The work of reowning our own shadow is essential.For all of us, this work is not pleasant, but it is necessary.Here we are faced with the enormity of our greed, ignorance, shame, grief, and humiliation.In this way we are slowly broken open, and we are humbled.Confronted in such a manner with ourselves, with what we have imagined to be our self, allows us to loosen our grip on our deeply held addiction to separation and specialness.As a consequence, our capacity to feel connected to life, in all its myriad forms, begins to ripen as we arise like the mythical phoenix from the bed of our own ashes.It is possible to go about such work consciously.This look into the basement does not require that our lives fall completely apart.But it need not be this way.There is a middle path.Perhaps we don’t ask for the fall, but when it arrives we commit ourselves to attending to it purposefully.We use it like the wind to clear us out, or like a sail to fill us or set us onto another course or life trajectory.Of course, we are never fully in control of any of this.It simply consoles us when we say such a thing.Yet, rather than denying the truth of his predicament or succumbing to frank cynicism, he is using this feeling to understand himself, his relationships, his limitations, and his practice of medicine.In short, he is using this fall from the throne to feed himself and grow in unexpected ways.Some of the machismo attached to his subspecialty that has soaked and stained his skin over thirty years of training and medical practice is fading.He is a good doctor, and his native color is returning.No doubt something will be lost along the way.Yet our fears, uncertainty, insecurity, helplessness, intuition, and longing for authenticity and brightness are themselves nothing less than guidance along the way.Often, where we hope to find joy we discover grief, where we expect pain we discover gold.Give yourself plenty of room to roam freely in this field.The rules are different here.When was the last time you were invited to play without the pressure of winning or losing breathing down your back?Give yourself the space to look around and learn.Taking your seat, sitting upright and at ease, become aware of the breath.Give yourself the space to enter into the breath, slowly allowing the breath to come to its own rhythm.Aware of bodily sensations, the swing of the breath, the sounds around you, allow the breath to take center stage.Let your awareness of the breath deepen.Notice sounds arising, thoughts arising, emotions arising and passing without the need for censorship.No need to reject any of this.No need to view any of this as a distraction from the awareness of the breath.Simply allowing whatever enters the field of awareness to be lightly touched and let go.No need to hold on to anything.No need to push anything away.No need to censor the mind.Simply sitting with awareness of the breath.Not needing to manipulate anything.Not needing to get anywhere.Simply aware of sensations arising and passing away.Allowing awareness to touch, to penetrate to the deeper levels of sensation without manipulation.Allowing the field of awareness to expand so as to become aware of the arising of thoughts.No need to analyze the content, rather becoming curiously aware of the process, the motion of thoughts, emotions, sounds coming and going, moment by moment.Not needing to grasp.Not needing to push away.Aware of the oscillation, the ebb and flow, the flux we usually identify with as me.Sitting.Noticing the relationship between arising and passing away, the coming and going arising of itself.Thoughts coming and going, events arising and passing within the open spaciousness of the mind.As the story goes, the sons were out hunting and got lost.Unable to find a way out of the wood, they became increasingly thirsty.Then, one by one, each of them went off seeking water.Fergus was the first of the sons to go.After some time he spotted a well and made his way to it, only to find an old woman guarding the source of refreshment.Standing before her, Fergus only commented, That’s the way it is, is it? The horrific lady responded, That’s the very way. He then asked her if she was indeed guarding the well.I am was all she said.He, in turn, asked if he might take away some water, and she obliged him.But first, there was an agreement to be made.He refused outright, vowing in the strongest of terms that he would rather die of thirst than give the lady a kiss, and he turned away.One after another, three more brothers followed the same path as Fergus.Each found the well.Each refused to kiss the woman standing guard.Each vowed to die rather than to make contact with the hideous presence before him.Finally, the fifth brother, the one called Niall, took up the quest.He found the well, met the lady, and upon hearing the terms of the bargain, agreed without hesitation not only to kiss her but also to embrace her.I am Royal Rule.Standing in her fullness and true nature, she bid Niall take his water and go back to his brothers.Before he departed, she bestowed on him a blessing for himself and his children, that they should be graced with the kingdom and the highest of power.To meet the unwanted with kindness and love rather than harsh rejection or abuse.As we begin our journey into the bandaged place, this story offers us much guidance.It asks us to see what is before us.To make deep contact with the unwanted, opening our hearts at our own pace and proceeding with gentleness rather than with the intention to deny, reject, or destroy.As the story suggests, proceeding in any other manner will keep us thirsty, held fast by concepts and ideas, views and opinions, unable to step out into a larger domain of being.There is much grief and sadness connected with living our lives in such a manner.The other brothers were not cursed, demeaned, or punished for their unwillingness to kiss the unwanted.Instead, they simply remained thirsty.Unwilling to embrace the guardian of the well, to face, join, and work with the unwanted within themselves, they received no sustenance.There is more than enough water for all of us.At first, entering the realm of our broken or unwanted places is terrifying.Later on, we may begin to discover, through our willingness to proceed with care, an inexhaustible source of life.See if you can live for a few moments or minutes with things exactly as they are.Notice sensations roiling within your body while allowing yourself to attend to conditioned gesture patterns as they manifest, or the torrent of thoughts and emotions cascading forth when you are confronted face to face with the undesired.When you commit yourself to cultivating such an inner stance, there’s no telling what might happen.Because we are not so different, I know, whether you say so or not, that you and I live most of our lives in this stifling, unsatisfying, airtight encampment.We are in a dark enclosure.Can any of us say with absolute honesty and certainty that we are content with this state of affairs?Tragically, while we continue weaving this secure blindness, our world has reached its nadir.Separation is the way of the world.This is true for all of us.From this mistaken identity spring greed, strident individuality, and the destruction of planetary community.I cannot easily assign meaning to any of this.Rather, I have come to feel the truth of the situation while gradually learning to take responsibility for it.We are at a cusp, a turning point in history.We can go on living in this hard darkness, pretending that it does not exist, feeling helpless and cynical because we know it does, or we can begin to peer into this darkness, allowing the eyes to adjust, seeing with gradual clarity that which is before us.Yet our experience of separation is unavoidable and holds within itself the metamorphic energies of transformation.It is our willingness to make contact with the experience of separation that allows us to touch and reckon with the full force of our longing for connection.Longing is not often spoken about in our Western psychological traditions.Desire is discussed, but desire and longing differ.Perhaps desire is the surface and longing the depth of our wish to belong, feel secure, at home.Longing in the fullest sense feels far more like the pull to move beyond the cocoon, to enter a larger stream.We are hungry for intimacy, for a sense of belonging buried deeply in our being.For patients and practitioners, mindfully taking our place within the healing relationship is both an expression and a Way of embodying this innate impulse.I often sense that, more than desiring cure, people long to belong.I know this within myself and have witnessed it hundreds of times with others.I am sure you have, too.Certainly all of us want relief from pain and physical illness, but the relief of suffering, even if there is little change in physical pain, is a healing balm, a transformation beyond expectation.Most often when this occurs it is because we touch something deeper and more fundamental within ourselves.We feel connected, whole, filled with an undeniable sense of belonging, no matter what the condition of the body.Our privilege and responsibility as servants of the healing arts is to create an environment, provide a method, and inspire people to touch what we, beyond any evidence to the contrary, know is who they really are because we have touched this within ourselves.When people drink even a single drop from this well, longing and intensity are once again awakened, allowing the work of coming into one’s fullness to be reignited.The healing relationship, when grounded in mindfulness practice, provides a bountiful laboratory for this possibility.Eyes opened, simply seeing, allowing these magnificent orbs to receive whatever enters the field of vision while attending now and again to the breath, to the sounds around and within us, but mostly to life touching us as seeing.During this time, someone in the corner becomes restless, begins to cry, shifts places, then picks up bag and shoes to leave.I whisper as she passes me, Are you leaving? Wet cheeked, she nods.I’ll come with you. Standing in front of the elevators, she’s upset, angry, frustrated, and says she is having a strong reaction to the scents and smells in the room.We agree on a strategy, and decide to open the door and find her another chair so that, sitting half in and half out of the room, in the cool air of the open corridor, she might be able to stay.The open door allows the usually muffled sounds of the Pediatrics Clinic to be received in vivid proximity.Look, Mama!Shhh!After a little while, the door slams shut.A passing wave of anger, swiftly changing to sadness, then momentary futility arises, and I resolve to call her later.The smell that sent her away is still here!And as I move around the room, I find myself sniffing like a hound, seeking out the trail, looking for the source.I try to be discreet, wondering if anyone notices, thinking to myself, I’m crazy. I find no origin.We didn’t have time enough for discussion last week, and I want to know more about what is happening for people in terms of practice.How hard or easy they may be finding it to actually practice.If and how what they are learning is beginning to percolate into their lives.
A most illuminating point of view put across by someone who clearly knows their stuff. You have to decide for yourself how much you're going to go for it this time today or next week or any time soon.