Scenes from the first day in Sydney

Scenes from the first day in Sydney
D, the Opera House, and the Bridge

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Second Workshop in Applied Spirtuality: Exploring the Shadow

Wow, these days of six and seven hours of spiritual direction have kept me occupied, so I've been remiss with the blog. Hope that you've found the material on discernment useful? Tomorrow night I am giving a workshop on what I believe to be one of the most important but also the most overlooked elements of the spiritual life: how we deal with our shadows. By shadows, I am referring to what Carl Jung identified as those elements of our personalities that we tend to disown, and consequentially, which we also tend to project on others. More heavy stuff, I know, but hopefully of service to people in their spiritual growth and personal maturation.

As we look at the situation in our world today, I have a strong feeling that when we try to make a positive difference, we need to follow Jesus' suggestion that we remove the 2x4 out of our own eye before trying to take the speck out of our neighbor's. Do you know what I am talking about? Another way of thinking about the primacy of own own inner work is inspired by Gandhi's quote, "be the change that you want to see in the world." Otherwise as we try to change others, or fix broken systems and organizations, we unwittingly recreate, even replicate the same problems we had intended to fix (think, for instance, of the ways that political revolutions swing from one extreme to the next, or the way that interventions in organizations often create a more subtle but nonetheless mirrorlike reflection of the original dysfunctions. Make sense?

While I will end the workshop with some poetry, I thought that tonight I would begin with one of those poems: In a Dark Time, by Theodore Roethke.

In a Dark Time

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.

That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!

A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.

My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

Theodore Roethke, Eight American Poets

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