i walk through the valley of my own shadow.

The sky is a cold winter blue; a few smudged lines of peach cloud linger over the forested hill where the sun will soon rise. A mug of yerba mate sends wisps of steam into the quiet room. No one else is awake yet — my favorite time of day. I light a stick of dragon’s blood incense, watch the smoke curl. Remember, like a sped-up flashback of my life, all the times I’ve lit incense.

I think part of healing and integrating our shadows must be dwelling in nostalgia sometimes. I’ve been remembering so much of my past, and marveling at how many people I’ve been; and yet, how little I’ve changed. Remembering the people I’ve hurt, and who has hurt me. Remembering the people I’ve loved, and who have loved me. Remembering how those two kinds of people have so often been the same. 

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Kahlil Gibran, ‘On Joy and Sorrow,’ The Prophet

And yet, when I consider this, I am grateful. 

Grateful that the world is so full of paradox, grateful that I cannot feel one thing without feeling the other, grateful that life is so full of sorrow and joy, and so often at the same time.

Grateful that it is light that casts shadow, and that shadow is what gives life three-dimensional form.

I am grateful for that which has wounded me, because that which has wounded me has also shown me great ecstasy. Love has torn me apart, and made the way for even more love. Agony and despair has shifted my course, but my course has only shifted towards ever more blessings.

And this, more than anything else, is what gives me hope when I dwell on the past and feel anxious of the future: that no matter what agonies await, they will lead to ecstasies. No matter what pains await, they will lead to blessings. 

I am grateful for my Shadow, and for the Shadow of the world. Because it is what makes us real. It is what gives us form. The more we accept, heal, and integrate the Shadow — the more power we hold to dwell again in the natural rhythms of life. 

And life is blessing. And life is challenge. And life is blessing.

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