Sometime ago, while waiting for a friend to arrive in the restaurant where we were meeting, I stared at a large painting hanging on the wall behind the bar. It was a surrealistic depiction of Christ on the cross. Simple. Stark. Provocative. What made it most interesting, however, was what I couldn’t figure out to be either a shovel or possibly a broom hanging from his left arm.
I wondered what it was. What it meant. Why it was there. What did it mean?
When my friend arrived I pointed at the painting and asked her what she thought that shadowy object meant.
She turned to look at the painting and said, “Do you mean that greyish section?”
“Yes,” I replied. “It’s slightly darker. It’s almost like a floor lamp hanging upside down…” My voice trailed away. I looked at the lights hanging from above the bar. They too looked like floor lamps hanging upside down. “Oh dear,” I laughed. “It’s the shadow of the light above the bar. It’s not part of the painting at all.”
We started to laugh. I told her how I’d spent the time I’d sat waiting, wondering about the purpose of that image in the painting. About how I’d had all sorts of ideas of the artist’s statement — like, we hung Christ on a cross and then made him dig his own grave, or dug our own graves by hanging him on a cross. Some of my ideas had become almost metaphysical in their explanation of the object in Christ’s hand — when in reality, there was no object in His hand. It was just a trick of the lighting.
In focusing on the shadow of that lamp I took my attention away from the actual painting and put it on something that was not part of the ‘real’ thing. I kept looking for meaning in the unreal as I struggled to understand what the shadow meant.
In life, we look for meaning out there — in the world around us — often believing that if we can just figure out ‘it’ means, the ‘it’ being whatever is happening around us at any given moment. We focus externally rather than looking inside ourselves, to where the real ‘it’ lives and breathes and expands with every breath we take and every thought we create.
Within each of us there is a ‘shadow’ waiting to be discerned, seen, embraced, understood, faced. In that moment of seeing our shadow and embracing its presence, we set ourselves free of the past, free of the limiting beliefs that would have us question our right to live up to our greatness.
We do not know what we do not know.
In looking at the painting that night, I did not know I was being tricked by a shadow until I took my focus off of what I saw, and moved my eyes to the source of the shadow.
Within me, I do not know how my shadow is tricking me until I take my focus off what I tell myself I believe to be true about myself — and face what I fear will happen to me if I face the self-limiting beliefs I tell myself are true — and step into the light of my possibilities free of the shadow of my limiting beliefs.
To create the life of my dreams I must be willing to look at what is hiding in my shadow. I must be willing to do the things I fear, to dig into my darkness and uncover the blocks, the limiting beliefs, the outdated ideas that keep me stuck, that keep me out of the light of living my best life yet.
That life can only be achieved when I fearlessly shine my light on the shadows I fear within me. In that place, there is nothing inside me so terrifying as the darkness I refuse to uncover from the past.
The past cannot hurt me. The past only exists in my mind and in my mind is all the power, all the tools I need to reach inside my heart and love myself for all I’m worth.
In the end, there was no shovel. There was only darkness coming to light.
The question is: What truth is your shadow hiding? Are you willing to dig into it and uncover the light?