After weeks of cycling through uncertainty, grief, fear, and anger, I reached out to a dear friend and spiritual mentor. I shared with her the intense state of confusion I have felt since the election. How completely at a loss for words I have been. How I have felt frozen in my mind and body, completely detached from my purpose and sense of certainty. How with every new story, every new appointment by Trump, a wave of grief and fear flows through me that seems to block out all light and hope.
I shared with her how disconnected and alone I’ve felt listening to a sea of voices who seem so certain in all this chaos. Voices who cry out that we must hold the light and not slip into fear and grief. Voices that declare we must act now and waste no time with grieving. Voices who say we must march on and this is how. To me these voices offered inspirational and sentimental band-aids for deeper internal wounds. I simply couldn’t relate and was in no way consoled.
Her response to all this: You are not alone. You are exactly where you need to be. Our collective shadow has risen to the surface. The cultural wounds of racism, bigotry, sexism and hatred are out for all to see. Our task now is to see the shadow for what it is, feel it and be fully present with it no matter how uncomfortable. Resting in the chaos of the unknown, witnessing and being with our feelings of grief, fear and confusion, this is where our work begins.
For many, being with the shadow is too painful. Many have pulled away from this discomfort by instantly trying to fix it. They offer quick and shallow solutions or try to correct or dispel the unpleasant feelings within others and within themselves. Others are spiritually bypassing without even knowing it. They avoid dealing with the shadow through their spiritual beliefs and practices. They exclaim that we cannot allow feelings of fear or grief because we must hold the light and love. But the light is always there, there is no need to hold it. Even when we are experiencing shadow, our light, our love is still within us, although it may not feel like it.
If you are still feeling fearful, grief or uncertainty, thank you. You are feeling and being with our collective emotional truth. You are doing the emotional work that many can not. In American culture this emotional intelligence is crucial. Our culture teaches that these unpleasant feelings are a failure, a weakness, and distract us from action. But to feel these things fully requires great strength and courage and offers us a valuable perspective on how to take effective action.
Being fully present with what is, even the ugly, painful shadow, offers us wisdom. By accepting and breathing with chaos we can gain tremendous insight on how to move forward that we would not uncover by reacting without contemplation or pushing away the truth. Those who stand in the fires of uncertainty, despair and fear with presence, awareness and discernment are spiritual warriors. And in an age of digital distraction, emotional shaming and bypassing, we need all the spiritual warriors we can get.