Calm and Center?
It’s been said that nothing within us goes away until it’s taught us what we need to know. As I’ve pondered this pithy statement, I’ve looked at learning in a way that’s taken me decades to see. Do you remember the times you needed to learn something and the difficulty you had learning it? One of the difficulties I noticed for myself is that learning, deep inner learning, takes time to sink in. Sometimes we have to experience learning events repeatedly to allow them to go cellular, to become part of us.
I remember training a horse that only had unfriendly experiences with humans. I bought the horse because he was beautiful and spirited. It took me two years of training to win the friendly game with him. Toward the end of the training it occurred to me that as I was teaching him, he was teaching me. I was teaching him that humans could be trusted and he was teaching me patience. Each time we failed each other I had to stop, drop my agendas, calm and center within, then patiently continue the friendly game.
This time with ‘Midnight’ taught me about my shadow self, the impatient opposite of the cool calm and collected persona I liked to project out into the world. His persona was fearful of people, vehicles, sudden noises and movements because he was raised in the wild. His shadow, an opposite, was a loving heart that wanted relations with humans but found it difficult because of his life experience. Together we made a great team once we recognized what was going on in the light and dark sides of our selves.
I may be anthropomorphizing Midnight, but after the two years of our engagement he and I became best friends and his external blackness and my external whiteness revealed our opposites to each other and ourselves. I’m wondering how we humans do this shadow dance with one another without even realizing it. How many of us have personas that want to be friendly with others not knowing it’s a defense mechanism and also have a shadow self that wants to judge, condemn and punish others? The opposite of this dynamic is also true; covering the friendly with scorn, hostility and fear.
The point here is that all of us have a persona, that shiny part of ourselves we show the world to cover our fear, guilt and anger. We also carry the opposite shadow self we try to hide, repress and deny. To repress is to bury the unwanted in our unconscious while to suppress is to hold it tentatively in our consciousness. Remember the last time you lashed in out to fight or recoiled to take flight? Both ways of dealing with this split need awareness and require calm, centering and transcending our shadow while including and maturing it. Our task is a wholistic presence. It’s a both/and not an either/or.
Carl Jung called this process ‘Individuation’ which first showed up in his book Psychological Types originally published in 1921. The individuation process is the core of his teaching. It was followed with an expanded concept of ‘wholeness’ by Erich Neumann’s book called Depth Psychology and a New Ethic published in German 1949 and English 1969. The most recent investigation in English is by Paul Levy titled Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil, 2013 which takes Jung’s understandings of our individual/collective shadow and psychic blindness to a whole new level.
For today, let us simply be aware of both the conscious and unconscious parts of our psyche. Let us view them as inseparable in the multidimensional stream of psychic energy which unceasingly flows through all dimensions of individuals and the collective. Here we can begin to know, in our not knowing, that we are inextricably bound together as parts of the Whole. Remember David Bohm’s scientific insight that the Cosmos is Holographic: The Whole is greater than the sum of its parts and each part contains the Whole. . . . . . . .Marinate in this mystery. . . . It’s Life changing. . . .
- As you reflect on this teaching, allow yourself to look at what you allow the world to see of you and what you hide, repress and deny which is your shadow. Become aware of the how you might bring this shadow more clearly into view to transcend it, include it and mature it through conscious awareness.
- When you notice your shadow coming out in dysfunctional ways; stop, look, listen and add more love to these repressed and suppressed parts of you. Bring Lovingkindness to these castaways. It will help you become more integrally aligned with the Whole.
- When faced with ‘difficult‘ situations in your life, calm and center from the inside. From this calmness and centeredness, cradle the rejected parts and discover the power in this calming, centering and cradling. Extend love for the least of these in yourself and others. Notice the gradual change that can and will take place. Love is the healing.