Shadows and Light

Edvard Munch woodcut Toward the Forest

When we remember that the world around us is a reflection of the world within us, every cloud becomes a message, every person becomes a teacher, every experience we have becomes vitalized with power and purpose.

There’s been a cosmic dance-battle between light and shadow in the skies of late (two eclipses in the past month and other challenging astrological phenomena). Perhaps you’ve witnessed this playing out in your life somehow. Perhaps the shiny happy parts of yourself have lost a skirmish or two to those uglier, messier parts you’d rather not admit are yours.

In A Little Book on the Human Shadow, poet and essayist Robert Bly likens our psyche’s shadow to a bag we begin to fill in childhood with all the bits of ourself that bring us shame. A parent says you’re chunky and that gets tossed in the bag. A schoolmate calls you a sissy so you toss in your femme bits. We keep these bits tucked away for so long that, as we become adults, we no longer recognize them as our own. But we feel the weight of something holding us down, keeping us small, so in order to unburden ourself we unconsciously hurl these bits back out into the world, we project them onto others around us, we see a plus-sized lady or a swishy guy and the shame sack buckles a little and we grimace and say Ew, what is wrong with him?! Gross, why does she look like that?!

But when we remember that the world around us is a reflection of the world within us, we pause in those moments that have us so worked up and we begin to recognize ourself in that lady and ourself in that guy and we begin to reclaim all those orphaned bits and we begin to finally, finally get ourself free.

Eclipse season is behind us now and this is Pride Month (heyyy) and yesterday was Juneteenth (yayyy) and today is Sun’sDay and today is Father’s Day and today is the Summer Solstice, that longest, most light-filled day of the year, and there’s a message in all of this, do you feel it? Let’s set down the shame sack for awhile and let’s give all these awkward, broken, uncaring, still learning, still growing bits a chance to soak in some of this loving shine. Let’s say I see you. Let’s say I forgive you. Let’s say Welcome home.

“Toward the Forest” woodcut by Edvard Munch, 1915

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