Friday, October 18, 2013

Me and My Shadow

While I was on my last full day in Ireland, we had a small Vision Quest, where we walked the grounds of the retreat center, being open to all it had to tell us. I had my phone with me, which functioned as my camera, and I wanted to capture a few pictures.

The sun was behind me, and on the trail my full shadow was cast before me. As I was at the beginning of my quest, it occurred to me that I was chasing my shadow – or, at the very least, allowing my shadow to lead the way as I moved into this.

Shadow is the part of us that we don't want to own – the needs and fears that keep us from being fully ourselves – and not because of themselves, but because of our denial that they exist. “That's not me” - and so they wind up having power over us because we don't want to admit they are there.

And yet, it is in opening to the shadows of ourselves that we are made whole. Each shadow is a lesson for us to learn, a pool for us to drink from, a teacher to sit at the feet of.

The real 12-step program should be for our need for perfection. It seems to me that is the root of all our apparent brokenness. The only reason I feel the need to self-medicate – be it liquor or drugs or food or shopping or sex or work or whatever – is because I don't “measure up” to a standard of perfection that I myself built up with input from parents, family members, teachers, other kids, spiritual leaders.

All of that input about right and wrong, pleasing and irritating, cool and uncool, good and bad, gave my mind a project to work on: “How to become perfect.” And, all of the bad, irritating and uncool things – even though they were some of the most authentic parts of myself – became relegated to Shadow and left to fend for themselves.

Someone once said our faults or flaws are only our good traits carried to an extreme – and they only go to an extreme out of a desire to be seen and heard – out of a need for love.

So the shadow carries within it all the natural and authentic parts of myself that someone else judged as wrong, and they grow there, calling me to attend to them, own them, love them, so that I might reaffirm my wholeness, reintegrate the Truth of me.

So, beginning m Vision Quest by following my shadow was truly the wisest thing I could have possibly done!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Musings on the Train

Skimming through the fog on the train, the green countryside rolling past me - Trees barren of leaves stretching naked fingers to the sky - and slivers of streams meandering under the trestles. If only there were no telephone wires, I could imagine myself in some bygone day that included trains but no information connectors - only streams and birds and silvery sky and the forlorn sound of the train keening its way across the land.
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Euphemisms of modern times: We’ve made it against the law to be poor and without shelter - a Dickensian kind of world - behind the warehouse is a stencilled sign “No Camping” It makes it all sound so homey and sweet - as though people would be gathering together to make S’mores. “No Camping” When I am homeless and seeking shelter from the rain and cold I don’t think of it as camping. Neither do you, I think - It is just that the only way you can cope with the horror of that reality is to call it something it is not, so you can somehow justify living with the truth of it.
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I am inexorably drawn to curb-less streets, where grass encroaches on the asphalt, and new asphalt has seared the grass and this dance has gone on for so many years that the boundaries are blurred - There is nothing to trip over - nothing to stop the flow in either direction. I think of children playing together and people mingling and walking and visiting and pure energy flowing. There is something good and honest and real about a street with no curbs. There is a clear understanding that while man seeks to tame nature, nature inevitably has the last say.
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I look out the window and am inspired. I pick up the pen and the notebook, and I write... the sensuality of feeling the pen in my hand - the glide of the ink across the page, the touch of the paper under my fingers. I pick up the magazine and fold it in a way that is comfortable for me to hold, and as I read something I want to come back to, I fold the corner over, giving the page a ‘dog-ear.’  I love the touch of these things and out the corner of my eye, everyone else is tapping away on a plastic keyboard. I don’t want to make anyone wrong - it just seems more and more we are disconnected - playing with plastic instead of the page. It all works eventually and I am grateful to have access to both. The sun is out and I am glad.
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Sitting in Wilfs. I always thought I’d like to try this place, but I am usually on my way to the airport from here. What a disparate group of road-weary Amtrak travelers - we are at the Amtrak Station, so I imagine the bulk of their day business consists of train travelers. Dark place with high ceilings, wainscoting and a large window at each end. It speaks of an elegance of days gone by, and is still a nice place. I am sipping a mimosa and waiting for my hamburger steak and salad, while nibbling on an amazing onion and walnut bread and listening to incredible jazz play. I am grateful.