FINDING REFUGE IN THE SHADE
As the temperatures heat up outside, we find ourselves scrambling to keep cool! What is your method? Do you . . .
* Go to a cool movie theater or restaurant?
* Escape to cooler climate?
* Stay in the swimming pool?
* Refuse to get into your car while the sun was up?
Or, I like these two ideas:
* How about ordering a snow cone with no syrup and putting it down your shirt?
OR my favorite . . .
* Loiter in front of your grocer's dairy case? When asked to move along, you insist you are looking for organic, lactose-free yogurt produced by free-range goats born and raised in the Grecian lowlands. Should you be handed such a yogurt, you say, "Did I say Grecian? My mistake. I meant Slavic lowlands."
Whatever our responses to the physical heat are, this month, we are looking at the idea of staying cool in the middle of the heat metaphorically. In other words, how do we keep our cool - our spiritual cool -- when our lives heat up?
When the sun is high in the sky and the thermostat is rising, another way to keep cool is to find refuge in the shade.
When life heats up, we might also take refuge in, or revert to, the internal place in the shade - otherwise known as our shadow side.
The term "shadow" was first used by Carl Jung to describe the repressed or denied part of the Self. Robert Bly popularized this idea in his work entitled A Little Book on the Human Shadow. In it, Bly said that we are each born into a "360-degree personality."a
As infants we expressed the full breadth of our human nature, all 360-degrees, without editing or censoring. As we grew up, however, we learned that certain slices of our 360-degree pie were unacceptable to the people around us. Maybe we were shamed for crying or punished for being angry. Maybe we were ridiculed for wanting attention or acting proud of ourselves. So, we learned to repress those slices of our pie; the ones that got us hurt.
According to Bly, it was as if we threw these unacceptable qualities over our shoulder into a bag, which we've been dragging around behind us ever since.
Now, I know in New Thought circles, we might not like to talk about this aspect of ourselves, about what's in the bag, but it is important to gain an understanding of it so that the radiant light of our True Self can shine in all kinds of weather. And so that we can impact the collective -- which we can. And that is what I want us to do today.
I realize this can sound pretty heavy, so I'm wondering who knew what you were getting into - that this would be our topic today -- when you arrived this morning? And you came anyway, good for you! Way to be brave, really, really brave! I am knowing that your bravery will absolutely have a big pay off!
And those of you who didn't know what you were getting into, but are brave enough to stay, the pay off will be there for you as well!
Let's begin this exploration with a short passage from Dark Matters: Discovering Wholeness in the Shadows, by Unity minister Lauri Boyd: "Our culture teaches us to fear the experience of the dark, especially that inner darkness that is our shadow self. In fact, we have grown so afraid over the years that we have . . . built an imaginary wall between us and the darkness. We have developed rituals and psychologies and religions and pills to distract us from the darkness. We have focused on the light seeking to eliminate the darkness. . . . And yet, in the end, the darkness is always there with us . . . , waiting."b
Now you may be mentally stepping back in protest right about now. Wait, you say. Don't we learn here at Castro Valley Unity that we are beings of Light, only Light. That we are all expressions of the Divine - whole, complete and perfect just as we are? That there really is no darkness, only light.
I have said those very words often, haven't I? And, yes, they are totally and completely true. We are all expressions of the Divine - whole, complete and perfect just as we are. There is no darkness, only light.
In ABSOLUTE REALITY, these words are absolutely true. Absolute Reality is reality as experienced from the perspective of Infinite Oneness. It is capital "R" Reality. In this capital "R" Reality, there is only Oneness, and we are One with that Oneness. In the Absolute, we are indeed pure expressions of God, radiant, whole, perfect and complete all the time. There is only God. There is only Good. There is only Light.
Fillmore wrote in Atom Smashing Power: "Jesus unfolded the consciousness of the Absolute. Through the quickening of the spirit we are loosed from all limiting ideas and are set free in the Christ consciousness or realization of the Absolute. The consciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is of limitless life, strength power, wisdom, love and substance that are everywhere present, always present."c
So, it is absolutely true that in the Absolute, there is no shadow, there is no darkness, there is only Light!
And, then there is the relative. Relative reality (lower case "r') is the reality as experienced from the perspective of our human existence. This is reality as experienced through our five senses, through our conditioned responses. It is processed through our human reasoning and governed by our limited human consciousness.
In the Absolute, our experience is Oneness.
In the relative, however, we experience two-ness, which isn't real (really!), but it sure seems like it! We experience up and down, love and fear, joy and sorrow, good and bad, happiness and sadness, peace and anger, light and dark.
We spiritual beings having this human experience get to live in both of these realities - the Absolute and the relative.
So let's be clear. Very, very clear. The Absolute Truth of our Being is that we are expressions of Infinite Oneness made manifest - made in the image and likeness of God - whole, perfect and complete, all the time. We are the Light.
And on this human journey, we experience the false illusion of separation. We experience the down, the fear, the sorrow, the sadness, the bad, the anger, the dark. We have all those things Robert Bly said we've thrown over our shoulder into a bag and which we've been dragging around behind us trying not to look at. And that bag has created quite a shadow.
The challenge is it doesn't stay just behind us. It can seep out and overshadow us in little ways - like being cross with our partners or in huge ways like Russia meddling in our elections.
And, it is this, I believe, that is at the forefront of humanity right now, in a big, way to heal. And it can only be healed individually . . . and it has to start with us.
Now that we have established the difference between the Absolute and the relative, I want to read the same passage from Dark Matters: Discovering Wholeness in the Shadows, again, but continue beyond where I stopped before: "Our culture teaches us to fear the experience of the dark, especially that inner darkness that is our shadow self. In fact, we have grown so afraid over the years that we have . . . built an imaginary wall between us and the darkness. We have developed rituals and psychologies and religions and pills to distract us from the darkness. We have focused on the light seeking to eliminate the darkness. . . . And yet, in the end, the darkness is always there with us . . . , waiting. However, if we learn to step through that fear, there is another possibility - another road, less traveled. On this road, we learn to accept the darkness, to engage it in dialogue and to use it as a tool for our spiritual growth. On this road, we learn that darkness is not the enemy of light, but simply the other half of light. We learn that our goal is not light, but wholeness. We learn that true spiritual wholeness is not a denial of the dark side of ourselves but rather an embracing of both our inner light and our inner darkness into an integrated, healthy, transcendent whole."d
There is a parable that the Master Teacher Jesus shared that is relevant to us this morning. It's called the Parable of the Leaven from Matthew 13:33. Jesus said: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."e
If we put that parable in the context of our spiritual journey as being a journey to focus only on the light and to suppress the dark, we might think that Jesus meant that the leaven is the light of God ("The kingdom of heaven is like leaven" he said) and the flour is our darkness. When we bring the light of God to the darkness, we experience heaven. Ok, that's good. I like that. But is there more here?
Let's remember something within the context of the time. Jesus was Jewish and he practiced the Jewish culture. Leaven wasn't viewed as a necessarily good thing. In fact, during the Passover season, for several days before the Passover festival, people were required to remove all leaven from the house. They did this in remembrance of their escape from Egypt when they fled in such a hurry they could only make unleavened bread for their journey.
So leaven might not actually represent the light of God. It, in fact, might represent just the opposite. What then? If we view it in the context of spirituality as a quest for wholeness, perhaps the parable is guiding us, encouraging us to accept, reclaim and even integrate those parts of ourselves that we have labeled impure or unacceptable - the leaven.
It suggests that those parts of ourselves can even be the catalyst that enables to us to experience heaven when we integrate it into our daily lives (the flour).
So, how do we do that? Well, Ernest Holmes tells us straight up in The Science of Mind: "Since we cannot contract the Absolute we shall have to expand the relative."f
And we expand the relative by accepting that we are some part of the Divine and we must allow love to overcome our fear.
Holmes says: "Love alone can overcome fear. The soul must make a complete surrender of itself to the Spirit."
If we surrender to the light of Love and bring it to the places in us that we think are in the shadow, we return to wholeness and what is that but living in the Absolute!
There is a story of a young man named Manuelo who came to visit America from a very, very small community in the hills of a third world country. Everything in the U.S. was new and wonderful -- elevators, telephones, television sets, fire engines, electric lights. He had never seen these things before and was in a state of awe and wonder.
When the time came to go back, he wanted to carry something from America to show to his hillside neighbors to let them know the wonders of this great country. Most things were too big or too expensive, but there was one thing that was cheap and small and very wonderful. So he went to the hardware store and bought a paper bag full of light bulbs, sockets for the bulbs with switches to turn the lights on and off and wires for hanging them.
Home again with his friends in the hillside village, he was bursting with his happy secret. He busily prepared his surprise. He went through all the rooms hanging bulbs, sockets and wires. When they wanted to know what they were, he merely said, "Just wait till dark, and you will see." When the sun went down, he went around pressing each switch. When nothing happened he was puzzled, disappointed and dejected.
Poor Manuelo. No one had told him about electricity. He did not know that light bulbs were nothing but glass and wire unless they were connected with the lines through which the power traveled from the power plant.
He wasn't aware of the concept of electricity, he wasn't aware of the source of light. But we are!
Brene Brown in Daring Greatly wrote: "Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."g
So, I wonder if this morning, we are brave enough to explore the darkness just a bit by engaging in a dialogue with what we perceive to be an aspect of our darkness.
If so, come with me. First, close your eyes. Next, exhale, emptying your lungs and then take a deep, slow inhale, filling your lungs. Continue with the deep, slow exhales and inhales as you walk with me in the woods. You find yourself walking on a path in the woods. It's a sunny day, but under the trees it is cool and shady. You feel a slight breeze on your skin. You smell the scent of pine and hear the leaves crackle under your feet as you walk. All is quiet and peaceful. You hear the birds singing and you notice with delight a squirrel darting through the trees.
You walk along and eventually you come to a small clearing and in this clearing there is a small house. It looks sweet and friendly. You walk up to the house and you knock on the door. The door opens and a person is standing there. You greet each other, and after a moment, you invite this person to come outside and sit with you in the cool shade to talk. As you are walking to the bench, you realize this is an aspect of your shadow shelf. But unlike before, you're not afraid of it; you don't want to run away or ignore it. In fact, you are intrigued by it, you have some empathy and compassion for it and you actually want to engage in a dialog with it.
And so you sit down on a bench, and after you are both settled in comfortably, you look the person in the eyes and simply ask, "What purpose do you serve?" And now listen silently as the person speaks. Listen with not only your ears wide open, but with your heart open as well.
When they have finished, ask, "What do you need from me"?" Again, just listen with both your ears and your heart.
Then you ask, "What gift do you have for me today?" And when he or she has answered, you are grateful, very grateful, for this gift.
As you stand to leave, you ask if they would like to come with you. And you know either way is ok - whether they return with you or they go back into the house, it's fine.
And you walk back into the forest and return along the same cool shady path noticing the birds, the crunch of the leaves beneath your feet and the cool breeze under the shade of the trees feeling a deep, new connection to the Absolute, to your integrated, healthy, transcendent wholeness, ready to be the True Light that you are.h
aRobert Bly A Little Book on the Human Shadow
bDark Matters: Discovering Wholeness in the Shadows, Lauri Boyd, p. 12
cCharles Fillmore Atom Smashing Power, p. 43
dDark Matters: Discovering Wholeness in the Shadows, Lauri Boyd
fErnest Holmes The Science of Mind, p. 405
gBrene Brown Daring Greatly p. 60
hadapted from p. 15 of Dark Matter by Lauri Boyd