As I was driving home after a day at the lake, the sun setting toward an unseen horizon hidden behind ranges, I admired the silhouette of the mountains against a luminous, fiery sky. Another day was coming to a close and sleep would soon overcome the hills and valleys stretched over the State of Jefferson.

A detail stood out to me as I observed the approaching evening. The play of light and shadow highlighted the depth of the mountain ranges near and far. The shadows were darkest that covered the ranges that were nearest. And as my eyes scanned the ranges, from nearest to farthest, I saw that the shadows grew fainter as the distance from my vantage point increased.

This brought my attention to my own shadows, those dark yet enriching, sometimes frustrating, aspects of my personality that I never quite know what to do with. Heal them? Embrace them? Act them out? Run from them? Or simply live with them, peaceably, amicably?

I guess it all depends on which lens I use to filter my perception of my shadows. The lens shaped thru society’s expectations? The lens of radical individualization? The lens of my upbringing? The lens of my departure from and rejection of that upbringing? The lens of conformity or the lens of ‘go along to get along’?

Yet, this much was and is clear, which the mountains sitting in shadow taught me – some shadows are darker, their opacity making them appear closer to my awareness and to my sense of urgency – an urgency to confront them, resolve them, understand them. As such, they offer greater promise of liberation – but liberation from what? From the shadows themselves or from my perception of them as shadow?

The mountains also taught me that the experience of shadow is a relative one, defined more by the positioning of the light shone upon them, what the source of that light is, and hence how brightly that light shines.

This may be the greatest service of our shadows, then. That they point us to the light and the material that blocks that light, if any, inviting us to consider the light itself. Is it a ‘true’ light? And what is a ‘true’ light, anyway? Is the light radiant or reflective? Does the light reveal, or does it conceal?

My last thought was of a statement that came to my awareness about 10 years ago as I contemplated my life’s spiritual path up to that point –

I went to the dark side of the light, and there I found the truth.

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