Solstice

Here we are on the longest night of what seems to be the longest year. The winter solstice is an opportunity to explore and celebrate what John of the Cross called The Dark Night of the Soul. In fact, any and all spiritual growth and progress starts by looking at this darkness that we all seem to carry to some degree or other. 

In exploring the dark night of your soul, I invite you to look at any self-limiting beliefs or messages you may have about yourself. Carl Jung called this looking at your shadow. This is hard to do because these messages like to stay in the dark, secret, and hidden places of our mind. These messages don’t usually like to be recognized or acknowledged because it can often feel like humiliation or shame. 

For instance, in my yoga practice this morning, I set an intention to look for any self-limiting beliefs or messages that might arise. Well, for the first 30 minutes or so, I found nothing. The shadows were aware that I was watching for them and were being shy. It was wonderful. So, as I let my watchful guard down, the messages began to creep up on me. 

So, for me it came in the form of pain. I have rheumatoid arthritis. Different parts of my body suffer from inflammation and I never know from one day to the next which part of my body will hurt and to what degree. As I go into certain poses and I apply weight and stress to different joints (today it is my right ankle and my left pinky finger), I receive a pain response from those inflamed joints. Today, with that pain, the message, “I am broken” started to come forward. I heard that message loud and clear, and I realized how much I believed it.

After reflecting on this message, I realized that the reason why it has so much power is because there’s another message in me that says, “You’re not allowed to be broken.” As a yoga instructor and knowledgeable body worker, I think that I am not allowed to show my pain. I think that I should somehow through self-knowledge be immune to the human experience of discomfort and pain. 

Here’s the beauty of realizing the darkness or the shadow. We then can make a choice. Do we go on allowing that self-limiting message or belief dictate our experiences, or do we find the gift in healing. 

John of the Cross puts it so well in his The Dark Night, “O dark of night, my guide! night dearer than anything all your dawns discover!”

We have the opportunity to use this “dark of night”, or this shadow, to actually illuminate our path to healing and spiritual growth. How do we do this? Well, it seems obvious that it is NOT by ignoring our shadow messages. When we do that, we allow our talents and beauty to be subconsciously subverted by those shadowy, self-limiting beliefs. Essentially what needs to happen is to transform the darkness into light. We must do this, I believe, because what is not transformed is transmitted, usually to those we love the most. These shadowy messages “come out sideways” often as irritability, impatience, or anger.

There are many ways and processes to transform our darkness into light. One way I like to explore is to simply have a conversation with that message. That’s exactly what I did this morning in yoga as I was noticing the message of “I am broken” come up. I simply invited the message out into consciousness. It’s often kind of like coaxing a wounded animal out of the corner, saying “It’s OK, you can come out.” And then, just like John of the Cross says, “O dark of night, my guide,” I asked what I needed to learn from the message. What came to me was “I’m not allowed to hurt.” Well, because I am not allowed to hurt, and I am hurting anyways, then “I must be broken.” This led to realizing that any time I am in cognitive dissonance (believing diametrically opposing views simultaneously), I am primed subconsciously for shadow messages. Then the transformation occurred for me. I then was able to forgive my message of “You’re not supposed to hurt” because it is illogical and unnatural and completely wrapped up in my pride. But, I didn’t know that message was lingering around in my subconscious until I heard the message “I am broken.” Not only that, but that self-forgiveness led to deeper healing. 

I likely inherited arthritis from my late father. He was sometimes grumpy and hard to get along with because of his irritability and impatience. I recognized that he, too, suffered from a lot of discomfort and pain, especially as he aged. Today’s exploration of the shadow message opened up a path of deep healing and transformation of forgiveness for him and allows me now to look at memories of our times together through a different lens. What a gift!

If you’re struggling with self-limiting messages and beliefs and don’t really know what to do, then please talk to someone about them. These messages can subvert your life, or they can be the light on your path to your best life ever.

If you’d like to chat with me, sign up for a Centering Session with me. I am here for you.

Much love and many blessings,

Tom