The other night I saw the movie The Year of Living Dangerously. The movie uses Wayang Kulit, a style of Indonesian shadow puppetry to symbolize the battle to balance good and bad in the universe. In the movie, the character Billie Kwan uses theses shadow puppets to talk about higher ideals. “In the West, we want answers for everything. Everything is right or wrong, or good or bad. But in the [shadow play] no such final conclusion exists. Look at Prince Ajuna. He’s a hero. But he can also be fickle and selfish. Krishna says to him, ‘All is clouded by desire, Ajuna, as a fire by smoke, as a mirror by dust. Through these, it blinds the soul.’” Our shadow is the dark side of ourselves.
Balance is an oft discussed topic with my clients. I agree with Billie Kwan in that the West wants clear unwavering definition. You are either Right-wing or Left-wing. You are urban or rural. A concept is either right or wrong. There is no wiggle room. There is no gray. The West has a desire for the absolute. But there is no absolute in life. We are not one thing. Like Prince Ajuna we can be a hero one day and selfish the next. We can be giving in one situation and stingy in another. We are not one dimensional beings. We are multifaceted. Life is multifaceted. Life is balance. If there was only sunshine, the crops would die. They also need the rain. All of nature needs the balance between black and white, good and bad, light and shadow.
The peace of life is not found in labeling and adhering to absolutes. Peace is found by navigating the delicate balance between light and dark. For example, many of my clients are open-hearted givers, which is a very admirable trait. But if they give without end, if they give in every situation in every moment of every day, they become depleted. There is a balance needed between giving and receiving. Many of my clients have a hard time with this concept because they label giving as good and receiving as bad. They believe if they do not live completely in the good then they are bad. But as the recently departed Debbie Ford often professed, “Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to life in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.”
Look at your own battle and balance of good and bad, light and shadow. Can you embrace your shadow in order to become whole? Can you find the benefit of your shadow and the weakness of your light? Can you see how they are both needed? What shadow in your life are you running from?