Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me. – Psalm 23:4
This scripture has been on my mind the last few days. The idea of shadow has been a theme for me the last few weeks. I was reminded of it again yesterday by a reader who emailed me about my last post regarding false profits and a lost way shower.
As I’ve been contemplating the death of someone in our close inner circle of friends – I’ve also been contemplating the phenomenon of light workers who lose their way. Those who haven’t confronted their own shadow side and who seek a constant state of bliss from the spiritual realm – until they are over taken by a dark night of the soul where they succumb to the shadows and become manipulated by their allure and carried off to the underworld.
This interplay between good and evil. Sunlight and shadow. Life and death. Light workers walk in the valley of shadows, without fear – they are protected and guided. Their job is to bring down the light into those realms. Like the moon reflecting sunlight into the night sky. We are not shepherds who only work in the daylight 9 to 5. We are shepherds who dwell in the valley of shadows. We carry the torch, light the bonfires, hold the light as both beacon and protector.
Death is a thing. A thing we associate with the underworld. The color black. Night time. Sleep. It evokes our deepest fear. There is an earthiness, a dampness, a heaviness I imagine in the shadow of the valley of death – that place. That metaphor in the Psalm. It’s different than the sunlight on the hilltops in the daytime when the air is dry and warm – where life and wildflowers abound and sing. Yet each exist in the same place. Heaven on earth.
When I learned our friend died – I immediately thought about her experience, now out of body. What it must be like walking on the earth without a body. Invisible but aware of her own presence. Hungry, maybe thirsty but with no mouth or belly to satisfy. Seeing but without eyes. I felt an obligation to make sure she finds her way. To help her cross over. To participate in her journey by honoring her soul and making sure to engage the right helper to walk her incarnation home. Not because we were close but because I know where she is and I can’t pretend I don’t. She followed the spiritual path of the Wiccan, it’s not my path although I’ve crossed it. I worry that she will stay in the valley of the shadow, a place many wiccans find cozy, and continue dwelling in the realm of the earth longer than she should. My gift to her will be to recognize her immortal soul. To offer her a way shower, a guide into the light.
In many ways we each have to face our own shadow. We each have to walk in the valley of the shadow of death. And yet – we are also called to bring the light down with us. To take our turn and tend the fires through the night. When we chase the light continuously over the next horizon and fear the shadow so much that we cannot do our work – we have lost our way. We have missed out on the message of the moon. The great reflector. We have abandoned our post, our friends.
In some way I feel like we’ve just come through a very long night. The winter solstice this last year was a whole season, not just a day. For some it was a time of facing shadows, letting go and for others it was a time for tending fires.
Some spiritual leaders and way-showers who only had experience chasing the light and leading others toward the horizon, lost their way when such a heavy shadow took over the land. Wandering in the darkness without a North Star. Looking in the wrong direction for a guide. Like Pinocchio in the lost world – they’ve made friends with the dirty tricksters and listened to the voices of the underworld calling them, luring them into rabbit holes with tales of conspiracies and arrogance that played on their sympathies and ego. Wandering blind they led their audience deeper into the lost world following the voice of their guru.
It’s important that those who stayed the path, restore and replenish ourselves now that a new day has dawned. Important that we bury our dead, replenish our supplies and let our faces warm in the sunlight. At some point the sun will set again and we will walk into the shadow with our stockpiles of kindling and lanterns renewed. To bring down the light and hold space for those who are battling demons and perhaps facing their own shadow for the first time. This next walk through the valley of the shadow of death, may be more dense and more crowded than before but the night will not last as long; the days are getting longer.
Enjoy the brightness now. Pinch yourself that you really did reach the hilltops. Bask in the daylight; don’t keep the blackout curtains drawn. Leave those who want to dwell continuously in the dark to their wallowing. Those who once chased the sun and refused to acknowledge even their own shadow but who now cannot emerge from it. Let them become anxious and exhausted. We’ll walk them home later.
For now, maintain your balance. Keep your footing. Stay grounded and beware of rabbit holes and lairs. (Alice in Wonderland comes to mind) Let a song rise up within you, enjoy this season of restoration. Throw your arms open to the heavens and dance freely. Beware of daydream memories from the valley of the shadow – we’ll go there again. But not today. And not tomorrow either.
Blessed be and keep the light!