Today’s randomly chosen word, beginnings, comes from the achingly beautiful book, Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. I got the book for my daughter and ended up reading it. I’m so glad I did. It’s the kind of story that takes your heart out, squeezes it hard, heals it, and hands it back to you. I cannot more highly recommend it. On the cover of the book, it says, “If you’re lost, you might need to swim against the tide.” Wow, can I relate to that sentiment! The past many years of being a single mother, going to school, and making my way through the thicket of relationships, healing from childhood trauma, and losing my mother have made me feel very lost at times. Clarity comes in fits and spurts and often through art and writing.
The art today is 3-D. Except for the chalk, everything is three dimensional so I can see the shadow. After viewing the gorgeous Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse a couple of weeks ago, I have been pondering the nature of shadow and light a bit more both within and without. Today’s quote, from Leonardo da Vinci speaks to this:
The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.
That quote echoes what I have felt for a long time about shadow–long before I ever read Carl Jung‘s work–that we are animated by shadow. You learn that when you sketch. You feel it in your body when you allow it. Despite this knowing, I still carry so much judgement at times, especially towards myself. Judgement and the fears that come along with it can totally paralyze me in moving forwards at times so I’ve been mindfully moving through it. One of the ways I’ve done that is listening to Tara Brach‘s podcasts of late. She’s a wonderful teacher with a calm presence that I appreciate. The most recent one I listened to is Letting Go of Judgement in which she quotes Rainier Marie Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet:
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
Finding the helpless parts of myself that want love is taking a lot of courage and fortitude. Listening to Ms. Brach’s encouragement to be present with what she calls “aversive judgement” and to look for the layers of vulnerability underneath it makes me realize that this layer is a conditioned response that has been trying to help me. She says, “It’s not our fault that we’re judging. It’s really deep in our evolutionary history to sense that something is wrong.” She calls it a “survival fear” that “mobilizes us for war”. This idea that we create an “other” that we need to defend against as a layer of programming–of armor–that we can mindfully learn to take off really resonates for me. I long to love the parts of myself and life that have been hidden underneath that armor.
The armor is too heavy and makes it hard to breathe and swim. I’ve been living with the intention to swim against that evolutionary tide and into a place that is more loving, a place that comes from higher mind. It takes consciousness. It takes an awareness of life as both three dimensional (shadow. immanence.) and ethereal (light. transcendence.) In his notebooks, da Vinci says, “The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.” So, too, with life.