Today is the final day of the conference and Caroline began by saying, ‘I want to share something from a different perspective. I’m intrigued by the seven shadows and seven jewels. In my 25 years experience, as I’ve watched us falling into negative coping mechanisms, I’ve seen us adapt to our wounds instead of our jewels. Our wounds tend to define us rather than the jewels of our soul. When we get ill we try to make the ship that’s sinking course-correct. Often it’s too late. When we’re adapting to our wounds we create distorted versions of ourselves. We become versions of anger, wrath, pride. We pull out our history as if the person in front of us has something to do with it. I cannot emphasise enough that your history is useless! You carry it because of the shadows that have power over you. Healing is getting to the jewels and seeing how the shadows control us. For example, ‘My pride is so intense that I will not give joy and approval to another person. I see that envy is rotting my heart. There wasn’t enough for me so I can’t be happy for someone else.’ When we live in the mystical we recognise a higher truth — ‘What if I live in that higher truth and truly believe that to be happy for you is to be happy for me?’ What if this is what cleansed and got the disease out?
The gifts of the soul are always oozing to get out.
There is something unnatural about not being loving, about not loving yourself, about being ashamed of yourself.
It’s harmful, it’s brutal, living a life of self-punishment and abuse. It’s got to stop.
You need to ask, ‘Why am I always abusing myself?’
Fourth Chakra: Shadow of Luxury
John of the Cross calls the fourth deadly sin the shadow of luxury. Another way to describe it would be shame — shame relative to things that have happened to you, or that you’ve done or said. When you think of the cause of your suffering, it’s not what someone did — it’s a whole interior map — like a cardiovascular system that makes you act against your nature. It bubbles up from some part of you. You stop because you encounter a wall of shame. You pull back from your loving, joyful instinct and you continue to conceal yourself and it grows into loneliness and isolation.
How can you not continue to say, ‘What’s the source of this? Instead I’ve got to express emotion and find someone to blame. If you can’t express love, you express sorrow and suffering and anger. You cannot just be a noun; you’re also a verb. You’re all complete sentences. ‘I’m ashamed of how I feel.’ It’s twisted in memories of shame, for example, the memory of someone laughing at you in childhood. You keep replaying those memories. ‘No-one will ever love me.’ By virtue of that you’ll have to start twisting the dial on your heart. You might start seeking people to love that are also damaged and wonder why ‘square’ relationships don’t work. ‘Squares’ abuse ‘squares’ because that’s all they know. We choose this instead of saying, ‘I just want to be loved.’
The dark night is about cleansing despair. If you can say, ‘I need to get this out of me — it’s not who I am,’ you need a good old-fashioned dark night of the soul. You need to look at you — why and how you experience that deep feeling of not feeling love and you also need to look at how loving you are. Not one person in this room exists outside of what I’m discussing. There’s not one human being on this earth who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. It’s the human experience. The hardest thing for a human being is to touch that profound love, so you withdraw your love and turn to pride, and years go by, your heart shrivels…. Was it worth it? Ask your pride. If your pride is that powerful to destroy you, imagine how powerful love is to heal you. Shame — how much hold does it have over you on a scale of 1 – 10?
Manifestation in Illness
We’re going into the heart, the vascular, blood pressure. Disorders of the psyche are present here. It’s about sexuality, sex addictions — the shadow of sexuality as well as the inability to speak about your sexuality or to experience pleasure through your body.
Fifth Shadow: Gluttony
The classic manifestation is to overeat, to be a hedonist — King Henry the Eighth is a classic example. However, John of the Cross meant it as having no control over your will — to judge opportunities before you’ve tried them, to be a pessimist, to respond without thought, prayer, reflection, without an inner life whatsoever. It’s about how you speak to yourself — the lies you tell yourself about yourself — ‘I’ll never heal, I’ll always be alone, nothing will ever change.’ It’s the inability to control what you consume about yourself. When we don’t have the power and gift of discernment, we absorb everything, ergo the expression ‘glutton for punishment.’
This one is a major suffering for everyone. We all tell ourselves distortions that counteract our healing. We tell ourselves we’re doing all the right things, eating all the right things, but none of that can help if what we’re feeding ourselves on the inner is toxic. The veggies can’t heal you.
The opposite of gluttony is starvation — you yourself not allowing yourself to acknowledge and appreciate our own goodness — we starve ourselves.
Sixth Shadow: Envy
This is the hot fever of the mind. It’s the shadow passion that will make you twist everything good that happens. Teresa of Ávila said to look for God in the details of everyday life. Someone who’s envious can’t see God anywhere. They want all their insecurities — it’s never enough. Each of us have archetypal patterns, stories and myths that run deep in our unconscious and we believe that our lives should go according to that script. For example, the princess myth tells little girls that when they grow up they will meet a prince, he will marry them and they will have a little prince or princess child and the cycle will be completed.
To pull someone out of envy is like pulling someone out of quicksand and they will resist you all the way — they will suck the oxygen out of the one they are envious of. They consciously deny the person what they themselves can’t have.
The jealous mind at a huge level is destroying our planet. We are jealous of the Arab world’s oil and we won’t let them have what we don’t have. It is a collective jealous sin of the Christian world. We don’t realise the joy. We hit the greed button and all seven shadows are activated.
In her own life, Caroline confesses that she has to work on her relationship to herself every day. She has to find something good about herself every day — something to love about herself. She pools her darkness regularly because she knows how nasty she can be.
Caroline then asked participants, ‘Where in your life is jealousy costing you your health and you don’t care?’ It can express itself, for example, in resentment you may feel that opportunities that you think should have come your way have not, or that things in your life might have worked out differently than you had counted on. The resentment could make you fall into a life-long pattern of disappointment. It’s part of the multiple sides of the shadow of envy.
You don’t always know the dark passions of others. There’s also the need to be envied — to make others jealous of you — the need to be seen a certain way, the need to drive a certain kind of car, be seen in certain restaurants, be seen in designer clothes, live in a certain neighbourhood. Look how the network of shadow works, the dysfunctional shadow — it’s not accomplishing your goals — so you have to blame something. You have to go somewhere so you go back to your childhood.
Manifestation in Illness
Physical manifestations are skin disorders, eating disorders, torments of the mind, of control, neurological disorders (migraine), chemical disorders brought about by rapid emotional responses (i.e., bi-polar conditions).
Seventh Shadow: Sloth
This causes us to destroy our lives out of laziness. The seventh chakra is the centre of inspiration. How many times have you had a brilliant idea at the seventh chakra, but by the time it reaches the sixth, it stops? You can’t even seem to make the necessary choices to make it happen in the world. You make someone else do it for you and protect you, and you look for all the safety nets, yet you still want to get the credit and be admired. It’s creative slothfullness and you do nothing.
Talk by James Finley
In the afternoon, James Finley addressed participants. Caroline and James do alot of workshops together and she introduced him by saying, ‘I am exquisitely happy that James is here to speak with you. He is a mystic who teaches with more centredness and calm that anyone I know.’
James shared that in his own evolving process he’s come up with a series of steps to spiritual healing. The seven steps are an overview of how we can become a source of healing to ourselves, others, plants, animals, the earth.
The Seven Overarching Steps to Spiritual Healing
As human beings we’re subject to seven traumas or wounds, and a wound is a source of suffering. We’re to recognise, understand, and heal the wounds to become free in life. The question is, ‘How can I experience true spiritual freedom in the mists of life as it is?’ By healing each of the seven wounds we can come to wholeness.
1. The wound of being estranged from the gift of being a human being — being exiled from our experience of ourselves in daily life. We tend not to be aware of, and take responsibility for, the suffering. We tend to keep it slightly out of focus.
It’s healing the trauma of being estranged. Ego-consciousness is our self-reflective consciousness of ourselves as bodily beings in time and space in relationship to others and the earth. Self-reflective consciousness means pausing to reflect on the nature of consciousness itself. What is it? Of what does it consist? It’s the actualisation of intellect, memory and will (desire).
Life in egohood is a temporary arrangement. We have an innate desire to experience wholeness. We want to make choices that help others, that make others happy. There is an innate desire for us to want to be happy and whole. We’re subject to forces within and without that cause suffering. To heal is a transformative process.
2. To be grounded in the revelatory nature of your moments of spontaneous spiritual experience. If we could calibrate consciousness to a high enough scale we would see our spiritual experience. When we’re quietly present with the inner landscape of ourselves and we transcend the mundane consciousness, we experience heightened consciousness. This may happen when we are in the midst of art, poetry, prayer, meditation, or when we are helping others.
For example, the experience of giving yourself over to the beauty of a full moon, or a sunset, or rain, or smelling a rose. It’s to have faith in the revelatory. It is without thinking — it has nothing to do with the intellect, or memory, or will. The qualitative nature of revelatory consciousness cannot be explained with thinking. Instead you taste the moment. How privileged you are to be present to it. The experience doesn’t lie within your power — your will. You’re experiencing it anyway and it’s a gift. You are transcending desire. It’s a sensual moment. If you try to own it, you’ll lose it. You’re in the presence of a mystery that transcends you. You realise that this is revealing and giving itself as the very reality of me. It’s subtle. It leaves us speechless, there’s no ‘otherness’ in it, it’s a homecoming. It’s like finding your centre of gravity in the ineffable (too great or extreme to be expressed in words; too sacred to be uttered). If we calibrated consciousness back to a large enough scale, we’d see that these moments happen all the time, but the ego gets trapped in its own exile.
Exercise: If you were to journal your moments of visceral awakening, what would they look like?
3. When the moment passes — the place between the two worlds — you can compare the two and realise that the root of suffering is estrangement and the root of happiness is the grounding of the spiritual experience.
The mystery that transcends you is giving itself to you. We’d be free of the root of suffering, if we were living with ‘right view’ as the Buddhists call it. Suffering would no longer have tyranny over our heart. Once I taste the divinity of my life, I see how I suffer when I’m not in touch with my divinity.
4. Follow the mystics on the path of prayer and meditation that heals the root of suffering. The glory of the ego is that it contains within me seeds of awakening. I can taste it. The will is capable of freely choosing to ground its awareness.
5. It’s not enough to stop causing more damage. We have to deal with the roots of suffering that have found their way into our heart. We have to perpetually keep circling back to heal.
The seduction of spirituality is a seduction of escape and abandoning of the hurting heart and the hurting world. As long as one person suffers on the planet, you suffer too. Find a groundedness within your heart to meet the suffering of the world. This is Christ consciousness. Keep encountering with love until the last traces of suffering dissolve into love. Cultivate the willingness to engage with suffering out of the depths of love until there is no more suffering. This is the life of a bodhisattva.
6. Learning to live in the axial (pivotal) moment in which you are being present to suffering. For example, in his career as a psychotherapist, James experiences with his patients, that in the willingness to share what hurts the most in the presence of someone who will not evade or abandon them, they experience their invincible preciousness. In the intimacy of the sorrow, they come upon a joy that transcends suffering. You taste that in you which no-one can destroy. It doesn’t belong to you — it belongs to God and it’s been given to you. We are alone — we are all alone, together. The infinite alone — this is the essence of contemplative community. In that moment, the person ‘knows’ nothing. It all falls away, yet in the axial moment, they manifest true wisdom. They die to illusion and, in the act of dying, are born. When we sit with people in the axial moment, we fear the alchemy of our transformation.
7. Turn on the news and open your heart to the world. Spiritual healing is this groundedness in Christ consciousness — being smitten with the beauty of the wounded world and becoming the ongoing source of wholeness.
Back to Caroline and the Final Session
I’m going to drop in some grace. As James said, suffering is separation from your true self. When you’re not operating out of the gifts of the soul — your jewels — you suffer and you cause others to suffer, not always intentionally, but it’s the fallout, the dark night’s shrapnel.
Think of these jewels — perfection is never the goal — what is the goal is an alert inner practice that combines a sense of prayer and pulling the shadow to the light in consciousness.
First Grace – Grace of Humbleness
This is extraordinarily powerful. It’s a mystical sense of humbleness that means you do not seek the approval of anything on the outside — you don’t look to another for self-esteem.
Second Grace – Grace of Generosity
Think about this as the capacity to pray for those you can’t stand. You’ve got to manage your pride and be in the grace of humbleness to do this. Therein lies the most brutal polarity — to release the need to be right. It’s one thing to have your suffering recognised, but you have to drop being right. You have to be generous enough with yourself to give up the fight.
Third Grace – Grace of Patience and Absence of Judgement
Fourth Grace – Grace of Love
Fifth Grace – Grace of Discernment and Wisdom
Sixth Grace – Grace to be Joyous
Seventh Grace – Grace of Restoration, Renewal, Rebirth
One of the easiest dark places to get into is, ‘Nothing will ever change, so why should I bother?’ Sloth is one of the darkest shadows. Instead of believing that, remind yourself that you’re doing it to yourself and go to renewal. Every moment is a new beginning. Animate that new beginning by doing a ritual to change the field of grace around you.
Caroline closed the conference with a visualisation in which participants were invited to think of something they wanted to heal or release or bring grace into.
The seven shadows are a profound inner map, greater than you can imagine. If you can refer to them and not your history, you will heal. The object is to focus on who you are today. Don’t let them stop you from being loving, joyful, spontaneous. These are the dark shadows that really make you sick. If you can dismantle your shadows, then you’ll get what all the teachers have been saying — ‘All there is is love.’
Thank you for joining us on this inspiring inner journey. If you would like to know more about Caroline and her work, visit: http://www.myss.com
James is here for a follow on retreat 18 – 20 November.
Both Caroline and James will be back at Findhorn 14 November, 2009.
– Mattie Porte –