Shadows and gold

Good morning, all! It’s one of those mornings when I’m bursting with the desire to get my thoughts down on paper (so to speak) but don’t really know how to corral them into anything cohesive. Here’s hoping I can do them at least a little justice–for my sake but also for yours, you wonderful longsuffering readers. I appreciate your willingness to wade in with me.

I’ve discovered a new author and as is the case whenever I discover a new author, I’m flabbergasted that I was able to get this far in life without ever having heard of him or her. In this case, his name is Robert A. Johnson, a Jungian analyst whose books–written with the assistance and additional wisdom of Jerry Ruhl, another Jungian analyst–have been exploding into my arid mind over the past week like fresh cool water. We always get what we need when we need it and I’d been feeling pretty dry.

I’ve been reading two of his books: Living Your Unlived Life, and Balancing Heaven and Earth. The first is what I call a ‘help’ book; the second is his personal journey and while the first book is great, I’m finding the most delight in the latter, which he wrote when he was seventy-six. I love–LOVE–memoirs when they’re written by old people who have truly learned from their life experiences, when they’ve moved through the ambition and stress and ‘doing’ of the householder stage in their thirties (and sometimes forties), the suffering and disillusionment and gradual backseating of their middle years, into the beautiful glow of wisdom that comes when life has slowed to a relative crawl and there’s time and inclination for reflection. Not every old person is wise, as we know. Some are mired in the past, in bitterness and sharp regret, or fear of the future, and these toxic emotions only get worse if they’re not acknowledged, brought up into the light. We’ve all encountered unattractive old people, those who over a lifetime accumulation of painful experiences have been unable to stop externalizing everything and blaming outside forces, who have never been able to take responsibility for their own inner growth. Thankfully, this isn’t a terminal state. Everyone gets the chance to encounter the warm golden light of God, of spirit, of inner reality at some point, either in this lifetime–sometimes even on our deathbeds–or the next. We learn at our own pace, and we’re not in a race, as there are only winners.

One thing that I’ve been realizing as a result of my reading is how much energy and time I’ve given in my life to projecting both my shadows and my gold onto significant others. Our shadows are the repressed socially-unacceptable parts of ourselves, our gold is the good stuff we’ve also repressed. When we can’t bear the weight of either in our own hands, we foist it upon others… our shadows onto enemies, our gold onto either gurus and mentors or romantic partners and best friends, or any other typically idealized relationship. And then those idealized relationships, once we’re disillusioned with them, which we always are eventually, become the recipient of our shadows as well. Most of us, well, all of us until we become conscious of it and even then for a long time after, are like movie projectors casting ghostly images onto external objects and people and then calling them real because that’s the way we see them. It takes a lot of conscious effort to begin the process of differentiating, of individualizing, of separating our selves from the selves of others, of releasing our teachers and lovers and friends from the grip of our sweaty, grubby little fingers so that everyone can grow straight and tall and whole on their own.

The person who carries our gold has enormous power over us. A smile from her or a frown from him can send us to the heights or the depths in an instant. If the process continues, you can grow enough so that eventually you can stand to carry your own gold. You develop the capacity to take your gold back, and you realize that this highest value originated in you and rightfully belongs to you. It is very good to take your alchemical gold back, to realize that it was brought up out of the unconscious and that it was awakened by someone else but that it must be returned to your own personality. This should in no way diminish the other person in stature or beauty. The other person also has his or her own gold. To exchange a love for another person based on one’s own gold for an appreciation of the other’s true being is a sublime evolution. One stops seeing a reflection of oneself and, instead, sees the reality of the other person. Reality is always far nobler than any projection. Robert A. Johnson

I believe this is my number one most important lesson so far. But then, I always think that’s true whenever I discover one of my life lessons, and this makes me excited to live because… what’s next? Certain deliciousness. None of this inner work is to reach perfection, by the way. I’m not interested in perfection and it isn’t possible anyway. I do it simply to bring whatever’s hidden inside of me, cramped and curled and dormant, into the bright sunny field of awareness in front of me, where it can be rained on and shined on and nourished. Once it’s out, airing in the field, all I have to do is wander around touching it every so often and delighting in its healthy growth. It’s no longer inside controlling my thoughts and actions without permission; it’s outside where I can keep tabs on it, make my own decisions about it. We have to mine for our shadows and gold before they can benefit from the sunshine, or we can wait for them to emerge on their own, because they will. If we wait for them to come out on their own, it can take awhile to recognize them, but as soon as we see them for what they are, they’re no longer able to scurry back into our dark corners and stunt us. Once our eyes are opened in a particular area, the cat is out of the bag for good. We can never go back to our previous degree of unconsciousness, though it can takes years upon years to unlayer each area of potential growth. But we’re always progressing, always evolving, and that’s happy-making news.

Now, to come back down to earth (hello, earth!), I have almost all my crocheting done, well in time for Christmas! Huge relief. I had mentioned to you that we’re doing only stocking stuffers this year but I can’t resist buying small gifts to include among the candy, magazines, and other treats. Scott and I went shopping on his day off Monday and got the bulk of the stuffers, and I believe I’ll go out today to look for a few little specific thises-and-thats. My mom had surgery a couple days ago so on Sunday I went to help my dad and her decorate their house; though I’d been congratulating myself on avoiding the hassle of a tree this year and an overabundance of other Christmas decor, the tree and decor were the focus of all our efforts, and I enjoyed our time together. Their house looks beautiful. Ours is pretty too, with just enough ornamentation (and lights!) to remind us of the holiday. It’s so nice to feel only a modicum of stress this time of year instead of the huge scratchy hay bale of it that I’d carried on my chest in previous years. I keep thinking that when grandchildren roll around I’ll jump back into it with both feet. In fact, Scott and I couldn’t resist walking through the toy aisles with twinkles in our eyes and barely restrained excitement over all the fun little gizmos and gadgets and classic toys available. We have to be cool, we keep telling ourselves and each other. But we’re ready for babies! The grand kind that you can spoil rotten and then hand back. I figure that we’re probably going to get the first batch of grandbabies all at once, but barring accidents, that may still take a couple years. sigh. BEING COOL. sigh. :)

I hope you’re all having a wonderful season. Take lots of moments to rest and reflect. Remember to breathe! Be reasonable with your eating, of course, but give yourself permission to indulge a little, especially now when there’s so much yummy stuff at your fingertips. Enjoy your life. Enjoy it! En-joy. Set out the milk and cookies and invite it in. Much love to you, friends. xo


Filed under Beloveds, Fambly, God, Old women, Stuff to read

2 responses to “Shadows and gold

  1. Frokaloke

    Things have been soooo busy and car-razy around here… I haven’t even had a chance to do more than skim this! It looks interesting, and I feel you are hitting on points which I can relate too. Unfortunately, it may be until boxing day before I can find time to write more. But you are probably hopping too. So, if I don’t get to talk with you otherwise, a happy wonderful joyful delightful scrumpdillyiscious Christmas to you. And loads of love to my Messes from your Frokeses. And to your fambly too!

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