Light and Shadow

A few years ago, I encountered a rude shock of how something I believed strongly in, a single belief that seeped into all values and behaviour, was in fact ‘wrong’. It felt like my existence was wrong. It sent me crashing down to rock bottom. I tried to offer myself compassion, but I felt totally disconnected from any form of kindness.

As I learnt to pick myself up again, the theme was very much about embracing the relief that ‘I can’t know everything’.

Consider this possibility:

All perspectives, opinions and thoughts are impermanent; they fluctuate with context, time and space.

Even this statement itself is subjected to impermanence.

I just do not know what I do not know.

This became my light for healing and recovery.

However, in tandem with this bit of light, a new shadow was being cast.

Light: Relief in surrendering – ‘I can’t know everything.’

Shadow: ‘I can’t trust my behaviour, words, opinions or thoughts anymore; my old arrogance was wrong.’

The latter affected and still affects me in many aspects of my expression. Putting forth an opinion now takes much effort and self-observation. Creative expression at times becomes awkward and constricted.

When our identity or ego takes a hit, it wants something concrete and certain to rest upon. The stronger I attach to what I thought was light, the darker the shadow. Ultimately it points back to my habit of wanting the ‘perfect answer’ and clinging to it; an attachment to right & wrong. Eventually, all forms of attachment create tension, no matter how right the ‘right’ is.

In mindfulness practice, I have been taught 2 balancing attitudes.

  • The coolness of objectivity – practicing being an observer of all experiences.
  • The warmth of compassion and kindness – seeing the nature of our tendencies and impulses clearly with non-judgement or even a playful curiosity.

Both the challenge and prize of my practice are the same – To developing wisdom and clarity to see clearly when we cling or avoid something.

Maybe the path is to transverse between this light and its shadow, keeping the steps light and even dancing a little as we move along. Sometimes we veer in preference of one over the other and that is ok. When we notice, we come back, avoiding and clinging to neither. Maybe that is what Buddhists call the Middle path. I am not sure.

I can’t know everything.


So… can I trust the practice?

Or can I trust me?

Maybe these are not the questions to ask. Possibly just another mind tendency to invite stories.

The simpler questions might be –

‘Is there attachment? Is there avoidance? What is helpful now?’

But learn the simplest question –

‘Is there tension in the body now?’




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