As we go down the rabbit hole in the pursuit of spiritual awakening, we are often encouraged to explore our shadow. Delve into our vices and weaknesses. Places within our consciousness that need to be brought out into the light. To be examined, understood and eventually transcended. We are taught that evolution, spiritual change, implies walking away from what we consider negative behavior or thought patterns and the embracing of what we consider positive ones.
It seems very logical. Since our negativity and harmful behaviors cause us pain and in some way even destruction, it is only but the next rational step to attempt to avoid, shift and transform those into positive, constructive behaviors and beliefs. The assumption here though, is that “darkness” or negativity has a substantial existence on its own. That it can be fought and dealt with. That you can actually interact with your limiting beliefs and actively do something about them.
Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. You can’t actively do anything to fight it off, push it away or destroy it. All you need to do is turn on the light… and then, huzza and hooray… darkness disappears on it own accord. If it is that simple, why don’t we shift and change so quickly? Why do we hold on to destructive behaviors so fiercely? Why is it so hard to walk away from self-sabotaging habits?
The answer is our inability to take more sugar. Huh? Yes. It is hard for us to take in more sugar. Many years ago, I asked a Zen master what is in my way to becoming enlightened. She smiled and replied; ‘Well, it seems like you can’t take enough sugar.’ – “What”? I exclaimed? ‘What does sugar have to do with enlightenment’?
“Simple”, she replied. If I offer you a cup of tea with one spoonful of sugar, you can drink it. Two – with pleasure. Three… you might still, but what about five? Ten? Fifty? You won’t be able to take the tiniest sip. Life, Satori, the coveted state of enlightenment you seek, is like drinking a million teaspoons of sugar. Right now, you won’t be able to take it all in. There is no problem with your “bitter tea”, the contents of your being. Your mind, you thoughts, your behaviors. There is nothing you need to do with the unpleasantness of the brew.
‘So how do I take more sugar? How do I invite that state of sweetness into my cup?’
“That’s exactly it. With that size cup, you can’t contain, and will never contain a million teaspoons of sugar. What you need to do is expand your container. Become the ocean. The ocean will and can contain an infinite amount and still, space will remain”.
Many years have passed till I’ve learned to become an ocean. To expand my capacity to give and receive. To deal less with the “bitterness” of my contents and more with my ability to express, be grateful for and acknowledge the immense gratitude to all that I receive, have and experience. It seems that the more I invite light, the less darkness I seem to encounter. It is not that I have no challenges; it is only that I’ve learned to express more gratitude and learn what those challenges truly imply in the process of my expansion.
Taking more sugar does not imply running away from your difficulties. It doesn’t mean you have no shadow. But in observing your shadow, you can choose to focus and realize that shadow implies, that somewhere within you, there has to be a source of light. Shadow cannot exist without illumination. The sun allows for shade. They do not contradict. In fact they seem to need one another. They seem to be dancing in a divine ecstatic flow. Complimenting each other, praising the other in their brilliance and power of effect.
And so, how do we take more sugar in our spiritual evolution? We work with the power of implications. We observe our shadow, our darkness, and see where and how it implies light. We embrace our limitations, accept our human nature and it’s conditioning and allow those to imply our divine nature and welcome our perfect imperfections. We try to be more real, more connected to what’s truly there, and take less effort and attention in focusing on what isn’t. We work on the expansion of our capacities rather than try and shift or change our cup to be of a different shape or form.
Taking conscious practices of appreciation and gratitude in our relationships, focusing on the creation of art, music and dance. Finding more ways to express our inner worlds and connect with others in the process. Painting, dancing and poetry are as powerful as silent meditation or other contemplative exercises. Taking a stroll on the beach, asking you partner to be silent as you take the time to describe and sing their beauty. Sitting by the moonlight to write and journal the unfolding story of your life’s journey. Mailing a gift to an un-expecting friend. Dressing up and going out to dinner by yourself, treating yourself to an exquisite meal to celebrate who you are. These are but a few practical practices we can take on as a way to expand our capacity to take in more sugar.
As challenges arise, instead of our usual attempt to either delve into them or avoid them all together, what if you offer to sing and dance them? Write a poem of your sadness? Sing the glory of your difficulty. You might find that shedding light on your darkness turns it into a friend, a wise old traveler who have seen and toured the world and bares so many gifts and so many stories.
So what is that you’re asking? Would I like more sugar? Yes- Yes Please!