Ever so slowly, Autumn is arriving here in the Northern hemisphere.
The leaves, although still green, have started to fall from the maple in my yard. Soon it will be ablaze with leaves of yellow, orange, and red so dense it makes you stop and stare.
It is a season of fire, death, and burial.
What we lay down now, on all levels, can rest, be returned to the Earth, and find a re-birth in the future. What we let go of now can feed what is to come.
I have, in the past few weeks, come face to face with my Shadow. Again.
The Shadow is the part of ourself that we don’t like.
That we don’t let anyone else see.
That we often don’t let ourselves see.
The Shadow holds our doubts and fears.
Also our greed, lust, and anger. Hatred.
The Shadow holds our shame and secrets and cravings.
It shows itself in the most inopportune times.
And calls to us in the dark: you are not good.
Recently, my actions (and therefore, I) have been held up in front of the mirror of the Shadow to see my
It has been a painful few weeks.
I have been brought to the fire of reckoning: who am I in the darkest parts of myself?
The Shadow and Her Truths
I grew up in a very diverse part of the world. Lots of people from lots of different places. Lots of skin colors. Lots of cultures. Lots of food (yum). Lots of languages. To me, sitting in an auditorium with many types of people feels normal.
And yet, as the race riots in Ferguson became heated (pretty damn hot right from the start, actually) I was reminded of all the ways in which I still value and use my White Privilege. All the ways in which I was not doing anything to help because I was white and not sure if I should step in to do anything. Trained as a social worker, I didn’t want to disempower anyone by offering help or power from my position of privilege.
Because I didn’t step in, even from such a geographic distance, I was still being racist.
Dark Shadow, right inside me.
Although I grew up in an ethnically diverse place, I didn’t grow up with a lot of socio-economic diversity. Middle class we were. For miles in every direction.
To this day, poor people scare me and rich people make me angry.
I feel powerless among both groups.
My feelings of isolation and misunderstanding give way to hateful actions.
And down the Shadow list we go.
I often think women are better than men. In almost every way.
I bias towards the feminine and female ways of doing things.
I made a thoughtless comment on Facebook about how well the gay dudes at the airport were dressed (everyone else looked like a schlub). It wasn’t exactly supportive or celebratory.
Someone called me on it.
Hello, dark side.
Greed, lust, and anger. I’m just getting to see these three up close.
I put them way back inside me. So far into the dark.
“I am not greedy.
I am not lustful.
I am not angry. Well, not too much.”
And then he said something and I wanted to rip his head off verbally. I would have clawed someone to death, I was so angry.
Didn’t know that was in there.
And then I open the door on them.
Start to look around.
I’ll be damned.
I’m quite angry.
I’ve got rivers of lust flowing inside my body.
And I Want It All. Fuck you. It’s mine.
I look at all this and, suddenly, the Shadow ignites the image I have of myself.
Like a tree with green leaves, suddenly set on fire by the Autumn changing.
Heat. Light. Gone.
All of this opening to my Shadow side, and the accompanying loss of self-image, reminds me of the Goddess Kali.
She is the Goddess of Death and Rebirth.
Many hands full of bodiless heads.
A necklace of skulls.
Fire in her eyes and mouth.
She is fearsome.
She decimates whatever is before her.
No stone untouched.
No stalk left standing.
No ego image un-burned.
You are left with nothing.
Who you thought you were is gone.
Kali leaves nothing but scorched Earth.
Ashes Nourish the Next Growth
One of the worst feelings on the path of spiritual development is when you say to yourself, “Shit. I’ve come all this way and I don’t know a god-damn thing about myself.”
You feel like the biggest dupe ever.
Only, it’s at your own hand.
But when I get to that point (and I’ve had this happen more than a few times), I know: whatever in me has been burned is not the truth anyhow.
Kali only stopped her killing when Lord Shiva lay himself under her foot.
She noticed him, quite surprised, and immediately quit her killing spree.
That which was ultimate, true, and wise could not be destroyed.
That which is ultimate, true, and wise in me cannot be destroyed.
These remain. Only what is untrue can be burned away.
And what is untrue is burned away to reveal more truth. If we let it.
Like farmland, the ashes of what has been destroyed can nourish the ground for what is to come.
When I come face to face with my racism, my sexism, my lust and greed, it burns down my idea of who I am.
But in the fallow state, when the ground is ashes and nothing appears to be happening on the surface, the seeds for growth can be planted deep within.
I can examine the last pieces of my racism and then begin to change my thoughts and actions.
I can explore my feminine-bias and also get curious about masculinity and its finer qualities.
I might point my lust in a different direction and let it fuel something positive (like lusting after a house, perhaps).
In this way Kali begins the re-birth process.
The tree is leafless in winter, gathering its energy for Spring.
And then it unfurls its new leaves when the work is done.
Facing the Shadow can makes us better people. At the very least, we can come to know ourselves better by engaging with the Shadow aspects of ourselves (even if we don’t do anything about them).
If we dare to work with this side though, we can expect big changes.
Death. To who we thought we were.
Fallowness. To let go, explore, and choose.
Re-birth. Into the clearer, ultimate part of who we really are.
It is a fiery process. But I know it to be incredibly valuable.