A Blog about Shadows, the unconscious patterns of belief and behavior that block access to my authentic, sacred masculine self

The very best use of life

...is to transform to the awakened state. Next best is to develop qualities. Next best and skillful use of life is gaining deep connection to capable mentor who promises to hold you and care for you even after your passing. The least useful is to say you are a Christian or a Buddhist and expect that to save you!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Shadow in “The Spirit of Christmas”

I woke up this morning, as I have been waking up lately without my alarm, at 6:48 am. As I didn’t have to be anywhere else because of the holiday and since my son finally moved out of the house last January and would not arrive home until mid-afternoon, I simply snuggled myself back under the covers and snoozed until about 8:15. I went to check on my wife, Carol, who was busily wrapping gifts and then came to my computer desk to check email and wondered if I might have a shadow to share on the topic of Christmas. As I have repeatedly said in this blog, shadow can be found anywhere I look outside of myself wherein I experience an emotional charge either of attraction or revulsion, so I ventured to think that this might be especially so around the season of Christmas.

One shadow I think many of us might consider regarding Christmas is found in the story of old Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Here is a crotchety old geezer who considers Christmas a “humbug” a fraud, if you will, yet this is not a shadow in and of itself as it is certainly not hidden and quite open for all to see. I see the shadow here in what is hidden, that of a man once filled with love and openness, hurt by the uncertainties of life and now riddled with the pain of the unfulfilled promise of his youth as he approaches the twilight of his years.

So what does this have to do with my own shadow around the Spirit of Christmas? In the story of Scrooge, I remember how much I loathed the figure of Scrooge and never quite understood how the little boy, Tiny Tim, could overlook all that was tragic in life, even his own infirmities, and yet be able to wish God’s blessings on everyone. How often have I wished ill on someone who I believe has caused me harm in some way or equally wished harm for what someone did to another? This is my shadow, for I am Scrooge. Yet there is another shadow in forgetting that I am also Tiny Tim.

In both joy and in sorrow, I wish the blessings of Aliveness on One and All!

Peace and Long Life!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Shadow of "I Can’t Be Vulnerable"

At the age of six, I went into the first grade in a public school named after the little known US President, Millard Filmore. The most lasting impression I have of that school is the smell of the soap we used to wash our hands before lunch. Next to that smell, my greatest lesson of those years in public school was that it was not a good idea to show my vulnerability. What I see as a shadow in this is that the teachers were unable to show their vulnerability either and I believe those teachers exerted their authority over us in order to not expose their own vulnerabilities to their students. Seeing this shadow in myself has allowed me to look back at the whole experience of growing up as a series of events designed to program me and all the rest of my peers to learn the most important lesson to become a functional adult in American society which is that I must never be vulnerable, or at least I must do my upmost to hide it from others by learning to hide it from myself. The question arises that if I can now see my education for what it really was and the impact it had on me to this day, can I forgive them for what they did? The answer is moot if I look at the fact that I now see it for what it was, it no longer has to have the same power over me that it has, all this time. I get to simply experience the aliveness that comes from this shadow now exposed to the light of day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Shadow of Having Compassion for All Beings

Tenzin Gyatso, better known as His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, the 14th Reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, travels the world to ask only that we show compassion for our fellow human beings and for all other beings, sentient or not. I see a shadow in this and I believe that this shadow is that I often forget to have compassion for myself and as a result of this common human frailty, I often express the lack of compassion for myself, that full expression of wholeness and completeness in myself as a lack of compassion for others. I believe that each time I recognize a lack of compassion for another, I have the opportunity to recommit to my experience of wholeness in myself with that, to express compassion with myself and with all other beings, whether they be human, animal, vegetable, or mineral, including my mother earth. It sounds simple enough and it really is that simple. The difficulty is in catching myself not experiencing my wholeness which shows up as not being compassionate for myself and for others. It is in that catching myself in the act that I have the opportunity to retify my “missing the mark” by cleaning up any messes I made while I was not noticing my wholeness. It is in the catching of myself and in cleaning up the messes I create in the state of non-wholeness that I believe puts me on an even par with His Holiness himself.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Shadow of “Why would anyone waste my time like that?”

I believe that shadow is like karma. What I do to another is bound to come back to me as an annoyance that I get to look at as shadow. Being at choice at this is certainly a very difficult position to put myself in as it involves what I do for part of my income stream, that is, delivering flowers. On one particular day recently, I was given an arrangenent to deliver to a customer that was sent by another person in the household. The mailing address given was correct, however, the actual physical address was accessible on another street entirely and I wasted about a half hour trying to find my way to the house to find no one home and had to redeliver the flowers later that afternoon. Since the information could have been provided when the order was made by the person who actually knew this very vital information from the start, I wondered what they were thinking when they didn’t provide the information in the first place and had nothing to say to me when I told them about it when I finally completed the delivery.

Now why would anyone take the time to make my life unworkable for even a little while by withholding specific knowledge that I judge was crucial to the success of the delivery and would have been so easy to provide? The next questions I must ask, in taking a stand for a likely shadow here are “Where have I been out of integrity with any withheld vital information from another in my life” and “Is there anyway I can clean up the mess I made by doing that?”

In answering that first question I realize that most of my life has been about saving face and being accepted, two shadows of mine that have led me to lie by omission or commission to protect me from damaging my reputation. Each time I have done that I have added another piece of baggage to carry with me which over a lifetime has shown up in my body and which almost made me an invalid seven months ago.

To answer the second question I must simply say that to make my life more whole and workable and to have greater aliveness as a result, I simply have to realize that in order to embrace this shadow all that I can really do now to clean things up is to notice when I am out of integrity and to perform little acts of service to people by letting my genius direct me. As an example, the other day, as I finished my deliveries for the day, I noticed a credit card lying on the ground. I quickly got the idea that information about the cardholder might be on file at the pharmacy next door to the florist shop so I took it there straight away and sure enough, the cardholder was a long time customer. The woman I spoke with at the pharmacy wanted to know who I was and I said “I’m David and I work next door.” The very next day I received a $20 tip from the cardholder. I guess I saved the cardholder a lot of time and worry by doing the perfect thing. It made my day, even if I hadn’t received a penny for my service. Still it’s nice to receive a gift of the heart like that.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Shadow of “Being Stuck”

It’s been several weeks since I posted my last blog and I have been so stuck in being stuck that I finally realized perhaps I should write about this. I have been involved in other creative outlets such as putting in a new storm door and doing other winterization projects as well as rekindling my other passion, my art of collage and assemblage, and now I sit here writing with a light snowfall going on outside. While I am not a fan of getting out of bed to dress by the furnace on these cold mornings, there is a certain delight in sitting down to a hot cup of tea and putting out my current thoughts on the white computer screen.

So what does all of this have to do with the shadow of “being stuck?” What I have realized in describing the two sides of getting up on a cold morning is that in being stuck on the things I don’t relish , I have also kept myself from experiencing my aliveness and with it, the subtle joys of the way it is.

This is the essence of aliveness, this experience of being at choice with the way things are and the way things aren’t. With aliveness comes the natural state of being, which I believe is happiness, the happiness in just being alive.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Shadow of “Thinking That I Know”

Have you ever known someone who you just want to avoid like the plague because they not only seem to know it all, they probably also believe that they do,and that seems to turn you off to them, in some way?  A recent encounter into this shadow happened with a customer to whom I was delivering flowers.  Shortly after I had left her house to return to the store I received a call from an associate telling me to go back to retreive the flowers because the customer said the flowers were wilted.  I returned to her house and in retreiving the flowers, which seemed fine to me, she told me that she had her own rose bushes and “she knew roses.”  I conceded and took the flowers back and when I was returning from her house, I was thinking about how there might be a shadow whenever I think that I know something that someone might not know and still make them wrong for it by making myself right. Once I realized the opportunity to be a witness to the this moment in the car, that is to take myself outside of any emotional, rational, or other such attachments to this situation, I got to see the woman as me.
So how does thinking that I know become shadow?  If I am wanting to be right about something, by my focus, I can no longer be in the present moment, to just be alive with the person with whom I am sharing the air, time and place. Instead I am stuck in my story about the other person thinking that he knows, and therefore I can’t experience any aliveness in the person or in myself, for that matter. In fact, all I have is story and as I have recounted before, story, like understanding, is the booby prize.
Noticing this once again, I can choose aliveness over righteousness, and with that choice, everyone gets to win. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Shadow of "Having Life Figured Out"

I was sitting in the laundromat waiting for my clothes to dry and I was thinking about a friend of mine who I had just been talking to on the phone about his current unworkable situation in his life where he seems only focused on his most significant relationship rather than how he feels about it's unworkability.  Soon after I hung-up and still waiting for the spin cycles to finish on my machines, suddenly, I was thinking that he had not been hearing me when I invited him to look at his pain instead of focusing on the current and apparent source of his pain, which is what I suspect he is carrying as shadow of having life “all figured out” from about the age of nine, and this current situation has nothing to do with what happened “back in the day.”

“So what does that have to do with me,” I asked myself?  “Now that I think about it, I still have my own life figured out, all the way back to the age of maybe, three.”  It shows up everytime I tell myself that what is happening, right this moment, doesn’t jive with what I had thought all those years ago and turned into this shadow of “having life figured out” which is surely a block to my aliveness, again, right this moment.

So, the gift in this particular manifestation of my shadow is that I don’t have to carry on this conversation with my friend in my head, until the old proverbial cows come home.  Instead, I have the opportunity to let it go for now and anticipate that it will come up again in yet another form, but not this time.  And as I have beening saying all along in this blog, aliveness doesn’t ever really happen in space-time or in space or in time, anyway.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Shadow of Unworkability in Relationships

I answered a question on Answerology.com about what I would do if I was a third party to a relationship which involved infidelity, okay, cheating by one of the partners. Would I choose silence or would I intervene in some way, and if I did intervene, how would I do so without trying to hold another accountable, which, as I have spoken before, I really cannot do? That got me thinking about how I have chosen silence over workability in my relationships and then wondered what went wrong when those relationships all too often broke down.

To me, the question becomes “What causes unworkability in relationships?” Unworkability, I believe, is caused by a lack of trust and safety and that both trust and safety break down when I am not accountable for my actions, in the example of unfaithfulness I mentioned earlier, if I chose to remain silent or chose to blame or shame another into being accountable by making them wrong for it.

So how then do I keep my own integrity in check in this situation? One viable way is by a process we call in the Mankind Project™ as support accountability. In this process, while I cannot make another accountable, I can support another by inviting the other to look at the possibility of an accountability for their actions and with it, the opportunity to clean up the consequences for not keeping their word and for the person to see their own shadow in their lack of integrity, if and when that person chooses to entertain my invitation to do so. In this example of the unfaithful partner, I would speak to the perpetrator, bearing in mind that the perpetrator may or may not have the same grasp of what accountability is and what the impact of having integrity in one’s relationships has on the workability of a relationship when trust and safety are jeopardized by a lie, in this case, by cheating. As third party to this scenario, while I don’t have a same stake in act of cheating as the partner may have, I do have a stake in whether the trust and safety I have with the perpetrator can survive when I choose silence over speaking my truth or if I choose to make any denial of accountability the basis of whether the relationship can remain workable.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Shadow of "Conceptualizing my Experience"

I was engaged the other day in a very animated conversation about shadow with a close friend when this friend replied that he wasn’t working on old shadows anymore, that he was working, rather, on new ones.  The concept of differentiating between old and new shadows had never occurred to me as a concept and I was intrigued by it almost to the level of ludicrousness, which is to say that I wanted to laugh out loud, and didn’t.  As I noticed the level of animation and volume in my voice rise in direct proportion to the rise of my desire to get my point across that there was no such thing as old versus new shadow, that there was only shadow, I realized how much of my life has been lived in conceptualizing experience rather than actually being present to it.  Needless to say, somewhere in the conversation with my friend, I decided I couldn’t go on with the direction of it because I realized that I was still as stuck in the quagmire of my conceptualization of my experience of shadow as he was.  For a brief moment in time I became present to my experience long enough to be able to release the frustration that was animating me so passionately and by that, feeling a sense of freedom in the release of both the energy and the emotional charge that had been fueling the fierceness of my conviction in the first place.

The question arises, then, whether or not I will ever be able to get past this shadow of conceptualizing my experience and the answer is yes, as long as I don’t attempt to transmit the sense of my experience to another human being by conceptualizing it first.  I realize that the only way I can be successful at sharing the experience of my shadow is to create the space to allow others to experience shadow directly, without the wall of conceptualization placed between the person and their experience.
How, then, do I continue to carry out the mission of this blog?  I do so by continuing to revisit my shadows as they come up, to experience those shadows without trying to conceptualize them. Each time the shadow comes up it won’t be an old or new shadow, it will simply be a shadow showing up in a different way from the last. It means that I haven’t seen the last of this shadow of conceptualizing my experience and you can count on me to report on it when it shows up again, next time.  The same is true for all the other shadows I have shared and have yet to share, so far.

The Shadow of “People will say bad things about me”

"You only get to keep what you give away."  -Sheldon Kopp (from If you Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him)

"Being right is the booby-prize!"   -Attributed to Werner Erhard
 I believe that this shadow is as fundamentally shared on one level or another as any that we experience as humans in the present age. After completing the est Training® in 1977, my experience of the Training, if it can truly be put into words, showed me that if I live my life afraid that people will say bad things about me having a life of commitment to greater aliveness, that I am really giving up my life for something that they will do anyway, regardless.  I believe that this is why I am here with you now, trying to explain something that is not explainable, to share something that is really not sharable.  To take a stand for this shadow in myself changes the whole nature of the conversation I’ve been having with myself and others, a conversation where something, somewhere else or some other time, past or future, is more important then right here and right now. When I do that, I trade a life of what really happened (aliveness) for a life of my stories of what I think I remembered as happening and hanging on to being right about what happened to justify my life as it has turned out, at least as to how it turned out so far.

So how has this shadow been showing up for me lately?  To be frank, this shadow shows up every time I sit down at my computer to write this blog, especially when I am coming to the point of actually publishing it. It shows up every time I decide to not stand up for a shadow that is in front of me that I see in someone else.  It shows up whenever I trade the aliveness of who I am and who I am not for what others may think of me. 

With this clarity, I have available to me at any moment to change the conversation from my stories to my truth, whenever I choose to do so, and it not only creates power for me, but as I share or attempt to share this aliveness with others, I have a tremendous opportunity to give away this aliveness to others, and we all know that you never really get to have something until you give it away.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Shadow of “I would never throw away an opportunity like that!”

Let me make something clear about shadow. Shadow is not something dark or sinister, like the fictional character Lamont Cranston, as some people might feel. Shadow is simply caused by me standing in front of the light.  In standing in front of the light, I am affirming my aliveness but as with darkness comes the light, so I am affirming that with light comes the shadow. To illustrate how this showed up for me yesterday, I got miffed by a colleague when I asked him if he had an intention for an act of service he was doing this next weekend and he responded that there was nothing for him to set an intention for because there was nothing for him to learn by, as he put it, chopping water and carrying wood. What irked me most by his apparent unwavering attitude was that I felt like he was throwing away an opportunity to see a shadow in this and I got to be right about it until I asked him to mirror my upset by hearing my emotional charge.  As I was spewing out my judgments, then my feelings about what kind of person would do this kind of thing, that is to throw away any opportunity to see shadow, I began to see in my reflection a man who has thrown away untold numbers of opportunities in my own life in order to be righteous about the results I have gotten from doing that. After the judgments and feelings and the projection of my shadow on this man, I finally was able to catch myself in the act of seeing this shadow of  I would never throw away an opportunity like that. By taking ownership, or as I so often put it, by taking a stand for my shadow, I was able to also catch myself in the act of not throwing away an opportunity like that by the very act of seeing the shadow and taking a stand for it. It truly no longer mattered that my colleague got what I was projecting on him around missed opportunities because I got it.  That is one of the blessings when I welcome my shadow instead of trying to hide it behind me.  Instead of settling for being right, I get the real prize, which, of course, is my aliveness and I don't take away from my colleague's aliveness in the process, which I would have done had I simply held on to the charge.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Shadow of “Making Another Accountable”

I saw a question on Answerology.com the other day that asked if white lies were okay. What I took from that question was that the asker was looking for some kind of permission or justification for an act which ,in my judgment, is questionable at the very least, regardless of the circumstances. I even know of people who believe that a lie is only a lie if they get caught in it. The truth is, for me, that any act designed to conceal the truth, by commission or omission, intentional or by mistake, is a lie and to call it white or something else is irrelevant. Now I know that many psychologists argue that sometimes a sugarcoating of the truth to a child might be justified for the emotional well-being of that child, say as in the death of a beloved pet or family member, or for me to, let’s say, tell a friend whose birthday it was that we were going to a restaurant to celebrate when, in fact, I was taking that person to a surprise party instead, this is not the question I am addressing in this article. What I am addressing here is the fact that any choice to lie is not a question of being good or bad, okay or not, it is about standing or not standing in my integrity to be accountable for cleaning up any messes that arise as a result of my actions. This raised the question for me as to whether the question the person is really asking about white lies is really about whether or not that in the telling of the white lie, he or she will be accountable for the consequences of the telling, that is, for cleaning up any messes that arise as a result of their actions. Then answer to that question for me has to be, “only if that person chooses to be accountable.” In the same way, I can’t make white lies okay for another or even for myself, which is to say that I can’t hold another person accountable for their words or deeds, although, in ordinary practice, I might often try to do so as if I could. And while I can’t make white lies okay for me, I can make myself accountable for them.
How then do I resolve this question for the asker? The answer is “I don’t!” There may be agreement in the world that telling a white lie is justifiable in certain instances, such as those I mentioned earlier, but, without accountability after the fact, the world becomes untrustworthy and unworkable, and that to me, can never be justified, for any reason.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Shadow of “I don’t Belong Here”

This last week I have been attending a five-day Conference on Healing and Transformation in Santa Fe, NM where I live. From the moment I was considering attending the conference, the little voice of doubt in the back of my head kept asking “Why should I be doing this?”  I had read through the prospectus and as I am one to consider myself somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to the Age of Aquarius,  and also as I am not a professional counselor or therapist and I wasn’t taking the workshops for  Continuing Education Credits (CEC), I felt panicked by the idea that I may be wasting my time and money on this realm of woo-woo stuff.  When I finally signed up, I faxed my registration with my credit card information on a Friday evening and waited until Monday to call to confirm receipt of my fax.  The person who took my call told me that my fax was nowhere to be found and could I please fax it again and the little voice again was there “Maybe it’s not meant to be!”  I sent the fax again and I received a call later in the day to confirm my registration.  I told a few friends who I believed might be supportive and enthusiastic about my registering for the conference and they too asked why I was doing this and I found myself again with that little voice questioning my decision. I felt sad for the lack of enthusiasm I was feeling from my friends and asked myself “Am I nuts? I really shouldn’t be doing this!”
     When day one finally arrived, I got up a little earlier than I usually do, got dressed and had my usual cereal and banana with rice milk. My plan was to leave with plenty of time to arrive early enough to park and find out where my first workshop was and instead I got on my computer to check my email and do other things until it was almost past time to make it to the conference without breaking a few traffic laws. About two miles from home I couldn’t find my cell phone, so in a panic I raced back home to retrieve it and wondered again, “Why am I doing this?” I finally got to my first workshop and discovered that I was the only participant who was not receiving CEC’s for the workshop. In the next workshop that afternoon, I really felt like I signed up for the wrong workshop as I noticed that I was the only man in a room of about 25-30 women and on top of that, I judged that the chairs were really too close to each other.
     The point of this story is this. Throughout much of my process in attending this conference, I was vaguely aware of my shadow “I don’t belong here!” and I got to watch it show up day after day throughout the conference in a variety of different ways.  Had I not been writing these blogs about aliveness and shadow for the past few months, I would probably not even been awake to the announcement about this conference, nor would I have gone very far beyond the first time that my little voice said “I don’t belong!”  With my aliveness present throughout this conference, I have come away with a clearer sense of purpose in life, which is to heal myself so that I can heal others by sharing my shadows when they show up.  I am grateful to my alive self for giving me this wonderful gift and, in the process, allowing me to share this gift to all with whom I have the opportunity to be alive.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Shadow of Obedience/Compliance

At a site I often visit and contribute answers to questions called Answerology.com, I read a question from a man who asked “As your child grows up at what age do you expect to be able to hold them accountable for their disobedience or wrongs.” Looking at the question as I believe most would do, I would have probably answered the question with something akin to “It depends on the child” until I realized that according to many schools of thought surrounding accountability, including my own, I cannot hold another person accountable, that I can only hold myself accountable. I further believe that accountability is, for the most part, an unteachable quality, like discipline or integrity, yet it is a quality that can be instilled in a person at an early age by providing a safe, non-judgmental space for the person to properly access the consequences of their own behavior. Unfortunately for most of us, the demands of living leave us with little time to make that kind of environment available for our progeny and we surely cannot expect that state-funded public education or even most private or charter schools to have the where-with-all to providing such a safe non-judgmental environment for instilling qualities like accountability to thrive, so that both our child-rearing and educational system are left with relying on obedience and compliance in order to have the time to teach knowledge and skills needed to survive along with providing a meager amount of life-enrichment through activities like music, art and, dare I say, sports. Can all we ever hope for in our children is that they become obedient and compliant to the expectations of the society into which we have chosen to birth them? Here in, I believe, lies my own shadow of obedience/compliance, for I have chosen, for the most part, obedience and compliance over standing for my own accountability and integrity.
I recently spoke about a shadow I called virtue. I raised the question of whether or not virtue is a quality to which it is necessary to aspire if we are present to the idea that we are not separate from each other or from our source that some may call God, for if we really are all one, would we not always be acting in alignment for the highest good even without being able to consciously know what that good is?  Are obedience and compliance virtuous and the only way to prevent lawlessness, unworkability and chaos?  I say no, for I not only believe that I can, but also I believe that I actually do live in a world where integrity is simply the state or condition of being whole and complete and where I am accountable by honoring my word.  What I mean by honoring my word is that if I am unable to keep my word I will communicate as soon as I know I am unable to keep my word to those who are counting on me and I will clean up any messes with those who counted on me that resulted from not keeping my word. From this state of wholeness, I believe that by honoring my word, I create  workability.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Shadow of Virtue

A friend of mine, let’s call him Charles because that is his real name, sent out a two and half page list of questions and as he said at the end of the list, any receiver of the list was free to answer any, all or none of them or even just throw the list into the trash and forget about them and even forget about Charles. This writing is in response to the questions:

What is virtue?
Is it important for a person to be virtuous?

In my own humble opinion, virtue, along with it’s opposite, vice, by their very nature as concepts of the human mind denote a dualistic way of looking at an issue that I believe is predicated on the lie that we all share as human beings, a lie that tells us that we are separated from each other and from the source of all there is and the source of who we are, which some may call the divine source or God. I believe that virtue carries with it the subjective idea of something good to do, have, or be and therefore subject to the judgment of human beings. In the Judeo-Christian world-view, the story of the casting out of humanity from the garden of Eden because of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, I see metaphorically to mean that human suffering is the result of our mind seeing things dualistically, as in either/or, yes/no, heaven/hell, and of course good/bad. What it says to me that all suffering as human beings comes from seeing the world only from this dualistic view. Awakening to the realization that we are, in fact, all one and connected has made it possible for me to see and know myself as part of the connected whole and when I reawaken to this reality, to act in a “virtuous” manner becomes superfluous and meaningless because if we are all truly one, then what I do to another is what I do to myself and why would I do unto myself anything that was not aligned to the highest good of all?” In that level of reality, it would be impossible to do otherwise.
The major problem with this point of view is that our brain is hardwired to view the world in this dualistic way, for that is its primary function. That is also why it is often so hard for us to look outside of this box to see the world holistically rather than just the sum of its opposites. It is the reason why we must speak of such a thing as virtue as well as its opposite vice for we are left with being able to perceive the world of form only because of this mechanism of discernment we are given and while the mechanism serves well to ensure the survival of our piece, our body, personality and the mechanism itself, when we take a step outside of our identity with our piece, only then do we remember the fundamental truth about ourselves, that we are all connected and we are all one. In that level of realization even the two polar opposites of light and shadow do not exist, just as in the Biblical void before the creation of form.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Shadow of Hero Worship

“Happy is the country which requires no heroes.” -Bertolt Brecht

“If you have a hero, look again; You have diminished yourself in some way.” -Sheldon Kopp (from If you Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him)

"A fixed idea ends in madness or heroism." -Victor Hugo

During the presidential campaign of 2008 last fall, I returned to a habit I had put away some years ago, which was to watch the nightly National news broadcast, although unlike the earlier time, I could record the broadcast to view at my own leisure. Like most everyone else in this country, it seems I was caught up in the fervor of the possibility of electing the first African-American President of the United States, a man whose rhetoric touched my soul, a man who spoke of “people who just didn’t get it” and promising to show us a new way of doing business in government. I continued this habit for many months after the election and inauguration to see how our new “hero” was going to get the job done. Then one day in June and for a week or so afterward, the news was devoted to the death and life of another hero for many, a hero not of production, like a President or leader of industry, but a hero of consumption, a musician and dancer. I was struck by the irony of how much I was drawn into the drama of his death as everyone else who had the time to stop their day to listen. Soon afterward, my new “old” habit became old once more. It seems that, once again, I was letting the news cloud my own sense of worthiness.
On my page “How I Stopped Waiting for my Prince to Come”, I speak of how we are waiting to see if our leaders will come to our rescue and “pull a proverbial rabbit out of the hat” with regard to the economy, healthcare and the myriad of other fearsome things that has taken over our sense of who we think we are. We seem to have moved beyond looking at our leaders as mere role models by making them into heroes and, in so doing, setting ourselves up for the eventual disappointment when our leaders don’t live up to the expectations we have put upon them by making them heroes? I have heard this already in the press and on untold internet sites about how much President Obama is no different that any other politician. I hear people upset because their once future President has yet to deliver on his campaign promises and has been co-opted by the powers that really are running the show. What I am hearing is that our “hero” has let us down, once again. This is the shadow of hero worship, where I abdicate my own power to happiness and self-determination by putting my life in the hands of heroes. It is where I am fixed on an idea or a person to the point of worshiping that idea or person as unfailing and infallible. When I am fixed on something outside of myself, where then, am I?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Shadow of “I’m Awake and You’re Not”

I remember way back when actor-comedian Chevy Chase was the original anchor for Saturday Night Live News and he would always begin his news with “Good evening, I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.” It sounded then and still sounds funny today because I see a fundamental truth behind it that has to to with the shadow of “I’m Awake and You’re Not.” During interactions with people who seem to be responding to me like some preprogrammed automaton, its hard for me to notice that my reaction to their behavior might just be as automatic as they appear to me. My reaction is activated or reactivated, as the case might be, to think that the person to whom I’m reacting appears to be a barrier to getting what I want and therefore can’t or won’t listen to me and to the degree I am committed to getting what I want in the way I want to get it, the person across from me will appear to be exactly as committed to an equal degree to thwarting my intention. After an exasperated exchange between myself and the other, I tell myself that interacting with this person is like interacting with a brick wall and this person,(bless their heart, it’s really not their fault,) is simply acting like a mindless robot because they are not awake, like me.
The truth is that I have moments when I am simply not present to myself or present to others around me. In those moments I am as much the automaton that I accuse others of behaving as I try to reclaim myself by making others wrong. This is the essence of the slumber I am constantly lulled into by my own thoughts and feelings, when I forget that the truth is I can stop the world around me, if and when I choose, and simply notice that I am noticing that I am noticing. It may sound strange to describe this phenomenon in this way, and it is what is so about being awake and present to the moment. What about those times when I am in the throes of my automatic thinking and behavior and I am unable to even begin to become present to myself? Is it possible to simply stop myself in the middle of the whirlwind and become one with it, and in so doing, simply become present, to find myself awake? I can’t answer for anyone else, and for myself I can say that it is always possible, when I remember.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Shadow of Emotional Superiority

As a man, I often hide behind a mask of emotional superiority to women by claiming that women are moody, overly emotional, needy and childlike. Curiously enough, I also recognize that women will claim the same thing about me and other men. The fact is, at times, we as human beings are ALL like that, regardless of gender and as long as we persist in putting it all “out there” rather than taking a stand for it in ourselves, gender differences are held in place and we get to be stuck in a quagmire of sexism. The problem I see with claiming superiority to another is that I get to be right about myself only by making others wrong. I get the “booby prize” of righteousness at the cost of my own and another’s “aliveness.” I get to be superior to women only by making them inferior to me.
I ask the question, how did I get “the mask”? I also answer my own question by saying “I have always had the mask and I will always have it to hide behind. By recognizing that I have this mask, this “shadow”, I always know that anytime I choose, I can choose to not hide behind my mask and to be authentic and alive instead, including being moody, overly emotional, needy and childlike, in other words, to just be myself. And when I let myself be human, I can allow others to be just as human as I am.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Shadow of Taking Things Too Personally

A co-worker of mine the other day appeared to be on edge about just about everything in her life, especially about how she felt she was being treated at work. I found myself at odds with her because I just thought that she was taking the actions of our boss, who I believe is trying to be equitable in her dealings with me and my co-workers in this slumped economy, so I just decided that she was being a bitch and was taking it all too personally. I also decided that she simply could not be trusted and that I had best avoid her whenever I could. This afternoon, I needed to follow her over to drop off a car to her mom and I was to bring her back to the store. What a wonderful opportunity to let her talk and me to just listen on the way back. I got to see my own shadow about taking things personally, that is, allowing myself to be vulnerable to my feelings of inadequacy and not being appreciated for getting the job done consciously and making connections with people rather than just doing the job “for the money.” I got to see into my past how I created so much suppressed anger and resentment around this issue of not feeling appreciation from others, while at the same time not appreciating myself for who I am rather than what someone else might think of me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Shadow of Murderous Rage

It has been awhile since I remember feeling this quite so intensely, but the other day I experienced the feeling of murderous rage towards a person I know who I perceive to show strong signs of a pathological disorder, in other words, a very sick woman. While at one moment she will sit slumped over in slumber, her body limp, (she claims to be diabetic), she will awaken as a person who cannot listen to what anyone says to her without interupting or ordering to stop, that she can’t listen because she is too tired and then in the next moment, trash the person sitting next to her who is trying to show some support for her with the energy of a zealot. Having this wanton urge to choke the life out of her or to wish her dead is not something I consider acceptable to feel, yet here I was feeling just that. I have taught and practice in my own shadow work that the place to look for my own shadow is by looking where I hold a charge for another, a charge that could be either of revulsion or attraction. Here I was, in a state of terrible sadness, one way I know I use to cover up my rage, feeling helpless with the realization that there might be as equal a possibility that either this woman was a psychopath or I was, and at that moment I knew that there was only one viable option, another being one with far more terrible consequences, that as I was the one who was even considering the possibility of my own madness, I chose simply to leave. Another person might simply call this an act of healthy disengagement and leave it at that, I see it as something more. While I consider myself a pacifist, I have often fantasized being the victim of a violent home invasion, and imaging having a cache of weapons at my command or the skill of a Black Belt to repulse the invasion like a Chuck Norris or a Teminator. I often slough off this fantasy quickly but here I am, this time and a day later, still feeling vulnerable and unable yet to shake my own feelings of rage and helplessness. This is the essense of shadow work, the entertaining of the possibility that what we see, we are, and it does not feel comfortable. And what of the woman? Does my realization of my shadow let her off the hook for her behavior. I think not, for whether her psychosis is real or imagined, the consequenses of her behavior are hers to account for, regardless of her intentions, as my reactions to her behavior are mine.