Last night I had the good fortune to watch a movie called “Griefwalker”, which focuses on the life and work of Stephen Jenkinson’s (http://orphanwisdom.com/). The most profound gift, I believe that I came away with, was a deep resonance with Stephen’s value of death and darkness.
In my few years of consciously learning about spirituality, the predominant message I have heard is a hierarchal value of life and lightness. Even amongst teachers who talk about the shadow aspects of life, it is always with tones of turning shadow into light, like darkness is something requiring fixing. This message seems so dominant to me, that I often doubt my somatic response to these teachings; but, the truth is, they never sit well in my stomach or heart. For example, I was recently reading “The Shadow Effect”, by three incredibly well respected teachers: Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson. There was much in the book that I felt in alignment with, that felt nourishing in a wholesome way. But, as I reached the last chapter my stomach started turning as if I was going to be sick. Although I realize I have little ground to stand on to concisely argue or discuss my perspective with someone as achieved, educated and experienced as Marianne Williamson, my experience of reading her perspective on shadow left me feeling literally sick to my stomach.
What do I do with that feeling?
I by no means wish to be disrespectful to such an acclaimed and thorough teacher, but I also do not wish to give away or dishonor the power of my own unique experience and perspective (though I also do not want to be arrogant or righteous with my anecdotal perspective). But still, there is something of my reaction that I feel I need to respect in order to begin to understand and/or make use of it as a teaching in its own way.
A few years ago I had a wise woman instill in me the concept of not throwing the baby out with the bath water; which is the tactic I felt intuitively reminded to employ while reading Marianne’s words. There have been numerous times when I have felt incredibly inspired and encouraged by Marianne’s work, so this was a time to reflect on the baby, instead of the bathwater, and harvest the gems that her provocative work were surfacing in me.
The message I was viscerally repulsed by was the argument that the shadow/evil/fear doesn’t actually exist. The argument was (in my perspective) rationalized as following: God is love which is everything. Evil/shadow/fear is the opposite of Love/God, thus evil is a no thing, as there can not exist an opposite to that which encompasses all. In a way, I can appreciate this argument as sound logic, except that it is hinged on the idea that fear/evil/shadow is the opposite of love. This is where/when my tummy starts to turn.
With this idea not sitting quite right in me, I was very aware of it (like a sore thumb) in my consciousness. As I attempted to digest it, I could feel it rolling around the internal waves of my mental stomach as I tried to break it down and dismantle it, to understand, assimilate and/or eliminate it. What surfaced for me was a clear awareness of the bias in many spiritual teachings that relegate love to team light, as opposed to team shadow. What else surfaced for me was an idea/question: maybe love doesn’t take sides, and yet still somehow plays for both teams?
And so I realized that I feel like love is both light and darkness AND something else. That it is transcendent.
As I tried really hard to conceptualize what this something else is, I sort of gave up, and thought: perhaps the current way I am, with what I am endowed with (brain, body, mind, spirit), does not support a consciousness that can wholly understand and appreciate Love/God. I’m not trying to be a cop-out, I just find it really hard to creatively picture that which is beyond everything I can currently perceive/imagine.
And yet still, one last thing surfaced for me during this unravelling: the dissonance I feel in general with the word “transcendent”, or at least how it is currently interpreted and used. In general, the word transcendent is implied as meaning something which is beyond. I can appreciate this to a point, but it always leaves me feeling unsatiated. To me, as only representing that which is beyond, it carries a hierarchal energy, as if it were associated with ascension. But, this would make the word transcendent redundant, as ascending covers the up, and descending the down. So, if “transcending” is something different or beyond opposites, it wouldn’t carry a directionally bias tone.
With the little research I did, I came to learn that the word “scend” means: the push or surge created by a wave (www.oxforddictionaries.com), and “trans” is Latin for across, through, beyond. We seem to have reduced the word trans to only carry the qualities of beyond, when perhaps it is also meant to carry the qualities of through AND across. Now this is a form of transcendence I can sink into: it is not simply beyond this world, it bleeds through and across every aspect of this world and still it is something else…and, it is the something I struggled to conceptualize.
So, for me, this is what Love is. It is transcendent. It saturates light and darkness, life and death, that which we like and that which we don’t; it is both/and AND either/or. It is something else that we maybe can’t yet make sense of (or maybe never will?). It is mystery: something beyond, across and through. But, we are still a part of it, it is not better than or other than us. Just as we are, here and now, we are a part of transcendence, we are a part of Love.
Love and blessings,