Perhaps it's how we hide from our light. It's like a teeter-totter that moves back and forth, up and down, until the reordering is complete.
But in order to complete the process, we need to relax into areas of imbalance, darkness and trauma in our lives. We have to see it as a natural part of our evolution - an essential step of maturing into a whole new being where oneness is fully integrated.
~ James Twyman
Meeting the Unknown
Many years ago, I had a strong urge to work with youth in prison. And, I had such grand plans. I stayed up all night reading about my chosen demographic, planning elaborate art projects, imagining how I could help and heal. Soon after, I got a position in a summer art program for teens, age 13-17, in a correctional institution. I remember feeling terrified; yet, I was determined to meet something unknown in myself.
The teens in my art group were skeptical of me at first. They asked, "Why do you want to be with us jail kids?" Little did they know how wildly enthusiastic I was about thinking up new art challenges each week. Not allowed to know anything about their crimes, I found myself easily seeing the best in everyone, and we flourished as a group for a while.
The teens inspired me to facilitate meaningful classes and come up with challenging creative ideas. I found them to be intelligent, discerning and highly competitive. They were on high alert to every nuance of inconsistency and inauthenticity. And, they were brutally honest in their creativity.
As the summer went on, some darkness was revealed. I found out that my favourite teen had raped a girl. My stomach sank when I overheard how a benign-looking boy had brutally killed a service station attendant. I found myself becoming frightened. I felt challenged to embrace the living, breathing hurt around my art table.
I wanted to look away when a teen told me that he regularly was thrown down the stairs by his drunken parents. I wanted to ignore that many children in the world get harmed emotionally, physically and sexually on a daily basis. I wanted to deny that there was violence in the world.
As I grew more frightened, things started going amiss. A few teens had mean streaks and began to demean others in the group. One teen stole my ink pens. I got a call from my supervisor the day after class, and she told me that several teens had given themselves new tattoos with my art supplies.
Upon starting class one week, I discovered that someone had covered up all of our painted canvases with white paint. The rest of the group became demoralized, refusing to paint again, and I began to feel despair. In emotional pain, the teens sought to hurt each other, and I was growing weary of my summer teaching post. I was not yet emotionally strong enough to hold a strong container for such unhealed hurt.
The Interplay of Dark and Light
When my three-month post was over I said a relieved good-bye. The kids in the group looked nonchalant when I told them I was leaving. The night of my last class, I left swallowing my tears, wishing I could have made a larger impact. I felt confused as I drove home. The night sky felt as dark as it had ever been, and the stars hurt my eyes.
Not knowing what I had just experienced, I rounded the corner to my house, and I sucked in my breath. Standing on the sidewalk was a black cat and a white cat elegantly touching noses. I felt the equality of the dark and the light and I shivered deep into my bones.
Despite my personal misgivings, my summer "jail kids" art program was considered a great success. I was asked to continue on, but I could not quite completely meet everything within myself to stay.
At the time, I did not have the strength to face the deeper darkness within myself. My own unhealed inner teen was triggered. I felt unsafe. I was too afraid of my own suppressed emotions.
My doubt about my own basic goodness ate away at my light. I thought I could negate the "dark" side of life by turning a blind eye, pretending it did not exist in myself and others. I did not yet trust the deeper transformational workings of the dark and the light.
"Choice implies consciousness - a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present....Nobody chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain.
Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough presence in you to dissolve the past, not enough light to dispel the darkness. You are not fully here. You have not quite woken up yet. In the meantime, the conditioned mind is running your life."
~ Eckhart Tolle
It has been over ten years since I spent time with my "jail kids." And, since that time I have done a lot of inner self-love work to heal my traumatized "inner teen." Such loving interactions with the darkness is how the light gets in. Transformation happens through acceptance. This is how we mature.
Strengthening Love in the Midst of Fear
- When you feel afraid, bless the negativity that you encounter. Bless everyone and everything. Bless yourself.
- Never accept any limitations as permanent or unchangeable.
- See negative events and behaviours as a temporary mistake based on a limited understanding.
- Always look beyond negative conditions, and envision a love-filled possibility.
- Take the next step towards your higher goals even if you feel fear or discouragement.
- In every negative situation, always reach for a higher understanding.