Archives for category: the shadow

“Embrace the suck!” We used to say that to each other in the Army during miserable all day training exercises.  These training excursions were always accompanied by temps in the 30’s and 40’s and steady perpetual rain. Carrying heavy loads of equipment while playing war games in the cold rain actually became funny to us.  No, it was hilarious.  Beyond absurd.  Obviously, we forced ourselves into another state of mind.  It was a state of acceptance.  It was wrapped in crude humor and sarcasm, but it was acceptance nonetheless.

The closer we got to the discomfort, the less control it had on us.  We were free.  Free to crack jokes, laugh, tear down walls.  We really had no choice.  It was either be miserable fighting the inevitable, or laugh and cut loose while dealing with the inevitable.

Embracing the dark

It’s interesting when I notice just how much time and energy we seem to spend trying to be happy. Trying to make it look like things are always “ok”.  Trying to maintain control and not break.  I’ve enjoyed reading several blogs in the past few days that have talked about being alright with allowing our dark to come into the light more in our lives.

What happens if we allow some more dark to come through?  What if people knew that we aren’t always ok all of the time?  What if happy isn’t our default after all?  What if we allow the hard times to do what they do and not try and spend so much energy denying the inevitable?

(Here’s an older and slightly related post where I wrote about projecting the ideal self on Facebook and social media)

Honesty is a virtue.  People value it.  That and candor.  We’d be foolish to think that others don’t value those things when we let it come through in ourselves.



Dealing with emotions is probably the most difficult balancing act that we experience in our lives.  When we spend too much time and effort avoiding emotions, we are in denial.  When we spend too much time trying to fight them, we are angry and resentful.  When we exert too much energy taking advantage of the power and leverage these feelings can bring us, we become stuck and blind to the situation we are creating for ourselves.   To embrace the paradox that feeling pain, releases pain, such that there is a freedom in sitting with our emotions, is to allow a greater awareness of the whole self to be seen. 

I wanted to share this insightful blog post that I read this morning from Fractal Enlightenment.


Emotions are an inevitable part of the human experience. They can have us on top of the world or in the depths of despair, but if nothing else, they remind us that we are alive. Usually, “good” emotions are welcomed with open arms into our life experience, while perceived “bad” emotions are avoided at all costs. People use anything from drugs & alcohol to denial to avoidance to blame, all just to protect themselves from having to feel anything.

Very often we are given the advice to just, “think positive”, “be happy” or “stay optimistic” when we are experiencing hard to deal with emotions. While this advice may sound wonderful in theory, (because, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to just be happy and upbeat ALL the time?) it may not always be the healthiest option. In order to successfully move through a tough emotion, the emotion itself must be not only acknowledged but actually FELT.

How ironic. The one thing that people try to duck, dive and avoid at all costs (feeling the emotion) is the one thing that will set them free and resolve it. Denying the emotion is happening will keep it bubbling just under the surface, while observing it without judgement and feeling it to completion will actually make it subside…


The link to the whole post is below.

I found this very accurate.  Going inward is hard work but the payoff is well worth it.  I guess when you meet your “soulmate” that’s pretty much their job.  Making you face yourself for your own growth.

From Ram Dass:

“What you have found from your past relationships is that what you are attracted to in a person isn’t what you ultimately live with. After the honeymoon is over — it’s after the desire systems that were dormant in the relationship that have the attraction in it pass and all of it passes — then you are left with the work to do. And it’s the same work. When you trade in one partner for another, you still have the same work. You’re going to have to do it sooner or later when the pizzazz is over. And it just keeps going over. And you can’t milk the romanticism of relationship too long as you become more conscious. It’s more interesting than that. It really is. And people want to romanticize their lives all the time. It’s part of the culture. But the awakening process starts to show you the emptiness of that forum. And you start to go for something deeper. You start to go to meet another human being in truth. And truth is scary. Truth has bad breath at times; truth is boring; truth burns the food; truth is all the stuff. Truth has anger; truth has all of it. And you stay in it and you keep working with it and your keep opening to it and you keep deepening it. Every time you trade in a partner, you realize that there’s no good or bad about it. I’m not talking good or bad about this.

But you begin to see how you keep coming to the same place in relationships, and then you tend to stop because it gets too heavy – because your identity gets threatened too much. For the relationship to move to the next level of truth requires an opening and a vulnerability that you’re not quite ready to make. And so you entrench, you retrench, you pull back and then you start to judge and push away and then you move to the next one. And then you have the rush of the openness and then the same thing starts to happen. And so you keep saying “Where am I going to find the one when this doesn’t happen?” And it will only happen when it doesn’t happen in you. When you start to take and watch the stuff and get quiet enough inside yourself, so you can take that process as it’s happening and start to work with it. And keep coming back to living truth in yourself or the other person even though it’s scary and hard.”

~Ram Dass

How do we begin to understand others, when it can be difficult to understand ourselves?  Why is it that we insist that we have the answers for those around us when we too struggle to change?  People can seem to annoy us, piss us off, and cause us pain.   We say “if they would just change, our life would be better”.  We might suggest “if our co-workers would start acting like they should our job and workday would be easier”.  It’s common for us to say that if our partners would change, our marriage, or relationship, would be better.   We plead to our kids that if they would just simply listen to us, we’d worry less and they’d “obviously be better off because we know better”.   Being able to relate and show compassion to others brings more understanding, and better grounds for communication in our relationships.  Understanding and compassion helps us grow and it brings ourselves the peace we seek.

The path to peace and finding the common ground ALWAYS begins with us.   Even if the other person takes the first step towards change or making amends, WE STILL have to be the receiver of those amends. In essence, we still have to be the one to initiate peace for ourselves because that is the ultimate goal.  Since peace is experienced within, we have to allow this understanding, peace, and compassion to be allowed within.  Simply waiting for others to change is actually an act of pride and resentment, not a motion towards resolution.

We all have biases, we all have judgments, we all have a need to serve our egos and feel validation.   This is human.  Is it possible we can work through these aspects of self so we can find more contentment and more peace?


The next time you are feeling a need to tell someone how they should be, or what they should do, remind yourself of your own life struggles.  It’s possible that simple changes for you may not be so simple for them.   Maybe you can reflect on some form of behavior in your life you are attempting to stop.  Your task would be to cease that behavior immediately.  Now at this moment of awareness…never do this thing you are trying to change again.  (It’s not that simple, right?) Maybe in doing this you are reminded how difficult change is for you.   Maybe you become aware of some resentment towards yourself because of your inability to change.  Maybe your capacity for empathy and compassion increases when you take time to reflect on the concept of shared struggle.   We all can relate to difficulty, pain, and struggle.  Though, our paths are different, we all experience struggle as we navigate life and seek change.

The peace we are ultimately seeking comes in the change we make for ourselves, not the changes we are encouraging others to make.  Increasing our sense of awareness of seeing ourselves in others, as well as others in ourselves, can go a long way in making the change that we may seek.  These changes we seek in our lives that were once viewed as out of our control are now attainable because we recognize the responsibility we have to make them ourselves.

I found the following sitting on the copy machine where I work the other day.  I thought I’d share it.


Paradox of Noise

It is a paradox that we encounter so much internal noise when we first try and sit in silence.  It is a paradox that experiencing pain releases pain.

It is a paradox that keeping still can lead us so fully into life and being.

Our minds do not like paradoxes.  We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety.  Certainty breeds tremendous smugness.

We each possess a deeper level of being, however, which loves a paradox.  It knows that summer is already growing like a seed in the depth of winter.  It knows that the moment we are born, we begin to die.  It knows that all life shimmers, in shades of becoming–that shadow and light are always together, the visible mingled with the invisible.

When we sit in stillness we are profoundly active.  Keeping silent, we hear the roar of existence.  Through our willingness to be the one we are, we become one with everything.

Gunilla Norris


We’ve all done it at some point.  We go against our better intuition in making a decision whether it’s casual or of serious importance.  We look back with regret on what we “should have” or “shouldn’t have” done.  We’ll say things to ourselves such as “I had a feeling” or “I knew this would happen”.  Is it good to reflect back with 20/20 hindsight only to condemn ourselves for our “mistakes”?  Probably not.  However, it might be a good thing to take a closer look at why we often shut down our sense of intuition deferring to the “safer” option, the socially accepted one, or even the “easier” one.

Why don’t we trust ourselves more often?  What makes us search for that answer or guidance that seems to always be outside of us?  Why do we defer to someone, or something else, as if they are the expert?  Is there safety in knowing that there is a higher source of knowledge and intuition separate from ourselves?  If we stay within the “norm” maybe we won’t feel embarrassment or shame.  Maybe subconsciously we go away from ourselves thinking there will always be that “savior” to rescue us.  Or maybe by looking outside ourselves we can blame someone, or something, else when it all goes wrong.

The proof that we have the ability to discern our own best interests using our insight can be easily seen, if we choose to look for it.  For example, when we go to the doctor maybe we have that “gut feeling” that says he/she is wrong about our ailment only to find out that we were right when we get that second medical opinion.  Maybe it’s seen in the relationship that ended a year or two after our “gut” told us this wasn’t the right person.  The examples are endless for anyone, it would seem.

Whatever the scenario, the fact remains that we are the sole expert, decider, and master of our destiny.   It doesn’t matter what credentials, experiences, or expertise another individual possesses, we still have to decide what we do with that information or influence from that other person.  There is no doctor, professional, politician, media celebrity, athlete, or anyone that knows us better than us.  The reason is being is that they are human too.  They have their own struggles, lessons, and experiences to navigate.  If someone else is trying to master their own lives, how can they possibly master ours?

There is no experience or answer that is outside of us that we don’t first have to accept as truth.  There is nothing that will make us healthier, smarter, or a “better” person without us allowing that to happen first.  It all starts inside.  However, there is nothing more liberating or terrifying than knowing we have the power, and the responsibility, to shape our lives.   It’s the catalyst for growth, change, and the truth.  It all starts here.


(Preface:  Communication and relationship issues with partner, spouses, or even friends and family can be very complex.  This blog might highlight what is a small portion of what goes into various aspects of why we argue with certain people or in certain situations.)

For those people with kids, imagine this common scenario.  You’ve got a ton of things to get done and your child is upset or in a bad mood.  Whatever it is that is bothering them is  drawing you away from what it is you are doing.  Do you react by yelling back at them or do you show them compassion as you understand that 2 year old’s can be moody? We know that the solution exists in understanding our child, not yelling at them.  The solution is not on the same level as the problem.  We rise above the problem to see what is really going on because we are invested in the outcome, not the conflict itself.  We have the ability to see that conflict is not a part of the solution.

When we are dealing with adults, most likely in relationships, our pride and our “need to be right” reflex gets involved.   Anytime we are involved in an argument, we have choices to deal with it in rational ways and in emotional ways.  Rational thinking tells us that we all have faults, we’re all human, and that we all have bouts of irrational behavior.  Emotional based, or reactionary, thinking tends to assign blame, fuel conflict, protect ego and pride, and looks to be “right”.  Many times an argument tends to end up with two people on an emotional level projecting their emotions on the other.  Neither are actually listening, they are simply thinking of their next response.  The reason that we don’t do this with kids is that we understand children lack a level of insight and communication skills.  Our error in thinking when dealing with each other as adults, is to ignore or forget that we all have character defects and shortcomings that we bring to the interaction.  It’s easier to assume the other person is negligent, as opposed to acknowledging their simple faults.


Just like children, we as adults may not know how to deal with certain situations, react to them in a constructive way, or we may not possess certain ways of communication.  I can think of several times leading a group where men talk about how they did not learn how to express themselves because their father was physically or emotionally absent.  Coping skills do not necessarily come about simply through maturing with age. We can still keep in mind, that while someone may not have a certain communication skill, it is still their responsibility to seek their own self-improvement.

Patience and understanding of self and others will go a long way in improving how we effectively deal with others and relationships.  When in an argument or conflict, we need to ask ourselves “are we seeking a solution or resolution?”  or are “we wanting to be right?”.  Chronic problems, such as reiterated resentments, rehashed grudges, and avoidance of responsibility can perpetuate because they are kept in place using the same methods of communicating.  Solutions and resolutions only exist on a level higher than the problem.


So what can we do?  We should start in identifying our own limitations allowing ourselves to become aware of what we are doing that isn’t serving us.  We can’t feel guilty about what we find, though.  Remember we all have things to work on.  This allows us to develop a greater capacity to understand and accept others.  Simply put, we all have room to give ourselves and others more understanding, love, and compassion.  Maybe it makes sense to start there.