To all my friends on the journey, I’d like to thank you for your being, which acts as a mirror.
What has been coming at me like a slow yet unrelenting avalanche, for the last couple of years now, is the play of the darkness that we all contain within. I remember as a child my mother used to ask me “are you the good Matthew or the other one?”!! Without realising it, we all start the self enquiry in to our true nature from a very early age. Are we being good, bad? How is it that we enjoy going into this dark space, but mostly seem to be glad when we’ve come back out?
Anyone studying yoga or any other form of internal process at some point along the journey, be it a few months or years, becomes acquainted with their inner darkness. For many this experience is too daunting an encounter and so they turn away. For others, it is precisely what they have been waiting for, perhaps for a long time.
The opportunity to understand this darkness – know why it exists and remove oneself from the obstacle and injury that it causes is what I would like to write about now. My shadow introduced itself to me over the years, by way of what other people said to me about “me” and naturally through my awareness of not always feeling ‘good’ or ‘right’ about myself and ‘things’.
As I mentioned, this subject has risen at me more voraciously within the last couple of years, increasingly so within the last six months, in which I have been meditating more, thankfully.
When I started to read about this subject twelve years ago, I found myself being drawn to do so by the line ‘he who caste no shadow’. I was enthralled by the idea that a being could be so pure that their inner light prevented the formation of a shadow – this due to their inner light being equal to or brighter than the light which falls upon it. A few years further down the line, I sat in disappointment in Southern India when I found that my guru, who had just walked past me, had a shadow. Pop, went my balloon.
The light of the moon is a reflection of the light of the sun. The light in the eye is the emanation of the soul within. The more in harmony with one’s inner nature as well as outer happenings, the clearer and brighter this light. When I first saw my guru, Sathya Sai Baba (who died just over a month ago in his ashram in Puttaparthi) I sat a long way from him – perhaps a hundred metres. What was clear to me, after he entered the mandir (temple) was that his aura was extra-ordinary.
He was surrounded by a few people and walked around a little. Over the years I have also become aware of the beautiful truth that ‘everything I see is me’. At first it used to bother me that sceptics would say to me, “well you would see that – you know, this great aura around this ‘great spiritual being’ – it’s your projection – it’s what you want to see”. However years on, I have seen the turn around. This is that if we can see in someone else, feel and experience that divinity, the untarnishable purity in another, we are one step closer to recognising, experiencing and returning to that which is purest within ourselves. Since then I am more conscious to honour and recognise that which is delightful and pure within me, while being less judgmental of both my own shadow and those of others too.
I recollect a time in Thailand when someone said to me, “hhhmmm you know, there’s something very divine about you”……. Ignore my ego for a second…. I just want to share a story with you. At that time I enquired into the comment to work out why anyone would say that. Sure, we are all divine, at times more so than others. So why did this person say that to me then?
For a start the person who made the comment had just stepped from a plane from a big Australian city, while I had been trekking, meandering and pondering around some of India’s holiest hangouts. Apart from resting a few days with Sai Baba in Puttaparthi (which started much of my change) I was at the time unattached. I don’t mean single, young and free. I mean at that particular moment, or during those days in question, my mind was free. I wasn’t yearning for this or that or dwelling on what should be. I just was.
This is being.
Not trying or doing, but being.
It’s not new to any of us – it is our essence.
We are human beings.
This state of being would frequently last for days, until at some point it would come crashing down. We have all felt like Moses returning from the highest peak, to find the infidels who had given up their waiting for his Law. We have all felt the guilt and anguish of Adam or Eve for having eaten forbidden fruit.
A thought, or belief, or someone saying something, would trigger a shift and my peace would be shattered in to a million pieces. My heaven would fade and hell returned as though it had never been anywhere and was never going to leave.
Looking back I see this as great, as we can see that both light and dark are omnipresent. They coexist due to the workings of physics and the laws of this nature. It is possible that wise beings have been seen to caste no shadow and it’s also possible that this is purely metaphoric. Either way it’s not really important. I spent many a year, looking for the paranormal, missing what was going on around me. Isn’t the rising of the sun and waxing and waning of the moon proof of the miracle enough?
What became apparent was that I had spent my life running – either towards the light or away from my shadow – without accepting the duality of nature – meaning that I was completely unconscious of my inability to accept just being.
So I ran.
And ran and ran.
I ran and kept running like Dr David Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk.
– always on the run from the big green monster inside.
How daft is that!? Isn’t there a clue in that word ‘inside’….
No matter how much we try to hide from this darkness, it always finds us.
No matter how beautiful the full moon on a clear night, when all you can hear is the sound of an owl, or a fox running away in to the garden briskly………..
…..you can run but you can’t hide.
You’ve noticed how yin contains a white spot of yang and yang contains the black dot of yin….. And so, the light is not complete without its opposite, the dark has no perspective without contrast.
Christ said “when thine eye be single you will be filled with light”…………..
When we lift our eyes away from the outer world of opposites, high and low, dark and light, hot and cold, which are all relative and sense related, we return to being. We spend so much time focusing our eye (heart and mind) upon ‘this and that’ ‘past and future’ ‘have and have not’ etc, we are constantly trying to determine reality between a barrage of opposites. This is fine, unless of course this contrast of yin and yang, otherwise known in Tao as ‘the ten thousand things’ leaves us confused, wanting and subsequently suffering.
God, divinity, beingness and consciousness is everything and everywhere. There is nothing s/he is not and yet s/he is also the nothing.
Where there is love, there is divinity. Where there is a lack of love, we could call this the devil, darkness or ignorance. We are all able to create our own hell and label it so when we choose. It’s really very easy.
Often those who can’t find the inner sanctuary within themselves seek to take it away from others. In order to do so, they prey on the faith and purity of the devotee, corrupting it as they see fit to maintain control.
When we close our eyes, there is a light. We may see it, feel it, hear it and know it. I used to see it years back and have been feeling it mostly since. Only recently in my meditations again am I beginning to see the light as a physical manifestation of colour, like the threads of an ecstatic flower, although rather dimly.
Yogis of various traditions have for hundreds if not thousands of years, entered caves to be in the darkness for prolonged periods of time. They discovered that through the absence of outer light, they were able to experience the inner one, that which gives life to the body, mind and senses.
Melatonin, a hormone produced within the pineal gland (third eye), builds up in the body and this creates a chemical reaction. This produces pinoline which affects the pineal, pituitary, thalamus and hypothalamus glands and leads to clairvoyant experiences.
When we travel far out in to darkest space we eventually see rays of light from the nearest star. The Taoists of old discovered that the microcosm (all that is in ‘here’) is a reflection of the macrocosm (all that’s out ‘there’) and so realised if we can return our consciousness deep enough within, we will move through total darkness into light.
When we first enter a dark room at night, it seems that this darkness is total, cloaking all. We may experience a moment of fear. As our eyes and brain adjust, we begin to see aspects of the room or possibly other dimensions occurring within the same space. I have seen shapes and people moving through space (in my room) in deep meditation and remember at times having had my eyes completely closed, yet seen the whole room before me. I have tested this and moved my vision around the room. With my fingers touching my closed eyelids to see if my eyes are really closed, I have been amazed to be able to see so clearly. Is this a product of my mind and memory? I felt it didn’t really matter as awareness was instructing me there is more to us than ‘meets the eye’.
What we believe determines what we see.
When we are born we move from the light into the dark space of the womb, our first and nature’s perfect darkroom. After birth we spend much of our time trying to avoid this darkness having developed the belief that our very life depends on the life giving light of the sun, which of course is true, to an extent. Life coexists without sunlight, such as in the deepest oceans and caves, such as inside one’s heart and lungs. Another truth exists which is that we are so used to turning our gaze outwards that we no longer know how to look within. Each time we feel anxious and start to crave, we move outward to chocolate, tv, friends, internet etc. Yet if we close our eyes and look inside at such times, it can be truly amazing to see life playing out in the inner theatre.
What we attempt to avoid – the angst or restlessness is none other than the shadow – that part that walks along side you, in whose absence you would start to wonder ‘ is something wrong?’ Shamans and yogis have been known to forecast the health and life span of people by observing the shadow, similar to reading the ‘aura’.
What if we were to start investigating our darkness and question why the same feelings, beliefs and thoughts keep reappearing year after year, causing the same discomfort and unrest now, as in the past? I think it’s only a process of nature that we all reach a stage where the discontent and delusions which life brings lead us to investigate, even if only a little, why we are the way we are. What role do these thoughts and feelings play? They reappear each day like worn out tricks popping out of a magician’s hat for the umpteenth year. We’ve seen and heard it all before, yet, they still seem to hypnotise us to see where they go. As if we haven’t been there before. So the time comes when we approach from a tangent, an altered perspective such as in meditation – within the darkness herself – where we see these shadows as flickering images of memory appearing on a very old film slide. This is to say that these images, feelings and beliefs are all superimpositions upon the underlying structure; that which was there before and will remain so always. Awareness………………..just pure awareness.
Meditation provides the opportunity to see these film slides which show us glimpses of the past and hopes for the future and the glimpses behind these too. This means we see the cause of the shadows or shapes imprinted on the film. We see the reasons why we have become the way we are….we see the first time we started to believe or feel a certain way and feel the crystalline structure that has formed over this ‘cause’ due to the passing of time and the reinforcement of this pattern through its habitual nurturing.
Then one day, as Buddha reminds us, the time comes to wake up.
We see that we have suffered enough.
In my teens I used to call this the ‘before and after feeling’. I knew if I could implement that ‘aftermath’ feeling before I did something which always left me feeling less divine, I would be able to solve most of my problems.
Well, life is the teacher and she holds no punches. We as egoic beings, grossly identifying with our personality and worldly costumes hammer away at the same old patterns until we just can’t bear the difficulties any more. This was I how I stopped smoking and taking drugs.
The low was far too low and the high………
It was no longer high………….
It was the empty low, waiting to happen….
It were if you like, as though I had sold my soul…
I had forgotten that life had a purpose,
That my life had a purpose and that to fulfil this purpose is to find joy and peace and all the trimmings which accompany them.
The shadow is the serpent which tempts while we play in the beautiful garden. She is maya, illusion, she is shakti swaying and rising – she is the bliss of consciousness as she moves in to shakti. Shakti which is matter, appears to cause the high, be the giver of power and the ecstasy we seek when we return to the dark side. This matter is the play via the five senses, yet these senses and experience are only as ample as the life force and light which illumines them.
This light is stored in the soul and moves through Siva or consciousness into shakti, the body. We seek ecstasy through this body by eating, singing, dancing and playing as humans do, but blind ourselves in excess. Too much of anything causes stress and so our system finds its way to harmonise. So from the high of the binge, we plummet to the low of the hangover. Too much alcohol, adrenaline, lack of sleep or whatever your tipple and it’s always followed by the down spiral which allows the body, mind and senses to rest and recuperate.
The question that arises is then, ‘is there another way?’ and of course the answer is ‘yes’. Having been battered around the ocean of high waves and deep valleys of fear in which we sense we are drowning, we come to rest in peaceful water in which we learn to embrace that which hides beneath the shadows and causes the mind to want to fly to its next meal.
We learn that we can enjoy that which we think we will find in the high, within the mundane as well. This is learning that the substratum or causal beneath the high yang and low yin, is what we are really seeking. After partying too much there is nothing we are grateful for more than to be able to sleep normally, wake feeling rested and eat because we are hungry. We realise our health is a great wealth which helps us experience a peaceful existence more easily. Sometime after this, when are blessed enough, we have those moments of knowing that we are this substratum – we are what we have been seeking, but missing because we have been looking in all directions except one.
Nature works in cycles – high tides and low, full moon and empty, the zenith and nadir. Humans being an aspect of this, follow suit. When the moon is full we behave in a certain way. We live to our fullest, recover, feel the regret and guilt that may accompany this and then wait as in hibernation for the opportunity to repeat this same pattern again.
When we start seeking the high we are trying to cover the emptiness which we feel within ourselves. This is going to be very difficult and so proves fruitless. Quantum physicists reckon that about 99.9% of the atom is pure empty space. The yogis and mystics of yore realised, through their ceaseless efforts that this emptiness is what we ought to be seeking as it contains the essence of all things. To put this another way, there is the nice saying, “he who possesses nothing, possesses all.” Fair enough I can hear my critic friends saying, “so the beggar down King’s Cross who smells of the dog-ends he lives on – he has it all…….right!!!?” Well, I think it’s down to the individual. Gautama Buddha like many others throughout time, gave up the riches of the palace to find himself. This included trials and tribulations which nearly ended in starvation, until he reached the conclusion of the Taoists before him.
We mustn’t always run to the shadow, seeking the high, seeking something to replace the present moment. Yet, we mustn’t always deny this shadow, which is always there when a spirit enters a physical body. Our role is to enquire. To question why we do what we do and what it is we really seek.
As a teacher (one of my stage names), when I see a student needs help, I offer them my light. They sometimes show me their shadow in return. The doubt, the anger, ugliness, jealously, sadness…… and so forth.
When they see I am not scared of their darkness – they have the opportunity to visit it themselves. If however I cower at this darkness and mirror it with my own fear, naturally none of us grow. It is with huge thanks to all the loving beings I have met over the years, who didn’t run from my darkness, but saw the light and dark of a soul needing love, that I am able to write these words today.
As a great Aghori once said “everything I see is me”
We always have a choice – to experience a new way of being with ourselves or to continue with the old. If we are not truly happy, shouldn’t we seek within to change things?
The Guru is s/he who removes darkness……
When I met Sai Baba he told me, through my meditations, his readings and devotees that……….
I am in him
And he is in me.
He said earth is a big church
And that there is only one language.
This language is of the heart
And is called love.
He said if we want to find God there is only one place we need to look;
And tapped the centre of his chest…………………. 😉
When we embrace that we contain both day and night
When we see that both dark and light
Are the Two
That come from the One
That this One, sprung forth from itself
Which was the nothingness
By Being with ourself,
Being with the emptiness and darkness
As much as the light
We fuse the two back in to the One
And return to the source from whence we came.