Looking at the Shadow that Blocks the Light

At sunrise this morning, the day of what is being called the Total American Eclipse, I woke up thinking of the Shadow–my shadow, the shadow of my beloved Quaker community, and the shadow of my country, which was created to be a powerful experiment in human freedom and equality. The shadow includes everything about ourselves that we don’t want to know or acknowledge, whether “bad” or brilliant. Fear drives our lives more fully than we know, and we don’t see how that’s so. We don’t see how the deep need to conform to social norms shapes and limits us. We don’t acknowledge how fully our desire to be comfortable keeps us from seeing and confronting the enormous challenges facing us, keeps us from truly addressing the real danger we face of making the planet largely uninhabitable for our species, in the lifetime of our grandchildren.

On this day when millions of people in the USA are watching the total eclipse–either through solar glasses or on screen–on this day when a 73 mile-wide shadow crosses North America from Oregon to South Carolina, may we become willing to face the shadow in our individual and collective psyches. May we allow the divine Light which can illuminate reality show us truth, teach us the path toward true freedom and the way to live from love, rather than fear.

Credit: Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel

For many of us, the social and political events of our time have increasingly revealed the fear, greed, violence, racism, misogyny, and other conscious and unconscious limiting forces that are influencing us. The presence and power of the Shadow becomes more frankly and horrifyingly visible as we read news of violent murders of unarmed people, as we see images of Nazi flags waved in our city streets, as more and more people around the world face drought and famine because of climate change, as the current administration overturns environmental protections, as we read of marine animals choked to death by our discarded single-use plastic bags and packaging, as a majority of congressmen attempt to deprive the poor of health care and maximize private profits for basic social services, as the Washington DC hotel bearing the name of our president rakes in money from political influence, and we learn more about the influence of the very wealthy in determining our national politics. Will we look directly at the forces in us and society that are moving us toward greater social catastrophes and unthinkable environmental destruction? Will we look not only for the specks in the eyes of the other, but at the plank in our own eyes? Will we invite the divine Light–the Light that “lighteth every [hu]man that comes into the world,” the Light that shines in the darkness–to show us what is blocking the Light, what is concealing Truth, what is stifling Love? Or will we continue to distract ourselves with busy-ness, entertainments, and superficial conversations?

A prime reason we don’t face our shadow is because we are controlled by fear. Our fear inhibits us from experiencing the divine power that is available to us if only we turn toward it. The Shadow hides negative forces within; it also conceals the immense spiritual potential and powers that can guide and shape our society. It blocks our vision of the radiance that we were created to shine.

Today, as we view in awe the eclipse of the sun as it crosses the United States of America, may we pray to face the Shadow that is being revealed so starkly in our time. Today I am asking myself, how is fear constraining me from telling the truth to myself and to others? How is fear holding me back from generosity, compassion, and courage? How am I distracting myself from the precious opportunity my life provides to discover God at work within me and make Truth and Love visible and palpable in everything I do and say?

Looking at how our shadow obscures the Light can be a blessed event, an opportunity for the freedom that comes with truth-telling and the greater love made possible when we recognize our true unity with one another, with the planet, and with God.

© 2017 Marcelle Martin

Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey, by Marcelle Martin, is available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website. Reviewed by Friends Journal, the book was designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their own experiences of ten elements of the Quaker spiritual journey of faithfulness. It’s also available from QuakerBooks, which provides free shipping on orders of six or more books.

Eclipse photo found at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/images-videos

About friendmarcelle

A Quaker writer, teacher, workshop leader, and spiritual director, I've traveled widely to facilitate workshops and retreats about the spiritual journey. I'm the author of Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey, and A Guide to Faithfulness Groups.
This entry was posted in All of Life is Sacred, Quaker Faith Today, Radical Christianity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Looking at the Shadow that Blocks the Light

  1. Angelina Carpenter says:

    Thank you, Marcelle, for expressing so well what I am feeling & experiencing. This IS a significant time to be facing our collective shadows. Face the fear to get it out of the way so Love can shine through.

  2. susan says:

    Amen. Recently I formed a new relationship to shadow by seeing in prayer that civilization/progress has often been referred to as Light in Darkness. But when civilization is so ugly, dangerous and fascist, I yearn for the Darkness in a new way, as a more human space than what is reflected by civilization. We need more words, I suppose for the Light of God shining through, but, as we know, there are oceans of both and everything in between. Thank you for your words.

  3. Thank you for your response, Susan. A lot of growth happens in the darkness.

  4. Homer Wood says:

    You did it again! This needs to be printed in bold face type on the front of every newspaper in the USA. I think that I will start a national campaign “Marcelle for President” !!!
    Yes, I still pray for you and Terry every day.
    Love and blessings..

  5. Laura Ruth says:

    Thanks Marcelle, beautiful

  6. eileenflanagan says:

    Thanks, Marcelle. I’ve been thinking similar things. I had a conversation recently with a F/friend where we wondered if some Quakers (ourselves included) might be called to embody nonviolence on the front lines, standing in the place of Antifa, not delivering blows, but willing to take them. I immediately remembered a comment I had heard only a few days earlier: “The most dangerous person to be with in nonviolent direct action is the person who is not in touch with their own capacity for violence.” There’s much work to be done right now, and facing our own shadows in one important piece.

    • Wow, Eileen, that’s a challenging possibility. You’re right that getting in touch with one’s own capacity for violence is important shadow work in the service of peacemaking.

  7. eileenflanagan says:

    Yes, Marcelle. I think parenting helped me to do that some (a thought on the way home from dropping my youngest at college). I’m sure there is much more to unpack. I’ve also been thinking about how facing our own racial biases can help us talk to/respond to extreme forms of racism–a point a Friend of African decent made in a beautiful message at my meeting on Sunday. The balance it seems to me is to make self-reflection and self-accountability part of our work without feeling that we can’t speak up about injustice until we ourselves are pure, since that is unlikely to ever happen. There’s an inner/outer balance I’ve been thinking about a lot.

  8. Carole Treadway says:

    This may be the most important message we must hear at this time.

  9. lessonsongs says:

    Thank you, Marcelle, for taking the time to express such clarity and vision. I will share this with others!

  10. Thank you, Paulette, for sharing this with others!

  11. Rachel in Edinburgh says:

    Dear Marcelle,
    Thanks for this. I have just got back from a walking holiday and when I read your sentence about “distracting ourselves with entertainments” I questioned “is that what I’ve been doing?” But no, I don’t think so, as walking is really important for me for rest and reflection and it puts me in touch with my shadow side too. It’s so interesting, walking along in often beautiful countryside but seeing where my thoughts turn – often to imagined angry scenes. I find myself wondering about this. Sometimes it’s just that I’m hungry or tired. Other times I don’t really know, or I seem to need to work through past annoyances.
    Anyway, I think you are right in your post. Except please bear in mind that it is possible younger people may be reading. For them, it may not be as late as their grandchildren’s time that the earth will become largely uninhabitable. The shadow we are casting over our own children is terrible.
    Love Rachel

  12. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your experience. It’s often in times of silence and solitude that we can see most clearly our own shadow. We need to have such times regularly in our lives. Along with its many other benefits, walking alone in nature is one of the best ways to open up to deeper seeing and reflection.
    Thank you, also, for reminding me of the limits of my own perspective, and of how close the looming catastrophes may be if we don’t significantly alter our course.

  13. Pingback: When Will We Ever Learn? | A Whole Heart

  14. Nice correlation. Thanks. It reminds to me step out of the shadow of fear myself. The light of love is always there, here, and everywhere.

  15. Pingback: The Best of A Whole Heart | A Whole Heart

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