A note before reading. Our shadow can reflect both positive and negative characteristics. Shadows used in this article reflect the darker or negative aspects we exhibit.
There are two other articles pertaining to this theme: one under Workplace Culture, Working Under the Shadow; and, the other under LeaderManager, Removing the Shadows. This article focuses on how to recognize our own shadow and what we can do about it. First, I think we all have shadows – things that drag us down or get in the way of our relationships with others. Do you agree? Let’s explore our shadow: Can we recognize it? Where does it come from? What can we do about it?
Recognizing our shadow.
Recognizing our shadow means we need to be honest with ourselves – we need to look into the mirror, look into our eyes and see what we see. They say our eyes are the windows of our soul, which means we must look deeply within and be honest with ourselves. What do we see? Are we frightened by what we see? Fear will lead to defensiveness and defensiveness will keep us in the shadow.
In order to deal with our shadow we need to bring it into the light, and light gives us hope, warmth and healing.
People who are close to us, family, friends, advisers, have our interest at heart. They fundamentally want to tell us in a positive way what they see in us, but what they see we may not like to hear. However, that is the benefit of positive criticism, being open to the hearing so that we can look at ourselves objectively and work on those things that get in the way of being our best selves.
When we struggle with our shadow, we can begin to grow. Richard Rohr points out the “human consciousness does not emerge at any depth except through struggling with our shadow. It is in facing our own contradictions that we grow. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding that we break into higher levels of consciousness.” (Rohr Meditation, July 2, 2019)
Yes, sometimes the struggle and the criticism makes us uncomfortable but if we expose, name and come to grips with what lurks within the shadow, we can learn to become our better selves.
Where does our shadow come from?
Our shadow may loom up from one or several past experiences. It could come from an early childhood experience that we have buried in our subconscious; negative or toxic peers who have influenced us; traumatic experiences as a young person, teenager or adult that have caused unresolved pain; work burnout that may show up as negativism, edginess, anger, depression and anxiety; personal contradictions that we didn’t want to face such as pride, jealousy, sexism, vanity, bigotry, prejudice and stereotyping.
No matter where our shadow came from, be aware that it does affect our relationships with others.
How do we bring light to our shadow?
One of the first things we need to remember is that it is our shadow, and if it is ours, we are responsible for how we reflect it. In other words we need to take ownership for our own shadow. When we take that long hard look in the mirror, we don’t see someone else’s inner self, we only see our own inner self. It belongs to us. We own it. As soon as we begin to say, “Oh my mother or father caused this, or my peers caused this, or my work caused this,” we must be careful not to enter into the game called blame. Our Understanding about where the shadow came from is important but blaming others won’t remove it. Yes, it may have occurred in the past, but we are letting the memories of the shadow affect us in our everyday lives, so it becomes our responsibility to move forward. We can’t change the past we can only change the future.
Here are four ways to bring our shadow into the light:
Meditation. Taking quiet time to meditate clears our mind and improves the way we deal with others. Spend twenty to thirty minutes a day in solitude. This is easier than you think. Sometime during the day, early morning, afternoon break or evening after the kids are in bed, spend a few moments in a quiet spot. This could be in the back yard or in a room within your living quarters. Close your eyes, clear your mind of all thoughts and focus only on positive thoughts. Repeat a positive affirmation over and over again until it becomes rote and you are not thinking about it at all. Savor the moment. You are at the quiet spot. Stay there for awhile and then open your eyes and awaken to the sounds and life around you.
Meditation opens our inner self to greater compassion, kindness, love and forgiveness. It lightens the shadow by changing our thinking which in turn changes the way we feel, behave and act.
Be clear about purposeful living. During a quiet time, or a sit-down with a friend or life coach, spend time discussing your sense of purpose in life and what you value. Write down a list of things you can do to bring ‘good’ to your family, neighborhood, community or wherever you are. Deep down we all strive to be good. Our darker self grows the shadow when we choose not to do good. Again we are drawn to self-responsibility. Choices determine our direction. It is much better to choose the ‘good’ as this exponentially moves us to better relationships with others and in return improves our negative disposition. Positive purposeful living moves us away from our shadow self.
Set goals. Setting a ‘good purpose’ for our lives gives us overall direction. Setting goals turns your purpose towards action. Setting goals alone doesn’t turn purpose into action, action does. However, writing SMART goals gives us something specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and trackable to work on. Setting a goal to respond to a purpose of ‘helping others in my community,’ might read: ‘I will volunteer weekly (bi-weekly, monthly) at the Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home from June to December 20xx.’ The goal is set, now you need to make it happen.
Seek a coach, adviser an honest friend. We are not an island unto ourselves. The greatest leaders, sports achievers and businesspeople all have coaches or advisers. They recognize that they can always improve and hone their skills. A helpful coach, adviser or honest friend will listen deeply, support your decision-making but also confront you with difficult questions. They will help you peel back your cover-ups and guide you to look into the mirror honestly, and in that way your shadow will be brought into the light.
Thank you for reading
Richard P. Fontanie
Over the past months I have written about forgiveness in the workplace, and in my book, Eternal Unfolding I pointed out situations where people forgave others after they have been deeply hurt: a wife, after separation and divorce, found ways to forgive her husband who beat her and in turn discovered how to love again; a man who was falsely accused and spent a life time in prison forgave his accusers; a father whose son was shot and killed in the school yard forgave his son’s murderer; and, a business leader who learned how to forgive in the workplace.
Last Monday morning’s meditation brought me to a place where I began to wonder what was at the core of those acts of forgiveness. The only thing I could come up with was that those people made a conscious decision to forgive which really reflected a conscious decision to act with love. This conscious decision to forgive may have occurred in a split-second or perhaps over a period of time, but at some point, they made the decision to forgive others. As they made their decision to forgive a common denominator for them appears to have been an inner recognition of their own hurt which if left alone would have blocked them from being at peace. It is this common denominator that seems to be the key for all those who forgive – ‘a need to forgive so that they can live with themselves in peace’.
You see forgiving is a mutual act – in order to forgive others, we need to forgive ourselves. In the normal course of events when we are harmed in some way we often become angry. We’re angered at the perpetrator and often times our anger spills over into our relations with others. We need to recognize the harm we are doing to ourselves and forgive ourselves of that anger. Only then can we begin to forgive others.
In my Catholic tradition many of us grew up with acts of contrition and the need to go to confession. These are good practices if approached correctly. However, looking back it seems we began to view confession as ‘the magic box’ – tell your sins and ‘you are forgiven and go sin no more’. I still think the concept of confessing transgressions to another and to one’s Higher Power (God) is a positive thing, however there is more to it than that. And the ‘more to it than that’ was not fully explained or taught. Yes, we were told to make amends to those who we aggrieved, but that seemed to be secondary to ‘you are forgiven, sin no more,’ nor was there any discussion about those who aggrieved us and the anger that ensued and how to deal with it.
Slowly, faster for others, the confession box became a chore. We were told to go to confession on a weekly basis with the result that many children began to make up sins. In the end, I think that is why many in the Catholic tradition are often quilt ridden – they learned to slice and dice their sins and carried that with them throughout adulthood. They dealt with minutia and not with the significant psychology behind forgiveness including anger and letting it go. The confessional box can be a source of great spiritual healing if it becomes a source for helping individuals deal with all aspects of forgiveness.
The need to recognize our own anger and the role of forgiveness has health consequences as well. It has been well document that anger leads to stress and unresolved stress leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety and other mental health issues. Acts of forgiveness of self and others may be one of the antidotes to unhealthy outcomes as well as a source for spiritual renewal.
We learn forgiveness from an early age and all throughout our lives by apologizing to others for wrongful acts we have committed; returning what is not ours and seeking forgiveness; recognizing the anger that harmful acts cause and then forgiving that anger; and, at the same time forgiving others.
From a shear psychological perspective, Everett Worthington, a professor emeritus of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, after years of research developed an acronym REACH as a forgiveness model. REACH stands for Recalling the incident that hurt you; Empathizing with the person who wronged you; thinking of forgiving that person as an Altruistic gift; Committing yourself to forgiving them; and then Holding onto that forgiveness without taking it back.
All this doesn’t mean that forgiving others comes easy, especially if we have been hurt deeply. It takes a great deal of introspection and courage. It means we need to recognize and own our own hurt and forgive ourselves for that self afflicting hurt and then genuinely forgive those who have caused that hurt. If we can follow these steps to forgiveness, we can again live with ourselves in peace and continue to strengthen healthy relationships with others.
Thank you for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie MSW
You can read more about the psychology of forgiveness here.
Sometimes I don’t know which tab to place certain articles. This is one of those times. This topic could fit under the Spiritual Discovery tab or this tab. I have chosen both. Why? Because strengthening our spiritual muscle takes effort, focus and personal work. It takes a certain psychological skill to develop spiritual awareness. Spirituality matters. However, it is a personal journey and may mean different things for different people. What I do know is that often my past work bordered on the spiritual, especially when I focused in on one’s sense of purpose and values. Often people would grow silent and then tentatively approach some of their inner feelings about how they carried out their values. Some conversations uncovered a broken spirit that cried out for healing, others stimulated deep spiritual thoughts about personal growth and development.
In general spirituality has certain qualities that reflect: a sense of purpose, inner peace, joy, humility, religious observance (not religiosity), and, an openness toward a greater good, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.
Ways to develop our spiritual muscle
Nature walks: Getting in touch with the beauty of nature touches our spiritual core. A beautiful sunset in the evening, a gorgeous sunrise, the colors of the leaves in the Fall or the budding of trees and the rejuvenating ground flowers in Spring often bring a sense of awe within us.
Walking is not only healthy for our physical body but also for our spiritual wellbeing. A friend suggested she captured a sense of her smallness and a touch of the divine as she walked under a canopy of trees on a dusty trail. She was struck by the beauty of the moment. In my book, Eternal Unfolding, one of the scenes goes like this:
“Julech took in the silence of the forest, broken from time to time with the harsher sounds of magpies, blue jays and crows and with softer songs of the chickadees, wrens, nut hatchers and juncos. Joining the bird songs were the rat-a-tat-tats of woodpeckers, the fluttering of the grouse and the occasional trill of a grosbeak
His olfactory nerves were tingling with the smells of spruce, firs, pines, junipers and alders. There were the aromas of fallen acorns, pine needles and rotting logs…As he walked, he reflected on the spiritual insights…”
Gratefulness: Ancient wisdom people, philosophers, religious leaders and spiritual writers tell us that gratitude is the basis for strengthening our relationship with God (or a power greater than us) and one another, as well as improving our wellbeing. Intuitively they knew this and speak eloquently about it. Today we have a growing body of scientific evidence that supports what appeared to be naturally known. In the past I had identified a number of scientific findings about gratitude and how we can apply it in our places of work, business and personal lives. If so inclined you can read the article here.
Volunteering: In religious parlance we often say share your time, talent or money to those less fortunate. I know too many people who don’t have two nickels to rub together but they are the first to volunteer their time and talent. They often say that it feels good to help others less fortunate. How ironic. And, I know many who have several nickels to rub together but don’t share time, talent or money with those who they consider “beneath them.” Volunteering within one’s community lifts others up and in return lifts the person up. In giving one receives, perhaps more than what he or she has given. We know this by the comments we receive from those that give within their communities. In the process there is something spiritual going on within them, a link whether they know it or not, with the love that is universal and beyond them.
Listening to a religious messages: Some people have difficulty with listening to a homely or a sermon as they view the person (preacher) as a bit of a hypocrite. They don’t see the person’s behaviour reflecting the message. In a sense they are saying the medium is the message. I have yet to hear a true religious message that suggests that one should go against principles that are considered universal truths. The message is usually about avoiding those things that hurt us spiritually, mentally and physically, encouraging compassionate behaviour, forgiving one another, strengthening one’s better self. Religious messages are most often positive affirmations of caring for one self, neighbor and community. All of these messages should cause us to ponder how they could apply to us individually and collectively and in the end strengthens our spiritual core.
Spiritual reading: In many ways our modern technology encourages us to dart from one thing to another. Our emails, ease of access to information, and internet explorations, text messaging, Facebook, Instagram and the like shortens our attention to small bites of information. We flit, where as spiritual reading causes us to stop and ponder our deeper selves and our connection to someone or something beyond us. Books that explore men and women of spiritual conviction and purpose and carry that out in their everyday lives become role models. Wisdom found in ancient and modern writings give food for thought and provide profound insight to what we may consider improbable solutions to what ails us, our community and our world. Taking some time to read something spiritually everyday will tend to slow us down, reduce our stress and in the end strengthen our spiritual muscle.
There are many other ways to strengthen our spirituality including meditating, having healthy relationships with others, taking compassionate action, engaging with a spiritual adviser, having coffee with a friend while exploring spiritual matters, joining groups that encourage spiritual discussions, and working at being non-judgmental. In short, we have ample opportunity in our everyday lives to go beyond the ordinary and touch our spiritual core.
Thanks for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie,
Kindness and compassion have a spiritual quality to them. They are extensions of ourselves to others in a way that benefits both self and others. They can be nurtured through meditation and contemplation. Our meditative and contemplative silence should bring us to action, otherwise they remain as concepts or mental images. All spiritual leaders view kindness and compassion as foundational in our quest to be fully alive. Yet there is a difference between kindness and compassion. Compassion may lead to kindness but kindness may not lead to compassion.
Compassion means "suffering with" the other. It is the ability to "feel" for the other person in a deep personal way – to put oneself in the other's shoes. Kindness is an "act" of helping another person who has an expressed need for that help..
Compassion often leads to acts of kindness but acts of kindness can be devoid of compassion. Let's take an example: We have a colleague who is seriously ill. A compassionate person would relate to that individual at a deeper feeling level than one who just acts in a kind way. The compassionate person would take the time to listen to the person, allow him to unburden his anxieties and fears, and try to understand in a genuine way the suffering the person is experiencing. A kind person would act differently. She would send him a card, flowers, candy, and even visit him, but stay clear of the feeling level. The compassionate person could be moved to act with kindness by following up with a card, flowers and so on; but the kind person, who acts only out of kindness, would remain at the exterior level of acting and not enter the interior level of feeling.
My friend Emil sent this Easter message to his friends. He links the Easter message with the Jewish Passover and the flight to freedom.
How did Easter begin?
Well, remember that Jesus (Yeshua bar Joseph) was a Jew, and the first Christians were Jewish. That is very important to keep in mind if we are to properly understand the meaning and celebration of Easter.
Just as Jesus is the central figure for Christians, so Moses is the central figure for the Jews. The greatest event in the history of the Hebrew nation, was when Moses freed them from slavery in Egypt. They called this celebration “Passover” meaning they passed over the Red Sea from slavery to freedom in the “Promised Land”.
When Jesus came along, he spoke of a new kind of freedom, a spiritual freedom from slavery to things of this world. He called this new Promised Land the “Kingdom of Heaven”. The Jews looked upon God with fear and trembling. It was forbidden to even speak the name of God. Jesus turned that idea upside down. He said we should call God by the loving name “Abba”, which means ‘dad”. Instead of observing Ten Commandments, as the High Priests taught, Jesus said there is only one commandment, love of God and love of neighbor.
On the Sabbath, after the reading of the Torah, anyone was allowed to comment on the reading. This is what Jesus often did. But his interpretation of the scripture was so different from what the Priests and Scribes said. No wonder that the Jewish priests felt threatened by the teaching of Jesus.
In addition, the Romans didn’t like to hear of another kind of kingdom. So, they looked upon Jesus as a dangerous agitator.
As it turned out, the Priests and Romans collaborated and got rid of Jesus by crucifixion.
Jesus knew ahead of time that he was in danger. So, at the Passover, like a good Jew, he celebrated the meal with his closest friends. And he tried to prepare them for when he would no longer be with them.
In the Passover meal one guest would read the Haggadah, which told the story of the escape from Egypt, and then explained the meaning of the foods. On the table are three Matzos. This unleavened bread reminds them how, on the night they escaped, they ate in haste so there was no time to let the bread rise. It also reminded them how God fed them in the desert with manna. The salad had bitter herbs, in memory of the bitter slavery in Egypt. Wine was served, because it symbolized their freedom and liberation.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave these foods a new symbolism. As he broke the bread he said “This is my Body, broken for you”. The disciples probably did not realize that he was talking about how his body would be broken by torture before he died. When he took up the cup of wine, he again predicted his death, saying, “This is my blood which will be poured out for you”. Again, the disciples must have been puzzled, why is Jesus talking about dying when they are celebrating their freedom from slavery?
Can there be any doubt that after Jesus was crucified, the disciples and the early Christians would clearly remember the last day and the last supper with Jesus? Now it was clear to them what Jesus meant when he said “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Of course, now you can see the connection between the Catholic Mass and the Passover supper, and, for example, why we use unleavened bread and wine.
This is a beautiful story, right?
It also has a powerful meaning.
Passover and Easter are about freedom, about starting a new life. Who are seeking freedom today? Refugees come to mind. Men, women and children forced to leave their home and country. That’s hard.
Here is a sad Polish folk song from the southern mountain region that goes like this:
Góralu czy ci nie żal
Odchodzić od stroñ ojczystych?
Skwierkowych lasów i hal,
I tych potoków przejżystych.
Góralu czy ci nie żal?
Góralu wróć się do hal.
Góral na te góry spojziera
I lzy rękawem ociera.
Te gory opuścić trzeba
Dla chleba, Panie, dla chleba.
Góralu czy ci nie żal?
Góralu wróć się do hal.
Mountain dweller, are you not sad
To leave the land of your fathers?
The spruce forests and valleys,
And the crystal running streams?
Mountain dweller, are you not sad?
These mountains are calling you back.
The mountaineer gazes at the mountains,
And wipes the tears with his sleeve.
I have to depart from these mountains,
It’s for bread, O Lord, it’s for bread!
Mountain dweller, are you not sad?
These mountains are calling you back.
My mom and dad are Górale. I guess I am too. That song must be how my mom and dad felt when they left Poland. I visited their village in 1958. My Góral heart broke when I had to leave. I couldn’t hold back my tears.
Today’s refugees, men. women and children face real starvation. For bread! O Lord, for bread! It must break their hearts to leave home and country. This Easter, the feast of freedom, may they eat bread and drink wine in a new country, just like my mom and dad did. If it wasn’t for them emigrating, I wouldn’t be here to write this letter.
The tradition of gift giving seems to go back to the beginning of civilization. People give gifts for many reasons – to show love, to ask for a favour, as a “thank you” etc. After Christianity began, the idea of gifts at Christmastime maybe started with the story of the Wise Men bringing gifts to Jesus at his birth.
Gifts without ribbons
We like to wrap our presents in pretty paper and tie them with ribbons. I wonder if we realize that we can give very beautiful gifts anytime, and without paper or ribbons? For example, giving someone a warm handshake, a hug, a pat on the back, things we take for granted, are really some of our most beautiful gifts.
We humans are very sensitive to being touched. Scientists tell us that a loving touch actually releases hormones in our body that makes us feel good! Years ago, I taught Psychology in a school of nursing. I told the nursing students how important their work was. Research says that people recover from surgery 80% faster because of the nurses’ healing touch.
Here is a beautiful song by a group “Nothin’ Fancy” (find it on You Tube) called:
“The Touch of Her Hand”
I found your letters today,
I had tucked them away
With a pair of white gloves and a fan.
I held them awhile, they took me back
and made me smile
as I remembered the touch of your hand.
It was a midsummer’s night,
the village green was in light.
Paper lanterns surrounded the band.
They played waltzes ‘til dawn,
‘til all the couples were gone,
And I remembered the touch of your hand.
Now the face in the mirror is old---er,
the children worry, they don’t understand.
Now I don’t live for the past
but in dreams I still dance,
and remember the touch of your hand.
(The words are from a man, but if you are a woman, just change the title to “The Touch of His Hand”).
Another gift without ribbons is a smile. It sends the same warm hormones as a touch. Only, we are so caught up with our own worries and problems that we don’t realize how we look with furrowed brow.
Unfortunately, our look triggers anxiety hormones in others. This is just spreading the virus of unhappiness. But a warm smile may be just the medicine the other person needs to kill the bad virus and pull him or her out of an unpleasant fog. What a gift that is! Better than one with ribbons and paper.
Here are some verses about smiling,
by Dave Mason (Google the whole song):
A smile isn’t hard to do,
and it brightens up your face,
makes you feel like flying free,
makes your heart to race.
But the best thing is that when you smile,
everyone smiles too.
And the greatest gift
when you’re feeling down,
is when someone smiles at you.
So, smile awhile from early when you rise.
Let that smile play on your lips
and [shine] within your eyes.
Let everybody see the sign,
don’t try to disguise.
Your smile might seem so small to you;
But, baby, smiles change lives.
To the gift of a loving touch, and the warmth of a beautiful smile, let’s add the sound of a kind word that can roll off our tongue. Just think of the power the tongue has. The tongue is like the rudder of a ship (James 3:1ff). No matter how strong the winds, the small rudder can control the direction of the huge ship. So too, sometimes it only takes one word to destroy a person. In the same way, when someone is down, it only takes one word to bring that person to life. What a gift!
I’m not really telling you anything new that you didn’t already know. So, my Christmas gift to you here, is like a little piece of string. Tie it on your little finger (in your imagination) to remind yourself of the awesome power you have! You can create sparks of life by being generous with your gifts, making life beautiful when you scatter your little gifts of touching, smiling, and kind words.
A Christmas meditation:
Let’s think about these ideas a little more deeply. Read slowly and meditatively. Get ready to think like the mystics do. Don’t let that scare you. Every one of us was born a mystic. Little children haven’t lost their mystical view of the world yet. For them, life is all wonder and mystery. They don’t walk, they run, skip and dance. They squeal with laughter and joy. We love their innocence. It’s because they are still mystics. Life is full of wonder and mystery.
John, the Apostle was a mystic. He wrote. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God” (John 1). Read that again: “the Word was God”. What does that mean?
John was thinking of the beginning of time, when nothing existed, only God. So, he wondered, where did the world come from? The answer was stunning. “The Word is God, and the Word became flesh”. Flesh is something you can touch and feel and see. So, this is how God becomes visible – everything in the world shows God in it, if we only have the eyes to see – the eyes of the mystic, like John.
And of all that God created, what is more beautiful, more mysterious, more fascinating – than humans; “and the word became flesh”! Each one of us is an image of God – if you look at us with the eyes of a mystic. Think about that, so beautiful – and true!
Now you can understand why the touch of your hand has so much power – God is in it. In a smile, God is looking through your eyes. When you speak love, God is speaking. This is the mystic’s view. This is what life is really about.
An edited letter received from my dear friend E
Christmas 2018 shared with permission
Conversion Of The Heart
Real change comes from the realization of our most inner core - our spiritual self. I'm not talking about religion. Religion most often promotes ritual and external practice. I'm talking about our deep self which touches the Divine. Awaken to your sacred self - the goodness, compassion and forgiveness within you - and you will experience a deep conversion of the heart.
"April is a time for renewal. Listen deeply within your true self and strip away some of your disguise.." Julech
In Julech’s mind love was the fire that incubated and vibrated the diamond’s radiance. It was the fire of the Spirit that pulsated Love which allowed him to say, ‘God is Love’. And if God is Love, He could only radiate love. He could “not love” and therefore must love everybody and everything, even those who harmed another or who claimed that He didn’t exist.
From: Eternal Unfolding
Our Inner Eye
"We see with our physical eye, but we only see the fullness of God's creation and goodness with our inner eye, even in the least of things such as dirt and a worm." Julech, from Eternal Enfolding
Compassion and Kindness
When we compare compassion with empathy or altruism we find the concepts are related but not the same. Empathy is a more general term and refers to our ability to walk in the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person; compassion includes those feelings and thoughts and motivates us to help the other. Altruism is akin to kindness, when we are prompted by the feelings of compassion to perform a selfless act. Each flow from the other, but we can exhibit one without the other.
There must be a greater source than what we see? Julech wondered. Everything is connected. The universe and all living things. There is an energy a fire that is within me that drives my yearning to go beyond my every day experience.
Is there anyone out there?
It was a beautiful July morning, not a cloud in sight and the temperature was just right for hiking.
Julech got an early start and had been on the trail for about two hours when he looked up at the clear blue sky and wondered out loud, " God, or whatever or whoever, are you up there?" There was no answer.
He wandered a little further and peered down into the valley? "Are you, whoever your are, down there?" There was no answer.
He kept climbing up the mountain trail.
After a further hour of walking Julech saw another hiker coming toward him. He looked a little older than Julech, had a beard, a staff for balance and was clothed in hiking gear. Julech thought maybe he had scaled the top of the mountain, and now was on his way back to the village below.
As they met on the trail, the hiker said, "It's a great day for hiking ." He paused then asked, "How far up are you going?"
"I'm not sure," Julech replied, " I'm just hiking up this trail and trying to take in all the beauty around me."
"Is that all? replied the hiker.
"Well no, I'm really on a journey looking for some meaning in life. I'm searching for something that I can't really explain at the moment. The only thing I can come up with is that there must be more to life than what I encounter day in and day out."
"That's pretty heavy stuff." said the hiker, as he began to resume his downward trek. He went about 50 feet (15 meters) then looked over his shoulder and called out to Julech, "Open your eyes and ears. Look and listen deeper."
What the heck does that mean, Julech thought. I can see the beauty around me, I told him that. I can hear the sounds of the wind, rustle of the trees, and the birds in the air. Look and listen deeper?
(From the opening lines of Julech's pending book)
Who Am I?
Julech is an interesting character who came to me one morning and asked,
"Do you know who I am?"
"No I don't, I never met you before," I responded.
"Really, are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure." I said.
"Well, I am the person who journey's through life seeking wisdom. I'm every person, man, woman or child, who seeks the truth and searches their heart for peace, forgiveness and love and when they find it, they give what they have found to others at no charge."
"Wow!" I was awe struck.
"Can you tell me more?" I asked.
"Who are you?" Julech replied.
What a question, not "what are you?" or "What do you do?" but, "Who are you?"
The most fundamental question I need to ask is “who am I?” We often define ourselves by what others think I. am. We define ourselves my the roles we play, by what others think who we are. But do we go into silence and in a quiet moment and ask: who am I?” This question begs others: Why do I exist? What holds me in existence? Why am I here? What holds me in life? When I ask these questions two things come to mind.
The first is one of bodily existence. I am here in body, I have a physical being. I can be perceived by others, I exist in time and space. The second one is of spirit. And spirit defines a more deeper self. One that we cannot see but is fused with the body to make me, me. The body projects outside, the spirit projects inside. It is the spirit that prompts me to ask: “who am I” and “why do I exist? And, “ where does life come from?”
The outside caters to my ego; and I also cater to my ego. I define myself by my ego. It likes to hear what others say and I puff myself up by buying into what they say. But my ego is not who I am as my body can exist without an ego, just as a rock exists without an ego. I exist because the spirit dwells within me and that spirit comes from the Spirit beyond me; it comes from a source that breathes life into all things and holds me in existence. Without that Spirit nothing would exist.
It is connecting with that Source within me, that holds me in existence and joins me in unison with all of creation, in all time, in the past and the future, where I can begin to answer the questions: “who am I?” “why do I exist?” “what holds me in life?” And “why am I here?”
Find a quiet spot and listen to Leonard Cohen with the Web Sisters sing "If It Be Your Will."
May we have
Peace in our hearts
We may have
Peace within our families
Throughout our land.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Giving thanks should be an everyday occurrence. Often it is not. Fortunately we have one week-end in a year to remind us of the importance of a "thank you." Let's build on this week-end and during the coming year develop an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving.
Give thanks for:
Our families, friends and neighbours,
Our associates, colleagues, and employers,
Our customers, suppliers and service providers,
Our helpers, mentors and supporters.
Give thanks for:
The expanding sky and the heating sun,
The waving ocean and rippling waters,
The breathing air and the whistling wind,
The glistening grasses and blooming flowers.
Give thanks for:
Those who lead us with compassion and care,
Those who teach us to forgive and share,
Those who bring us their gift and talent,
Those who guide us with hope and trust.
Give thanks for:
Our senses to see, touch, smell and hear,
Our ability to walk, skip and run,
Our laughter and joy,
Our gift of life
Give thanks for all these and more
Share the gift of gratitude to all those you know
And even those you don't. Give thanks..
Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Image courtesy Dale Swanston