-Leonardo da Vinci
Everyone has a subtle darkness that wraps around them like a soft, velvet cloak. This is your shadow, the part of you that is dark, rich and fertile. It is the place where we lock our fears and insecurities, your monsters and demons. You may fear the darkness, when really you should learn to touch it.
You feel strong when you keep your composure during hard times. You sigh with relief when you push through anger, fists and jaw clenched, as if you are bracing your self through an earthquake. It’s easy to avoid what feels terrifying, to avoid the unknown. But why do you fear your darkness? When did feeling become bad?
Did someone tell you that the dark is bad? Where you spooked as a child by the things that went bump in the night? The boogieman that lived under the bed? Sometime I think back to those times and wonder if maybe the boogieman was really a cool guy. He might be one of those types that carry a boom-box on his shoulder, blasting a good beat for anyone who’s brave enough to boogie! But you’ll never know.
We spend so much time trying to avoid the difficult. I once had a writing professor tell me that, the best writing is when you write what you’re afraid of. I loved that concept. If you write what really challenges you, then you touch something more believable. A lot of characters come out when you are uncomfortable. You begin to slip into the in-between.
Sometimes I think it’s our need to control. You may fear that if you touch the darkness, you will fade like a drop in the ocean, into a strange land of eternal night… never to return again. But, why do you care? Maybe there’s really a great carnival ragging somewhere in the darkness, waiting for you to step through your shadow. But you’ll never know.
Some people get lost in their shadow. You can be consumed by your own darkness. Depression can clutch you like the fatal talons of a hawk and never let you go. Anger can burn you from the inside out. All of these lower emotions can eat away at you if you let them. People become prisoners of their darkness because they give all their power to their fears
Befriend the night. Marry your own darkness. Learn to dance with the chaos and the uncertainty. Learn to be with the unlovable parts of you. You can’t heal a wound if you are too afraid to look at it. If there is really a monster in the corner of your room, he isn’t leaving if you close your eyes. But you may find if you step out of the bed, walk right up to him and shake his hand… he could be a really good friend. You must be with your emotions, but not consumed by them.
We learn through opposition the strength of our character. You cant live in a vacuum. You have to take in the light and the dark, so that you can really see who you are. We are all the interplay of light and shadow… without one you can’t have the other; that’s balance.
There is an art to taking good photographs. A good photographer understands the play of light and darkness, and how to use both to their advantage to capture a spectacular photo. And as all good artist know, if you learn the rules you can break them.
Be bold, be brave and step out there and walk the middle ground. Let your darkness show you something you never knew before, or never wanted to know. If you let it consume you, you become numb, you lose passion, and without passion nothing can live.
Passion is the lifeblood of everything. Passion is the sun to the plants. Passion is the fire in the hearth. Passion is the love in the heart. Passion is an invisible force that lives inside of each thing and when you active that energy, like a spark, it springs to life and creates beauty. You cannot have passion if you cant feel. And you can’t feel if you are afraid to step into the unknown.
You may say, “Well how do I befriend my shadow?” It’s simple, what are you afraid of? Go there. If you fear talking to strangers, take that feeling deeper and explore why. Maybe that’s why you’ve been unable to meet a partner. Maybe at your core you fear rejection. So take the power back, muster the strength and go talk to someone.
So you don’t know how to get past that anxiety. Leap before you think. In that in-between space is where passion lives. That is the instinctual part of you, devoid of ego and preconceived notions. You act from your center, where light and shadow come together like two great streams flowing into a river.
When I was in foundations drawing my freshman year, my professor made the class do a very interesting drawing exercise. He had all of us take out a sheet of paper, and a piece of charcoal. We covered the white paper in charcoal, until there was nothing but a thick darkness. And then he projected on the screen in front of us, abstract images, of black with small slices of white throughout.
We were instructed to copy the images exactly as it appeared, by erasing the charcoal from our page to allow slivers of white to peek through the black. The entire time we had no clue what we were doing, we just had to trust. It all looked like abstract shapes of black and white, of light and shadow, woven together.
Once we got to the last slide, sculpting away at our page, as instructed, he asked us to stop and look at the page before us for a few seconds. I felt defeated because all I saw before me was a jumbled mess. Then he asked us to rotate the page, until finally he said stop. The orientation was changed, and so was the image before me.
We held the pages back and looked at them with new eyes, and on the page was an entire drawing of a man crouched over, holding a skull in his hand. I didn’t even see the figure before, and I was the person who drew it. It went from an abstract, collection of shapes and shadows, to a cohesive drawing in a few flips.
My mind was blown. I felt enlightened. I proceeded with a little trepidation, but mustered the bravery to see it through to the end. It paid off. I trusted the unknown, wrestled my fears of not being able to create something that made sense and I let the dark instruct me.
Live your life this way. Learn to look at things upside down and right side up, sideways and backwards. Shake the hand of your fears. Keep your composure, but don’t grow numb to the feelings. Remain passionate! The dark is a fertile, limitless place; it is the womb of creation. There are thoughts, ideas and inspirations that live there, if you are brave enough to open the door and step in.
My shadow is layers of stain glass fragments, the play of light and darkness, casting rainbows of color into my soul.
© Shaheen Miro 6/25/2012 (Images are not mine.)