Monday, December 21, 2009

Shadow and Light

This piece is adapted from one I originally published in August 2007, during the final leg of my 30-month full-time road odyssey. I reprint it now, during this Solstice/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza season, as a reminder of the play of shadow and light in our lives.

The shadows will tell me the story and I will write what I see. 
~ The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy

There's a scene in my novel, The MoonQuest, where one of the characters, horrified by the tyranny that has overtaken neighboring lands, describes the land itself as inherently malevolent.

"I will never set foot in that place again. It is evil. The land itself is evil," Fara says to Toshar, the book's main character.

I thought of that scene while driving through Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas a few years back.

So called because it follows a dramatic bend in the Rio Grande River, the park is a vast and remote desertscape of mountains, plains and river oases -- awe-inspiring in its natural beauty.

Is beauty, however, wasn't what prompted the realization that struck me so forcefully back then.

Beauty often suggests light. The catalyst for my Aha! was anything but.

As I drove east along the park's flatlands that day, an ominous complex of craggy cliffs captured my attention. Rising menacingly to the south and scraping the storm clouds that hung low in an unfriendly sky, these mountains felt, as my daughter would have put it back then, "creepy."

The scene felt dark, forbidding, inhospitable. And although a road offered access, I felt reluctant to follow it.

Yet, even as I drove past the turnoff, an inner voice urged me to reconsider.

Reluctantly, I turned around and headed south. After a short straightaway, a series of hairpin turns carried me up and up and then, surprisingly, down — into a basin-like valley ringed with mountains.

If my passage along the road into the Chisos Basin was dark, gloomy and threatening, the basin itself was bright, sunlit and welcoming. The sky, far from stormy, was largely clear. From this perspective, the mountains were gentle, embracing and enfolding.

Far removed from the prison I expected, this was a sanctuary, its soaring walls cathedral-like.

I stepped from the car and all the heaviness lifted so rapidly, it was as though it had never existed.

Later, as I drove out -- back into the still-overcast "outside world" -- I remembered Toshar's response to Fara:

"The land mourns, Fara, for all the blood that soaks into it. The land weeps, for all the hatred that desecrates it. The land rages, for all the malignance that grinds into it. But the land is not evil, Fara. M'nor smiled on Q'ntana once. She will again."

And as I remembered that, I realized that this land -- as menacing as it still appeared -- was not evil, was not possessed by the dark forces I first ascribed to it.

Rather, the land was a metaphor for my own dark forces, my own fears.

When I drove into the darkness of the Chisos Mountains, I was driving into the darkness in my own heart. And when I reached its light-filled center, the heart of this mountain cluster, I had actually reached the center of my own heart, itself always filled with light.

You see, there is no darkness outside of me -- not in the land, not in another. All the darkness in the land and all the darkness in the world exists within me or it could not reflect itself back at me through outer means.

The call to drive up the mountain was not to confront and transform some shadowy Dark Lord of the Rocks. It was a call to enter into my own shadowy self, into the fears that, as they do for Toshar, still tug at me "with tiny crab claws."

Only by acknowledging my own shadow can I reconnect with the light that always lies at its center. Only by entering into the heart of my darkness can I be embraced by the eternal flame of my own divinity.

Does that mean there is no darkness in the world? Of course not. But that darkness cannot exist independent of the darkness we each carry within us.

It's easy to demonize those who rape, torture and kill, those who abuse the Earth, those who disparage, disrespect and disempower. Too easy.

What's hard is to remember that nothing can exist outside us that doesn't live within.

What's hard to remember is that only by acknowledging those inner demons, only by walking through our fears, only by driving into the heart of our darkness, can we touch the light that always resides at the center -- of each of us.

• What shadowy parts of yourself can you acknowledge and own today?

• Who (or what) can you stop demonizing today, seeing them instead as reflections of the darkness you carry?

• How can you free those inner demons onto the pages of your writing in a way that strips them of their power over you and, instead, empowers your work?

Photos by Mark David Gerson: Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park

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Special Holiday Editions of Mark David's books and CDs

• Gift-wrapped books + book/CD packages signed by Mark David to your friends/family members, and shipped directly to them with a card bearing the holiday message of your choice. More information here. (Shipped Express Mail in the U.S. for delivery by Christmas.)

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Mark David's January Events / Albuquerque Area

• Free Talk
Topic: Acts of Surrender: Stepping into the New Year on Faith
Sun, Jan 10 ~ 10:30am ~ East Mountain Unity Center, Edgewood, NM

Mark David's January Workshops / Denver Area

• Free Talk, Author Q&A and book-signing
Topic: Birthing Your Book...Even If You Don't Know What It's About
Thursday, Jan 28~ 7pm ~ Bemis Public Library, Littleton, CO

Friday, Jan 29 ~ 6-9pm ~ Colorado Free University, Denver, CO

Saturday, Jan 30 ~ 10am-4:30pm ~ Colorado Free University, Denver, CO

Sunday, Jan 31 ~ 1-5pm ~ Phoenix Healing Center, Longmont, CO

Mark David's January Radio Events

Tuesday, January 12 — 4pm ET

• The Muse & You with Mark David Gerson
Special Guest: Cristina M.R. Norcross, author of the upcoming poetry collection Unsung Love Songs
Thursday, Jan 21 — 1pm ET


Karen Walker said...

I am immersed in my shadow self today and it is okay. Your writing continues to reach deep inside my soul, stirring, churning, getting me to reach deeper.

Ekkie and Mirri said...

~It's easy to demonize those who rape, torture and kill, those who abuse the Earth, those who disparage, disrespect and disempower. Too easy.

What's hard is to remember that nothing can exist outside us that doesn't live within.~

This rocks!! Thanks for writing!

You where quoted in the facebook group:

New Energy Healing from (child) Abuse. I invite you to join, when you wish to do so.

Love Elleke

Btw: I started to write my book! I just write short quotes whenever it feels like doing so, letting go of everything that is logical.
It feels so trembling I can't wait to see where it takes me.
It just feels monumental. And for the fist time I feel no pressure, or deadline. This feel so special to write, that I feel honored to write the words down. I also write in my native language that makes it way easier, then I don't have to think while I write.

Did you knew your book was gonna rock while you wrote it??