And though I walk through the valley of the shadow of life…

Lately I have been unwinding some long-held pain, darkness, suffering, and feeling them vividly as I let them go.  I realize it may be popular in some circles, including among practitioners of yoga, to be and to project that ‘it’s all good’.  I’ve spent many years hoping to, pretending to, looking like, ‘It’s all good’.  And, I truly am ‘all good’, but not in the way I thought.

Living a life in a good way, in a good light, necessitates that we also are willing to embrace the part of life that is hidden away in shadows, for with light comes shadows, and the brighter the light the darker are the shadows.   Some of us have shadows from sexual or physical abuse in our personal history; some of us have gone many rounds with addictions: to food, sex, alcohol, pot, hard drugs, painkillers, love, etc.  Most of us have had and have lost romantic relationships, and are rebuilding our self-esteem and self-love.   We sometimes create shame and fear and confusion from our experiences.  All of these experiences and many more can create darkness, shadows, fear in our lives that in turn can create problems for us.

shadowsFor each of us, as we proceed down the path of life, there comes a time when these shadows act like a tether, holding us back from our true joyous nature, holding us back from serving others, holding us back from being our best. As long as we ignore or repress our personal struggles, challenges and setbacks, they will lie there, festering, patiently waiting for a chance to reveal the lesson that they have for us, again and again, until we ‘get it’.

Recently, I’ve seen some of those items in the list above come to the surface for me, and while it felt pretty terrible, or terrifying, at the time, I’m here to share that it is WORTH IT, and to reveal the trigger that opened those caskets of old, putrefying dark areas of my life for permanent resolution.

For me, my recent healing process actually began years ago with a willingness, eagerness perhaps, to clear myself, to prepare and offer myself to a life of service.  This sounded kind of grand, romantic even.  I pictured the service work of Saints like Mother Theresa: happy helped people, no smell, no death, no suffering.  So I smiled broadly and signed up: ‘Use me – let me be the light’ I whispered in numerous prayers to my maker.

I’ve spent years in partial-healing cycles now: emerging like a butterfly from a chrysalis, seeing the sunlight and pretty flowers, saying ‘hi’ to people in my vicinity, only to have my unresolved shadows creep in and sabotage my initiatives.  I would then back away, perhaps indulge in a vice or distraction for a day or a week or longer; retreat back to the cocoon, hide, sleep.  Time would pass, and again I’d feel the urge to emerge, to reach out for my potential, offer to serve, and the miracle would happen again, on cue: I am transformed!  Each time, however, unaddressed shadows would eventually overshadow or undermine my good efforts and positive thinking.

2014-02-26-ThePowerOfIntentionIn fall 2014, I engaged a life coach, who helped me to find and firm my intention.  This made all the different for me and my repetitive cycles of pleasure and pain.  An intention is like the tip of an arrow, fired truly towards a target, opening the way for what follows.  Knowing my intention for my inner life and outer work gave me a focus, helped spur me into massive action, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, triggered my walk through the valley of the shadow of life.

See, we can’t fly when tethered, and if we don’t free ourselves from what is holding us back, we will just cruise around in circles, thinking we are getting somewhere because we are in motion, in flight.

With the help of my coach (ask me if you want to know who can help you in this way), my intention evolved, shifted, as I learned the art of listening to my heart.  Part of my intention is ‘lightheartedness’.  You know, that joy that children have?  That you have experienced?  A warm spring day, a kiss from a loved one, spontaneous laughter for no reason at all?  I decided that I’d like to be clear of seriousness, of frowning for no good reason, of being weighed down by all my ‘shoulds’ and by criticisms of others that jump unbidden to mind, by my stories, by my beliefs as life trudges along.  Why am I trudging when I know I can fly?

As it turns out, the Universe, God, Divine, Goddess, the un-namable and un-knowable Force of life, actively supports our heart’s true intentions.  It’s uncanny, how we can track the influence of people, nature, animals, and dreams when we know what we really want.  (hint – learn about symbolic tracking).  And, in order for me to feel this natural, easy, lightheartedness, which I determined I WANTED, I had to take a walk through the valley of the shadow of life, embrace my past, look into my hidden beliefs, and accept all of myself.

handsbutterflyThe darkest part of night is just before dawn, and with a quality called Faith (noun – complete trust or confidence in someone or something) ready to carry me through till the dawn of my intentional way of being in life, I finally faced my fears.  I walked through my own shadows; I embraced my addictions as my finest teachers; I danced with the darkness, I humbly requested understanding.

I accepted that I created these situations; that I called in these lessons so that I could have the opportunity to learn this lesson, right now.  I firmed my resolve to stay in it until the light returned. I prayed, I practiced my mindfulness techniques, meditation and yoga.  There were times that tested me, and I cried tears of frustration and futility.  I felt like the weakest most useless part of Creation.  I reached out to friends, to family.  I was heard, and seen.  I surrendered completely.   I accepted myself just as I am, including all my darkness, shadows, questionable deeds and addictive tendencies.  I didn’t die, my friends didn’t desert me, I didn’t fall into a spiral of depression, and I didn’t hide in alcohol or drugs.

Then, the butterfly that is my true nature emerged, untethered, flew upward toward the sun, faithfully casting a shadow over the land I travelled, and now I fly FREE.  Won’t you embrace all of you and join me in the sky, flying free as is meant to be?  The air is great and the view can’t be beat.

— ChrisAnanda 1/1/15