But who prays for Satan? – Mark Twain
These poignant words stare at me from the mysterious realm of Facebook.
…the one sinner who needed it most… the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian’s daily and nightly prayers, for the plain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest? – Mark Twain
My heart sinks. For all the times I’ve rejected and scolded the ‘badness,’ the ‘unlovable,’ the ‘wrong’ in both myself and others. For all the times I’ve looked down upon that which does not fit with my ideals of good, fair and right. For all the times I’ve cast away my own shadow to where I thought it belonged – hidden, separate from me, unworthy of the eyes of the world.
But these words from Mark Twain become a candle, quietly lit in this darkened corner, revealing the forgotten life still present amongst the flickering glow. And just as there is a glimmer of light in this darkened corner, there are shadows cast among all who dwell in the daylight.
It reminded me of a time I was in a car with my father, words of hair-raising abuse snarling and spitting from his mouth at the mere negligence of another driver. A mouth that only moments before had been spilling generous feelings of deep adoration and love. I remember this sudden shift slapping me squarely in the face. The shock of this stark duality a mirror, blatantly reflecting back to me the very same demons I had, at times, seen in myself.
I realised, up until this point, I had judged my father as ‘asleep’ or ‘unevolved.’ Detached from his own heart and lacking the capacity for empathy. But having seen only moments before the depth of his kindness, it was now so clear that I had been putting him in the ‘not as good as me’ box, as a way to avoid looking at my own darkness … “I don’t do or say stuff like that, so I must be ‘good’!”
All this time, I’d been skimming the surface of my inner tapestry, weaving the story I’d wanted to believe – “I am better than them.” But in this small, yet significant moment, my self-delusion came crashing at my feet. I could no longer hide from the truth of my shadows. They were there, alive and strong and inside me. My judgement. My superiority. My ‘ugly’.
When I looked again at this man beside me, my father, I saw the blood running through his veins. Blood that we share. I sensed the beat of his resilient heart, with all the breakage it’s endured. And I felt my own heart, beating to the very same rhythm. Suddenly, I could sense the sadness, the hurt, the fear, the unjust, the rejection, and the pain that had met him along his path. With this revelation, my view of his shadows took on a different form and now I understood his violent displays of discomfort were merely desperate cries for attention. Symptoms of self-inflicted judgement and abandon. I couldn’t help but wonder how he and I might both be different if we had attended to the causes of our shadows instead of banishing them.
We are All Capable
This is not to say that all acts of ill-intention should be excused and accepted. We are all capable of the unimaginable, just as we are all capable of unfathomable love. And perhaps it would serve us to notice this sameness that we each share, the dark and the light. Perhaps if we more willingly cast our gaze upon this, we would naturally foster the grounds for change, for transformation, for wholeness.
I watched his hardened gaze, the aftermath of his eruption. I wanted to tell his demons – they were okay, they were worthy. I wanted to scoop them up in my arms and let them feel what it feels like to really be seen, heard, even loved. I wanted to rock them into a blissful sleep and wash away their pain with my tears … except I knew that I couldn’t. Only he could do that. But at least I could do that for my own.
And so, I closed my eyes and said a prayer for my demons. One by one. I let them tell me where they were from and why they were here. I explored their fascinating shapeshifting faces and forms. I cuddled them. I let them soften in the glow of my unconditional love. And as I did, I felt as if my soul swelled in fullness and peace.
I See You, I See Me
As days went by, I watched more closely and noticed more sweetly the arisings of my shadow sides. I tried to make time and space for them when they squirmed and found love for them when they felt far from lovable. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, easy. But I keep trying, and I keep finding that the more I devote my attention and intention to them, the more I can see, hear, and feel the humanness within what once could have appeared ‘inhumane’ in other people.
As Osho so eloquently put it:
I am one with all things –
for whatsoever is – there I am.
Not only in virtue
but in sin too I am a partner,
and not only in heaven but hell too is mine.
Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu –
it is easy to be their heir,
but Genghis, Taimur and Hitler:
they are also within me!
No, not half – I am the whole of mankind.
Whatsoever is man’s is mine –
flowers and thorns,
darkness as well as light,
and if nectar is mine, whose is poison?
Nectar and poison – both are mine
Whoever experiences this
I call religious,
for only the anguish of such experience can
revolutionise life on Earth.
Are you acquainted with your own dark side? If you feel so inspired, sit quietly with any ill feelings or parts of yourself you have difficulty accepting. Close your eyes and visualise what those look like – colours, forms, shapes, smells, feelings, sounds. Get a good sense of their essence. Then try having a loving conversation with each one. Enquire, seek to understand why it is a part of you. Thank it for what it has done for you, perhaps it was actually trying to protect you, and send it love.
We would love to hear about your experience with this or any other stories about learning to love your shadow in the comments below.
With unconditional love and light for all parts of you,