What a Difference the Shade Makes

Tuesday, October 06, 2015
This summer was tough on the potted flowers that line my shrubs. No matter how diligently I watered, the blazing Colorado sun had the leaves withering by midday. Sure, some new buds occasionally showed up to the party, green and hopeful, but not as quickly as the old blossoms died. Eventually, all that was left was ragged stems. After replanting mid-season (maybe I got a bad crop?) to the same sad effect (sigh... nope) I gave up trying and let the sun do its thing.

So now my house is easy to spot in the neighborhood. It's the one with all the lovely decorative pots in the front yard brimming with crunchy brown death. Except... There's one little spot, snug between two bushes and just inside the circle of shade from the big Boxelder tree, where one pot of flowers is thriving. Funny, because that's the spot where they usually die first from a lack of adequate sunlight. 

But this summer, that one lucky pot of flowers has found paradise.

I grew up in the northern Midwest, where endless, crushing winters are the natural state of things. Summer is but a blip on the calendar. So I love to worship the light. Don't we all? How intoxicating is that first golden spring day? How often do we speak of brightening up a room, a conversation, or a mood? And how many of us flee, or at least fidget uncomfortably, when faced with the shadow of someone else's pain? It is so easy to reflexively view darkness - fear, anger, sadness, despair - as a problem to be solved.

This fear of the dark isn't unreasonable. Anyone who has spent too long in too much darkness can attest to the withering damage it can do. But our shadow side is not the source of the damage. We wilt, not in the face of darkness, but of imbalance. Without the shadow of that tree, our flowers are left baking in the sun. So, we need joy and pain, drive and sloth, revelation and concealment. And we need to give and receive. If we are going to be well, we must dance the edge between light and dark. So then, when we're feeling too gloomy and contracted, we can stick a hand out into the sun. And when we're getting burned, the blessed shade is there.

Our darkness is not a problem to be solved. Rather, it is our imbalance, when it surfaces, that requires our attention, a loving nudge back towards center. And there is no one formula for balance. Sorry. It's a moving target. That place of blissful balance is less like a chalk line and more like a tide. It ebbs and flows with each day, each season, and we rarely reside in that sweet spot for very long. As yogis, our work is to watch, to learn, and to ride the tide. Once in awhile, we may get lucky and spend a whole season in paradise.

As we move into the autumn months, are you noticing the shift toward the shadows? Do you expect to find refuge there? What are your tools to find, again and again, your place of balance?

Guest blog by Erin Spors 

Breaking Open

Thursday, October 01, 2015


Yesterday when I picked up my 12 year old son from school his face was puffy and his eyes were red. I could tell he had been crying. Turns out he and his girlfriend of the last nine months had just broken up. I could see how much pain he was in and I felt so helpless. This was no skinned knee where a Spiderman Band-Aid and a kiss from mom would make everything better. I could only hold space for him as he sat with the confusion and the hurt.

At one point, he was telling me some of the details of what had happened and opening up about how crushed he felt when I flashed on a memory from about five years ago. I followed an impulse to share it with him.  

It was during a particularly challenging time, when my marriage was falling apart and my entire life felt like a mess. 7 year old Aidan had wandered into my room and found me in a pile of tears. Wide eyed he asked me "Are you okay?" I assured him that I was fine, just really, really sad.  He placed his little hand on my shoulder and put his face right up next to mine. "Mommy, I can tell that your heart is broken, but I want you to know that it's not broken in a bad way. It's just breaking open so that it can grow bigger." As I shared this now with the tender middle schooler sitting before me, he looked at me with one eyebrow raised. "I said that?"  

I nodded. His eyes brightened and with a sly smile he said, "Wow, I'm pretty smart." He was totally fine the rest of the night. Loving that the precious wisdom from his seven year old self worked better than a Band-Aid and kiss from me ever could


Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for.

-Joseph Campbell

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