Monday, February 24, 2014


God is...

Balance is not easy to achieve or describe and yet it is probably the most critical element of successful living, loving, means to world peace, and environmental wholeness.  It is women and men coming to balance their shadow and light—their anima and animus—their male/female light and darkness. Darkness sheds light on needed change.  Too much darkness over powers the light. Too much light denies change is needed.  Imbalance in either leads to destruction.  Creativity flows from balance.

In Carolyn Baker’s “Reclaiming the Dark Feminine” she writes:

 “When women can develop a relationship with their feminine shadow, they are invariably empowered.  When men dare to explore the negative and positive aspects of the anima, the courage to be vulnerable evolves, along with intention to protect and serve the vulnerability of all beings.  Northern California author and soul-centered psychotherapist, Francis Weller, emphasizes that the darkness wants us to ask it what it wants from us.  If we can actively, consciously engage with the darkness, we are transformed from victims into vital, autonomous human beings.”

Transpersonal psychology forms the basis for Carolyn Baker’s book that integrates psychology with spirituality.  In looking up transpersonal psychology I learned it has only been around since the 1960’s.  Outside of taking a class in 1997 titled “The Shadow Knows” given by Philip Sternig, a Transpersonal Psychotherapist, I can’t say I’ve heard much about it lately.  It seems the learning it promotes would be of such value to the human race and our planet we would want to incorporate it in our teaching from grade school through college.  It also seems it would be the basis of any religion worth its salt.

We have all inherited some imbalance.  For me it came to a crisis with my aging parents’ care needs.  After watching a video tape of my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary I wrote in God Never Hurries: 

“But most amazing was seeing and hearing myself on the tape and how unaware I was.  I began to realize the critical need to embrace my shadow.  It is there to keep me balanced.  But it was scary and hard to sort out because of the many bright masks my shadow had been made to wear.  I understood it was those masks that help make abuse so systemic.  And it seemed a clue to becoming aware of a mask is when there is only one answer or one way.  I felt hope that if I continued to work on myself, someday I could come to honor both my mother and father.”

Life can be hard.  There are choices to be made.  Writing my story helped me figure some things out and pointed me toward more balance.  Life is relational.  We learn from our own light and darkness and the light and darkness of others.          

What if we daily asked our darkness what it wants from us?        

Monday, February 17, 2014

My Shadow's Voice

God is...

The awareness of my shadow last week took me back to a 1998 gathering I attended sponsored by the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC).  I wrote of that experience which was published in that fall’s CAC issue of Radical Grace.  I found a yellowing copy of my learning that read:

I concluded the Women’s Rites of Passage program with Carolyn Baker, author of
Reclaiming the Dark Feminine, with a deeper appreciation for the creative energy of my shadow.  And I had an immediate opportunity to give my shadow voice.

The bus that was taking us from Ghost Ranch back to Albuquerque hadn’t even reached the highway when I met my first reentry challenge.  A wooden drum rolled off the luggage rack above and hit me on the head.  It momentarily stunned me as it bounced off my skull onto the floor.  My body was already objecting to being in the great aluminum container, with windows that didn’t open, and an air conditioner that could not be turned on until we left the curving, dusty road in the hot desert sun.  The heat and lack of air added to the insult of the drum.

The momentary blur in my eyes refocused in anger at the absence of the protective cord to hold luggage above.  Only one short piece of broken cord dangled from a compartment near the front of the bus.  A line of holes the length of the bus indicated where the protective cord should have been.  The next turn in the road brought a soft pouch across my field of vision.  Fear grew for my sore head.  My anger grew in fear of my surroundings.  My mood turned ugly.

Many of the women on the bus joked and laughed with the driver.  I was furious with him.  I worried I might be too much like the frantic Chicken Little, or the perpetually groaning Eeyore from Pooh Corner.  I felt ugly, but I didn’t want to be ugly.  And then I recalled my pastoral training where we encourage others, and ourselves, to stay with our feelings.  We are given them for good reason.  So I accepted my ugliness and waited for what it came to teach me. 

It confirmed for me that it is not right to jeopardize other’s safety.  I must tell the bus driver of the danger and my injury.  And although I appeared to be the only sourpuss on the bus, it was with good reason.  I had a sore head.

After we reached our destination and the bus was unloaded and some of the women gave the driver hugs, I faced him and gently said, “I’m sorry, but I must complain.  The cords on the luggage racks are missing and I was hit by a falling drum.  It hurt my head.”  His smile immediately left and he said in anger, “It’s not my fault!  People should not put stuff up there!”  I quietly and factually said, “No, the cord on the luggage racks needs to be fixed.”  He abruptly turned away from me, and grumbled loudly, “Okay, I’ll fix them!”  And I didn’t feel ugly anymore.

I am now grateful for that bump on the head.  It reinforced the need to accept ugly—stay with the feeling—until it works for change.  I learned I can be calm and factual when asking for change, (though sometimes it is even okay not to be).  And I hoped that when I meet people who are acting like “soreheads” I can remember my drum experience.  Maybe they are just in the process of working on some needed change. 

I believe the ugly hag resides side by side with justice in my shadow.  It is why justice is so elusive.  There is reluctance to seek her in the darkness where tremendous power exists to transform or destroy.  But my encounter with the drum, and my heart, has given me a little more confidence to trust my hag and to give her voice. 

Now, in 2014, I think it’s time to reread “Reclaiming the Dark Feminine.”

What if we could all see and remember the potential creative and healing energy of our shadow? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shadow Work

God is...

I felt and heard my shadow so clearly this past week while visiting with neighbors in a church vestibule following a funeral service for one of our own.  Our neighbor, Carol, had been sick many years with serious respiratory problems and is now at peace.  I shared how grateful I would feel for my ability to be able to get on my bike and go for a ride knowing she was confined to being indoors most of the time.  And then my neighbor, and former carpool member, Tom, asked me if I’ve been to a retiree luncheon lately.  My demeanor went dark. I felt my previous sense of gratitude overcome by resentment.  There was a bite in my words.  I told Tom I half considered going to a luncheon a couple of years ago, but as I came close to committing, old fear surfaced.  And now I clearly see I still have shadow work to do with forgiveness.

I previously put a lot of effort into the work of forgiveness surrounding my aging parents’ and their care needs.  The following are thoughts I gleaned from reading Gavin De Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear,” public radio broadcasts, and a workshop I attended featuring Robert Enright and Susan Freedman from the International Forgiveness Institute, and some of my own conclusions.  I’m grateful I recorded them in “God Never Hurries” for they now provide me needed review:  

-- Forgiveness is most needed where things are least safe; and you need to be in a safe place to work on forgiveness. 

-- Fear is more than fight or flight, guile and cleverness are just two of many ways to address fear; and fear keeps the world in check.

-- The human brain is never more invested than when its host is at risk; intuition is then catapulted to another level entirely, a height at which it can accurately be called graceful, even miraculous.  It is going from A to Z without stopping at any other letters along the way.

-- Real fear is not paralyzing but rather energizing.  It is coiled up energy.  Perhaps courage is another name for this energy.  Love is courage talking.

-- Denial of anger was cited as a clue to Pride and an obstacle to forgiveness.  It takes humility to admit being hurt.  It is humbling to admit woundedness. 

-- Forgiveness results in emotional control.  It transforms who we are.  Freedom and a more real life view are its fruits.  Forgiveness is giving up resentment and coming to view perpetrators with compassion.

What if I could remember all that as I continue my shadow work to forgive?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Death and Taxes

God is...

This first month of the New Year has passed in a flash.  Little did I know when I lightheartedly wrote my January 6 blog titled Pre-funeral Luncheon, that I would come face to face with the death of my sweet boy, Yellow Lab Ben, less than two weeks later.  How quickly death can show us what is truly important in life.  They are inextricably linked.  I closed the month of January with taxes on my mind and Benjamin Franklin’s quote:  “…in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

I’ve gone through a lot of Kleenex with Ben’s passing, and now as I start the dreaded task of getting my tax information together, I have opened a bottle of Tums for the first time in a long time.  Every year I tell myself I need to better organized the information I will need at tax time.  I do have a bunch of manila envelopes in which I attempt to keep the many pieces of information I will need at year’s end, but it still looms as an overwhelming task.  What if I kept a monthly ledger of all the  information?  Balancing my checkbook each month is something I do faithfully; for besides promoting good money sense, it clearly shows me how many different ways I can be wrong.  I don’t think I’d need Tums to summarize year-end tax information if I kept a monthly account of all those numbers.  What if I could make that happen for next year’s tax time?

Just as life and death are joined, so too are death and taxes.  When going over last year’s paper trail I saw a mini life review in my work, doctor and volunteer miles driven, household expenses, charitable contributions, purchases made, presentations I attended or gave, books sold (by county) and current inventory, postage, supplies, and the training I needed.  People nearing the death experience often do a life review.  What’s important becomes clear, the ego diminishes, and the goal becomes unity as we prepare to return to our Original Nature from which we came.  So too there is grace in taxes.  The goal is unity for the common good.  (Benjamin Franklin knew the importance of unity among the thirteen colonies.)  To support the common good gracefully we willingly need to let go of some ego. 

What if we could all come to embrace the grace in taxes?