I cannot think of too many lessons I have learnt in my life. But one thing that my life’s journey has taught me is that we ALL have feet of clay. We ALL have our weakness, our questions, our problems, our struggles, our imperfections. We ALL have those things about us that we think, “If they knew this about me they would not like nor respect me!” It is part of being human. I have shared with you before that one of the struggles in my life is that I am constantly giving retreats or engaging with people about the spiritual journey – the inner journey that we all walk – and as a result people (some anyway) think Damien is a good person and worse – some kind of guru or holy man. Nothing could be further from the truth. While many or most of you are saints – Pricey is far from being any sort of saint. I am – every day of my life – so conscious of my;
- Contradictions – the difference between what I say and what I do (and think)
- Feet of clay – that I have aspects of myself that are not of love – that I am weak, broken, not whole – to use a ‘church term’ – sinful. That are aspects of myself and my story that I am ashamed of – these are often my secrets – those things about me that I truly believe that if you knew them about me you would not love me.
- Projection – that I so often ‘dump’ onto others my anger when it is really MY stuff, my agenda (this is the importance of self-awareness)
- My stuff – that what so often annoys me in the other is PRESENT in me – when we are really aware – we will know that almost always that which annoys me in the other – is part of me – how often have you heard it said, “Those two clash – they are so alike!”
- Baggage – the ‘shit’ that I carry around that are like lead weights for my feet – those things about me that I do not like and that hold me back from being my best and truest self.
All of the list above is my shadow. Within that baggage, within that shadow – will be wisdom – the baggage and other aspects of our shadow is actually like manure – when we dig around the plant, when we dig in some manure, the roots of the plant go deeper and produce greater life.
So the next time you look across at someone and think, “They are so wise, so holy, they constantly think noble thoughts – I wish I was like them!” STOP!!!! That person you are admiring may be a wonderful person but in terms of their inner journey and in terms of their totality they are just like you! They too are a mixture of mixed motivations, generosity and selfishness, nobility and the mundane, heroic and coward, petty and magnanimous!
This totality of me (and of each of us) is our shadow. No tree can stand in the sun – and not cast a shadow – the shadow is part of the landscape of a tree on a sunny day. So too – the shadow is part of who we are – the whole me – the complete me. Life’s journey is a journey to;
- Come to know that other side of me
- Name it – and then rather than trying to ‘tame it’ – embrace it
- It – your shadow – those elements of you that you hate, deny, run away from, ignore, rationalise away – will be THE ladder for you to go down to deeper wisdom, deeper love, deeper acceptance of self and the other.
Part of my Shadow
When I was born my father was in Bailey Henderson psychiatric hospital in Toowoomba. Dad had had yet another nervous breakdown not long before I was born. Dad had many breakdowns between 1946 and his death in 1974. So in my first 18 months of life my wonderful mother Zena ‘abandoned me’ and would leave me with the lady next door (Mrs Power) and drive to Toowoomba from Pittsworth and visit dad. It was NOT neither Mum’s nor Dad’s fault but all of this had a profound effect upon me.
Then when I was about 8 my grandmother got ill. We had left Pittsworth (because of Dad’s illness) and returned to Proserpine. So here was little 8 year old Damien with a very sick grandmother, a heavily medicated father and a mother frantically attempting to care for all of this. To make it worse my two older brothers were away in Boarding school. So little Damien began to ignore my normal little boy needs to play and explore and subjugated my needs to the needs of the family. I was the classic good little boy caring for Dad, caring for my grandmother, caring for my mother – not rocking the boat. So ‘good little boy Damien’ was created that ever since has placed his needs below the needs of others – and especially has become the classic helper or saviour of others and their needs – while all the time ignoring his. Again – all of the above was no-one’s fault – it was just the cards life dealt me!
It is not the cards life deals you but how you play with them that count!
These totally understandable habits and patterns are part of my shadow. They explain why I do what I do – how I do it – how I react in certain situations, what I am afraid of, what makes me insecure etc. They also explain other facets of my personality – aspects that many of you are aware of – like how Pricey avoids and especially avoids conflict! This is all part of Damien’s shadow – we all have our version of this.
Of course – the flip side is gift! All that I named above is also part of Damien’s gift – you see the shadow dances with our gift. While I have many many many faults – I do also have a truly compassionate nature – I do have an almost automatic tendency to reach out to those who are hurting. These too – were born from my childhood and are gift. The little Damien saw my father’s compassion for others, especially those doing it tough. The little Damien saw his mother’s practical care for people. So some of this rubbed off onto me.
So for Damien to grow – to become as complete and whole a human being as I can I must walk the beautiful (but at times painful) journey of;
- Becoming aware of my shadow
- Self-Awareness is vital in this work
- Befriend the shadow – embrace it
- Listen to the shadow – what does it want to teach me
“Conflict can be good!” “Damien your needs are just as important as another’s” “It was NOT your fault that you were abandoned (it wasn’t anyone’s fault)”
- Channel the energy of the shadow to enhance and deepen your gift (after all they truly are one)
The shadow is there – it is there in you and it is there in me. It is THE secret – the key to understanding why we do the things we do that we do not like. It is the secret to our deeper motivations and desires. When we name it, when we embrace it – it becomes our most powerful weapon to the more complete, healthy and whole me.
Of course – like all matters of the heart this is a journey. You don’t just one day wake up – just jump out of bed and say, “Today I will come to know my shadow, embrace it and radically change my life from this!” Nah that is the stuff movies are made from. The reality is the wonder and the awe of the ordinary. The reality is the fidelity to get up each day, to be honest with self and to seek wise counsel and mentors and be open to what they say. The reality is day by day choices to believe in yourself. The reality is times of confusion and pain – but hang in there – you will come out the other side if you journey with small steps of courage and listen to the wisdom deep within. The reality is, like all of life, ups and downs, small steps, small choices, small moments of courage and insight. But the journey itself becomes THE Bridge to wholeness, to life and to your best self and in so doing – becomes the bridge to deep inner freedom.
And have some fun on the journey too! I can remember seeing a counsellor one time for them to tell me why I was crazy. After patiently listening to me for some time – they said, “You know Damien one of your biggest blocks is your ego!” Well – how DARE THEY! Damien is NOT egotistical! Damien is humble and caring and nice! Damien is not ego driven! And then, slowly, in some small moments of clarity – my inner voice whispered, “He’s right you know. You are constantly trying to impress others, you are constantly trying to please, you are constantly trying to look good and be admired – all ego driven!” All of this led me to the creation of ‘Ernie’ – ‘Ernie Ego’ that would appear constantly in my life – would sit on my shoulder and whisper in my ear. Now, no one else saw Ernie – but I knew he was there. So, each morning and in every situation where I was working with people, Ernie would appear on my shoulder whispering in my ear. I would laugh at him, greet him, tease him – and most importantly become aware of him. Then, slowly he got smaller and smaller – and less dominant in my life. He is still there – he is like a chameleon (a reptile that constantly changes colours to melt into its environment) that goes away and then reappears in my life. But I made that part of my dance with my shadow a bit of fun!
So, enjoy your shadow work. The shadow is the unconscious aspects of your personality, the apparently negative, the collateral inner damage from our life’s story, the baggage and the ‘shit’ – all of which are the aspects of our inner self that we do not like and want to deny or hide.
Our call is to bring this into consciousness, for when we are aware of the total ‘me’ then I can grow deeper, stronger, more complete and whole! Then the shadow will not be in the driver’s seat as often. Then we – the real me – will take more ownership of our lives. There will be less blame and dumping and self-loathing. Shine a light of awareness on the totality of who you are ‘warts and all’ and you will know a deep freedom. Enjoy the journey! Find companions to walk it with you (though there are aspects you can only walk alone) and rest often to take in the vistas around you!