce, from Privilege of Parenting has been giving me free therapy for a while now in the form of insightful comments on my posts. I was born in the early 70’s, and for my generation, therapy in our twenties was pretty much de rigueur. We grew up in some interesting times (Tailhook! The Challenger! Geraldine Ferraro!). But that is another post entirely.
Bruce’s brand of therapy totally eclipses the “how do you feel” therapy of the 90’s and instead, focuses on the Soul, capital S. On a recent post I wrote about my almost debilitating fear of raccoons. Bruce replied that the raccoon might represent my Shadow Self, that if I listen quietly, that masked animal might be able to tell me the wishes of my deepest self, that the Shadow Self (my raccoon) is a creature “of the transitional time between darkness and light. Jung talks about the importance of “living our animal” and that seems to be on your plate…”
Suddenly, Bruce’s words helped me to understand the concept of Jung’s shadow self more than anything else I had studied. I tried reading books on the shadow by Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson and Deepak Chopra, even Carl Jung himself, but they all left me confused. Why should I embrace my shadow? Why should I love it? Shouldn’t I just try to change all of the things I don’t like about myself?
However, when I thought of my shadow self as a raccoon – scrappy, clever, tenacious, aggressive – I felt a bit differently about all of these qualities that I usually try to hide and cover up. Live our animal. Perhaps, like Bruce said, the qualities I try to keep in the dark aren’t meant to be hidden. Maybe, if I expose them to light, they might even serve as guideposts. Maybe it was time to step out of the darkness and into the shadows.
After all, what is early spring if not a time of shadows? You breathe huge sighs of relief during a warm day and then you get sucker-punched with a snow storm. The buds are visible on trees but stay closed, tight-fisted and adamant in their refusal to unfurl and awaken. The flowers try to break through the soil, but it seems to take forever. It’s all just a waiting game, demanding huge heaps of patience.
Last weekend, on my way to yet another insane trail race, I sipped my Earl Grey and turned on NPR. Krista Tippett’s “On Being” was on and she was interviewing Seane Corn, the famous yoga teacher. At first I was dubious. After Rodney Yee had an affair and left his wife and kids for another yoga teacher, I have not been big on yoga celebrities. So I know nothing about Seane Corn except she started a pretty cool program called “Off the Mat and Into the World.”
I kept listening, and what did Seane Corn talk about? You guessed it: the Shadow Self. I can’t do it justice in a blog, so I highly advise you to download the podcast (free!) and give it a whirl. Seane spoke about the fact that she is an unlikely yoga teacher. She came from a blue-collar family. She is not well-educated. She was molested as a young child. But for her, yoga was a way out of the pain. It was a way into the light and a way to guide others into that light as well. What struck me the most was when she said that we don’t have a good life in spite of our Shadow Self, but because of it. Seane said that she is grateful now for the abuse and shame and suffering she went through because the darkness was transformative.
I found that level of gratitude amazing. I have always thought that rough times are to be endured, not exalted. I have always thought that we are who we are in spite of our Shadow, not because of it. George Sheehan, who wrote beautiful books on running maintained that he was his best self when he was a good animal. Live our animal. Anima: the archetype of the unconscious mind.
Is there an animal the represents your Shadow Self? If so, is it trying to tell you something? What discoveries await in your own Shadow? I would love to continue the discussion!