“Your task is not to seek love but to find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
That was a time before modern psychology. Some depth pioneers succeeded Rumi to give us a more detailed map of the unconscious; most notable was Carl Jung. Jung famously believed that we must make our darkness, our unconscious, conscious. If not, he said, it will return to us as fate:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
It follows, then, that if our darkness remains unconscious, darkness will come to find us as fate. What we deny inwardly, comes to us outwardly, in a kind of Yin-Yang reciprocity. In a culture hell-bent on ignoring itself and looking outward for glitz, it’s no surprise if indeed we found not just a superficial plenty but a deep and pervasive specter as result of denying our inner darkness, our pain and heartache.
Indeed, this is one way to view the fate coming to us in climate change, genocide, lack of meaning, pollution, avarice, psychopathy, opiate addiction, and the general pulse of our world on a fast track to its own demise. These atrocities are the external reactions, the effects, for our lack of correct and necessary inner action to resolve our collective pain.
The good news is that we are entirely capable of choosing to live different, positive fates. Ironically, we do this in good part by embracing the negative. We can choose different causes to experience different effects, a la “cause and effect.” But our causes must be deep and core-healing enough to create comprehensive results outside us as fate.
We now know that early trauma and childhood love deficiencies affect us well into adulthood. They color our relationships, including how we treat the planet, and usually not pleasantly. Unless dealt with, these wounds create protracted suffering, which we displace onto the world because we don’t want to hurt alone and because we can’t bear the burden without discharging it. When we don’t clear and release this pain consciously we do it unconsciously, thus the roots of our violence on all things, including the earth. We become this dynamic: “hurt people hurt others.”
The way that we discharge—what is called displacement of emotion in psychological terms—is key. Displacement is the transferring of overwhelming or unacceptable feelings away from the original and deserving target onto a more harmless victim or object. Consider such objects to include the Earth itself, as well as the humble and innocent, the heartfelt among us. Perhaps this is why the sensitive and vulnerable among us are often the targets for others’ abuse.
When we can’t effectively mitigate our pain, we discharge it through violence and needless destruction, causing more needless suffering. One primary way to discharge this pain responsibly, sustainably, and wisely is through grief work, by confronting and releasing the pain we have stored away in our body-mind.
A Clever Duping
Many spend their days distracted, in their head and too busy, precisely to avoid facing the hurt in their hearts. After all, everything culturally correct tells us to avoid our pain and seek the shiny and bright, happy and exciting. Consider for a moment that this propaganda of light in denial of the dark is the deeper manipulation, the real conspiracy, of the elites, those in power who want to prevent us from waking up to the self-empowerment that would make us not need so much of their stuff because we wouldn’t have the neurotic need to distract ourselves with it.
In other words, the New Age, the fake news, and other false conspiracy theories are distractions from the real conspiracy theory that slips by without our noticing because most don’t know the jewels that are hidden in the dark of our unconscious. The light and love movement, which we think is alternative, therefore also falls far short from truly empowering us.
So we sell out to the neurotic light-seeking of commercialism, money-making, fame, consumption, and other unilaterally positive pursuits generated to keep the dark at bay. The stealing of our hearts and minds happens right under our noses because we think we have identified a truer cause. I invite you to consider that nothing is more fundamental than the fertility of a healthy dark side embrace—the shadow work that sets us free—because it is the path to inner fulfillment that makes us not need all the crap we’re bombarded with night and day.
Until we have identified the “evil” of unreckoned pain in our body and mind, we won’t be able to identify and mitigate it outwardly. We will merely swat at it by hating Donald Trump (which is valid but not enough) and craving more ayahuasca journeys.
Consciously or not, the powers that be convince us that our dark emotions are to be avoided at all costs. And the easiest way to do this is to flaunt and sell us and endless barrage of shiny, ultimately useless stuff and ideas.
Sadly, many buy this message because the alternative—to soberly face one’s pain enduringly until it resolves—seems both scary, uncertain and overwhelming. This in large part is because we aren’t taught how to do the difficult inner work. So, we buy into easy and immediate gratifications—many of which have a significant carbon footprint—those with which we are tearing down the world one frivolous enjoyment after the next. Don’t get me wrong: hearty and wholesome fun is absolutely necessary, because we all need some fun, if only as saner substitutes for the nonsense we call “fun” nowadays. But it’s way out of balance and used to deny our Yin sides.
I’m reminded of a poem I wrote that conveys this message:
I am not famous
Like the sun or life after death.
If I were, would you pay more
Attention, listen more closely?
Heartache leads me to this earthly abode
Turned into the fallen leaves and soil
Well protected from the bright lights
That make anything or nothing something.
Thankfully, the world thinks
It has bought and re-sold all the secrets
So its real treasures remain protected
By fierce angels demanding we give up
All that permits our continued walking
Along ways hidden from poor reflection.
If this were the pointing finger
Would you have an easier time dying
To all you think is good and golden
So the moon might finally carry you
Through the fathoms you ignored
For the idea of a shore?
—Jack Adam Weber
The upshot of this conundrum is to begin learning how to do the inner work and make this the new normal. To do this, we have to un-brainwash ourselves of the light, glitzy, perverse Yang motif that ignores the sacred feminine, holy darkness. To this end, I have begun creating the following audios describing how to go about clearing our hearts of backlogged pain. This work is modeled after the death and rebirth cycle common to the natural world and embedded in Taoism and Chinese medicine.
It is light that follows from death. We see this most obviously in plant growth that falls away, rots, and becomes soil that nourishes new growth. This cycle of renewal is also found in the inner alchemy of our own psyche through grief work as we die to our pain and are unbiddingly renewed as a result. This emotional work is foundational for activism and creating a new world because it helps us become regenerative people that stop hurting others as much. It brings truer, sustainable inner and outer peace from the ground up. That ground is our unconscious, the core of our deep selves, our heart of hearts, that then manifests as wise goodness in the world.
Taking the best from ancient Rumi and a more contemporary Jung, combined with advances in neuroscience that show our capacity for recreating ourselves through neuroplasticity, we discover a way to a modicum of personal salvation (that can equip us to more passionately engage with interminable collective strife). Again, this model for self-compassion is to do the embodied grief work that releases the pain we carry from the past.
Contributing to the conspiracy against the benevolent darkness are the systems that believe in a light behind or beyond this world; they set up a dualism that tends to ignore and negate the burden and the serious effects of our emotional pain. Yoga philosophy and beliefs in God or Spirit, for example, set up a hankering to only abide in the light. This ignoring of the dark—the turning away from our very ordinary human heartache—sets in motion the “ten-thousand evils” via denial and repression of our pain. May we be as wise as Meister Eckhart who said, “My God is dark.”
I know all this might sound outlandish, but I invite you to be open-minded to consider and watch it at work in your own life. For example, notice what happens when you don’t address underlying problems in your relationship, when you ignore signs of fatigue and needing to take a rest, when we ignore the pollution we put into the atmosphere in the process of being too busy, when you ignore the pain in your back that later develops into a more serious problem (not all do, of course), what happens when we don’t compost and renew the soil, when we don’t recycle, or what often happens when you ignore the glitch in your laptop that leads to more serious problems. Notice how unresolved hurt makes people perpetually afraid, angry, bitter, contracted, and cruel. All these examples involve noticing and embracing the dark, the rotten, the difficult. They necessitate abiding by our Yin-feminine-benevolent dark nature in order to make our lives sustainably more productive-Yang-enjoyable.
Jung also said: “Neurosis is a substitute for legitimate suffering.”
Legitimate suffering is to deal with our pain, which entails temporary, legitimate suffering. When we don’t deal with our pain, we create perpetual, unreasonable suffering for ourselves and others.
We are in tremendous collective neurosis today. We need to embrace and pass through legitimate and necessary suffering to get out of our own way and create deeper, regenerative peace. To do this by avoiding our heart-hurts usually requires a degree of spiritual bypassing and intellectual dishonesty that only consolidate pain and darkness in us, and eventually, in the world, as fate.
When we unburden ourselves of pain through grief work, we address the underlying cause of our dysfunction. And no, I don’t think it’s enough just to consciously focus on love, because love in embodied, practical reality can’t be sustainable or very loving when we don’t deal with our shadow. Yes, this is not a pretty and flowery; nor an easy fix . . . which just might point to its value. It is quite the opposite. And because it is the opposite of what pop culture and alternative media values, it is precisely a clue to the secret medicine we need to rebirth ourselves from the knots of our pasts, so we can rise up and stop and destroying ourselves, one another, and our world.
Once we have the courage to face our own pain we don’t need to busy and distract ourselves, while mindlessly polluting the environment because we don’t know what else to do with our precariously sanctioned freedom—a freedom given to us so we can consume what we want and make other people rich while leaving a bunch of trash in our wake. When we face ourselves we also gain the courage to face the world more honestly and poignantly, from which we distract ourselves with our neurotic, first-world obsessions and self-inudlgences.
Most gurus and supposed non-dual teachers steer us far clear from dealing with the pain that encrusts our hearts. I believe this is precisely because within our dark depths lies the hidden light of rebirth from our pain, which pain is what drove us to seek many spiritual teachings in the first place.
So many of us have turned to spiritual teachings (myself included once ago) because we aren’t taught and don’t know how to navigate our unconscious to unburden ourselves of pain. This clearing of pain is our source of true joy and integral, embodied living. More, this shadow work is the healing that makes New Age, religious, and spiritual teachings obsolete and casts a light on their ignorance, if not their outright lies. At the very least, most all spiritual and religious teachings have no comprehensive methodology to deal with our shadow sides, to release its hidden light, which is our rebirth into functionality, non-dual love, and integrity. It also sets us free from having to believe in fake conspiracy theories, which are approximations of our problem, like itches we scratch trying to get to the core of our ache.
The result of this duping is that we have sold our souls on fake concerns, pursued easy disappearing light, imposter conspiracy theories, and ephemeral pursuits of pleasure. If you follow the chain of events closely, this forward, light-seeking progress has led to the deterioration of our environment, the breakdown of our communities and relationships, and the poisoning of our bodies and our world. We have sold ourselves out to Big Business by denying what they have quite cleverly, and perhaps even inadvertently, steered us away from.
Let’s be smarter and more sovereign than this and reclaim the territory inside ourselves where we would never think to find salvation and heartfelt fame, unless of course we have had the odd fortune to have been initiated there. Let us go to that place where “the moon might finally carry” us.