Healing the Shadow, Standing for the Light

We must find balance between looking externally and looking within. As activists, we must engage with legitimate and trusted information about what is unfolding in the US, and support the action that needs to happen to make it clear to the powers-that-be that we will NOT stand aside and watch the dissolution of all that our ancestors have given their lives to create: a free, just, and open society where all have the capacity to thrive. But it is easy to become caught up in the tidal wave of information, and subsequent emotional response. Many of us feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and confused about the path forward. And indeed, there is no clear path forward – as in all times of great change and upheaval, there is no map that has been predetermined for us, we must courageously live into it, finding our way by the deep knowing in our bones that has been inscribed there by all those who have come before us. It is now up to us to lead the way.

And while outward action is absolutely essential, it is also very important for us to continue exploring the shadows we carry within. In this interconnected web of life, no part and no event is separate from the whole, and we must come to understand how we have been a part of the unfolding. We must collectively name and explore the shadows of the greater spirituality community in order to allow our continued awakening and growth, and we must courageously work with what we discover there.
One major shadow we have held is the stance of detachment from engaging in worldly things, and our subsequent judgment of those things, whether blatant or more passive:
“I don’t get involved with politics. Both sides are flawed, negative, limited, sell-outs, evil, etc.” It’s true: both sides ARE flawed, negative, limited, etc. And there is a strong desire to move beyond the ongoing tendency to take sides, as we come to understand the reality of unity consciousness. In addition, as people on a path of awakening, we work so hard to clear the layers of conditioning that have kept us trapped in religious, cultural, and familial ideologies that no longer fit our vision of the world we want to create. In this journey of awakening, we are also called to reconnect with FEELING on all levels – physically, emotionally, and empathically – and as we become more open, our sensitivity to the harshness of the political world leaves so many of us overwhelmed. And so, the tendency has been to detach, dissociate, medicate, ignore, judge, and pretend that it just isn’t there. These responses are fully understandable, all ways of saying “this is all TOO much, I can’t handle it!” But these responses are also ultimately disempowering, and deprive the world of our perspective and participation in making much needed changes.
Another key shadow element is in our belief that prayer and meditation are enough:
“The mind creates all reality, and so I will be most effective in making change by sitting here on my cushion and practicing meditation and prayer.” There is nothing untrue about this statement, and prayer and meditation are absolutely essential in any religious or spiritual path. Taking the time to connect with ourselves, become centered, detach from the thoughtstream, clear tension, breathe, and listen deeply are all the ground from which we become the most effective in ALL that we do. So, yes, we must continue these things, and reinvest in them every day. But there is a tendency among spiritual people to believe that prayer and meditation will take care of the whole thing. I’d observe that this is a combination of feeling powerless, lack of knowledge of the systems at play, strong judgment against these systems because of the harm they cause, and general cultural apathy and laziness. And in wanting to walk the higher road, when faced with such a mess, it’s much easier to want to retreat into the inner cave, where things make sense, and we feel so much more at home. It is unquestionably true that the mind is a key participant in the creation of reality. But at this time, we must step out of the cave and engage with the systems, as apathy keeps us from fully embracing our most skillful capacity of appropriate action. This reminds me of a parable that is always a good reminder:
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A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
 
A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
 
A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
 
All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”
 
“Yes you did my child” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”
 
~ Unknown Author
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Those of us living in the US or from the US, or somehow connected to this country, are facing many external challenges as the administration of our country is attempting to dismantle all that we have come to hold as our values. It has been easy in the past to simply assume that some things were fairly stable, requiring little from us: basic human rights protections, the continued evolution from ignorance to knowledge, the reliance upon trusted facts and information as the basis of legislation, an underlying commitment to increasingly greater justice for all, protection of basic freedoms for all people so long as they cause no harm, and a progressively more peaceful and mutual relationship with other nations in this world. Now, these things are all on the chopping block, facing either full dismantling, or unskillful surgery by people with little knowledge, understanding, or care. Love, integrity, compassion, and justice are no longer a given among the powers-that-be, and the short and long term effects of these actions will radiate outward in ways that we can only begin to imagine. As people devoted to living in alignment with spiritual principles, in awakening ourselves to greater consciousness, and healing the wounds that we carry in our minds, hearts, and souls, we simply cannot continue on a path of disengagement. All the hours in prayer and meditation, all the healing work, all the trainings that we have taken, all the self-inquiry work that we have done, all the spiritual and self-help books we have read – all of these things have prepared us for THIS! All these years of disengaging from mainstream culture in order to find a deeper and more meaningful approach to living? It’s all been leading us to this very moment, where we must finally stand together in mindful, direct, powerful, and loving action.
So, where do we go from here? Here are some ideas:
1) Ask yourself what is needed most right now. What skills, gifts, and knowledge do you personally have that can help to meet that need?
2) Spend some time getting to know the structure of the government of the US, so that you are better equipped to make sense of the information we are receiving.
3) Get clear on the difference between legitimate news sources and incendiary and opinion-driven ones. Choose your sources of information critically and carefully.
4) Consider what will support you best in finding balance and dealing with overwhelm.
5) Get to know your own community better. Not only the spiritual community, but the community at large. Who are your leaders, and what do they stand for? How can you be more involved?
6) Remember to unplug regularly. Do grounding things that keep you present in your own body. Walking, time with nature, etc.
7) Gather with like-minded community in order to have the bigger conversation of “what can we do?” Consider how you can bring your skills, gifts, and knowledge together with others in leading this movement of positive and lasting change.
8) Embrace the idea that *nothing* is separate from the spiritual path. Activism can be rooted in spirituality. Politics can be rooted in spirituality. Protest can be rooted in spirituality. This is the ultimate test of integration, and walking our talk!!
There is a beautiful union taking place. The union of heart and mind. The union of meditation and action. The union of personal practice and collective engagement. The union of intention and active participation. The union of our ancestors and ourselves, intersecting in a time of the great change that we must now usher in together. If we want a more just world we must create it. If want equality for all beings we must create it. If we want to ensure justice, we must create it. If we want to protect the land, water, and skies, we must stand for that. Ultimately, at the heart of this great change is the shift in perspective from “them” to “us.” We have spent far, far too long waiting for someone else to make things happen: from praying to God/Goddess and waiting for it to happen, from expecting other people to do it for us, we have finally come to the end of the line. There is no one else who can do this, WE must now claim our full responsibility in the unfolding of the world we have been envisioning for a lifetime. Together with each other *and* the divine forces in the universe, WE are the ones. No more waiting. You. Me. Now.
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