INTEGRATING LIGHT & SHADOW, PART ONE: Groundhog Day lessons & leading a purposeful life
I grew up in Pennsylvania, so the yearly tradition of seeing if the groundhog saw its shadow on February 2nd to determine if there would be more months of winter or if spring would come early was familiar to me from childhood. When the 1993 film Groundhog Day drew comical attention to Punxsutawney, PA’s groundhog celebration, the movie seemed to strike a chord with many when it posed the question: “what if there were no tomorrow, and this day kept repeating itself over and over again?” Would you, like Bill Murray’s character at first, delve into frustration, hedonism and despair, or would you choose to learn from the situation as he did eventually and become a better and much happier person?
Even through Phil in the story becomes a super generous, helpful and devoted guy, leading a purposeful life doesn’t mean being everything to everyone all the time. It doesn’t mean sacrificing joy, or putting another before yourself. It doesn’t mean garnering accomplishments or awards or other external measures of success. It does mean following your highest excitement aligned with your authentic values from what’s available to you in each moment, and expecting from that aligned state of being, that the Universe will always “conspire” in your favor, for the benefit of yourself and others, because IT always will and does!
What if the best way we can lead fulfilling purposeful lives is thinking about and doing things that make us feel good about ourselves and the fact that we are alive as many moments of each day as possible?
What if thinking about and doing things that make us feel good about ourselves and the fact that we are alive as many moments of each day as possible is ALSO the best way we can be of value to others?
Can it be that simple? YES! Is it always easy to disconnect from the mainstream influence of polarity, lack and limitation? NO. But it is infinitely doable if we stick with it.
In the Groundhog day tradition, if the groundhog emerges from its hole and sees its shadow, it means 6 more weeks of winter. Similarly, when we are focused on what is not going well, “the shadow,” life can seem cold and hard— like we are stuck in an endless, futile loop. While I am not an advocate of chasing the shadow side of life, shadow is not the enemy of light. Those challenging shadow moments of life that really test us and drop us to our knees serve us greatly, both individually and collectively, often in profound and pivotal ways. Shadow moments and dark nights of the soul provide us with contrast so that we may clarify that which is most important to us. They give us the opportunity to recollect, renew, re-choose and re-create our best lives.
The power to choose is ours every moment, every day. When we allow the shadow aspects of ourselves and others’ lives to make us aware of the kind of world we do prefer, and we focus on the light and take action from there, we can live fully empowered lives that inspire others along the way. Events in life are essentially neutral until we as the observer (and creator) assign them meaning. Let’s assign the highest and best meaning to our lives and celebrate all aspects of life, not only on days with shared cultural meaning (however obscure!), but everyday in our individual practice. Next year at this time, won’t it be awesome when you can describe this year as your most fulfilling one yet?!
Not so coincidentally, February 2 is also traditionally the 40th day and conclusion of the Christmas-Epiphany season known as Candlemas. On this day candles brought to Christian churches are blessed to be taken home and used for the rest of the year, symbolizing bringing Christ (consciousness), the Light of the World, actively and consciously into our homes and lives throughout the year. In other traditions around the world, versions of the Christ mother, such as the Virgin of Candelaria, are also celebrated on February 2nd. So whatever you may believe and choose to celebrate…
…let’s take a moment to reflect & renew today on how light & shadow play a role in our lives and be grateful for the gift of this most precious life!
look for a guided meditation exercise coming next in PART TWO!