KENNEWICK, Wash. -- "When the soul awakens and presents its gifts, life can be permanently marked by the inclusion of them.
"Taken in, they become the hallmark of our life, the core of our uniqueness. Refused, they can haunt our days and may undermine all our toiling. I cannot specify what the gift of soul to you will be, I can only suggest that when it is presented it be received," wrote the Rev. Murray Stein.
How can we "awaken our soul" and discover our gifts, one might ask.
I recently attended a workshop that suggested we explore the places we find ourselves resisting. Think of it as shadow work. Our shadow is like a black bag we carry around with us into which we toss painful life experiences.
"I'm not going to try that again!" Been there, done that, becomes our mantra! Our painful experiences don't go away; they just become part of the unfinished business we carry around with us. We may instinctively judge, dodge, weep, or get angry at whatever is triggering us in the moment.
Carl Jung said 90 percent of our shadow can be redeemed. Resistances can be pathways that lead us to discovering the lost, abandoned or orphaned gifts hidden deep within us.
This reminds me of the coin the servant buried and gave back to the Master in exactly the same state it was given (Luke 19). I didn't appreciate the beautiful challenge this parable offers until I examined it in the context of shadow work.
I can see that I have buried my true self for many years, at the expense of pleasing others, trying to prove myself, harboring fears of not being smart enough or not mattering. The list goes on.
To dig down into the soil of my inner landscape and uncover the buried coin has been and is my spiritual journey. I particularly like the buried coin imagery and metaphor because my maiden name is Coyne.
Recently, I had yet another resistance to the world moving just too fast. This judgment triggers a knee-jerk reaction. I instinctively want to stop the train, get off, and curl up in a fetal position.
I recall, as a kid, I would retreat to a corner of a farm building and look out through the cracks while my siblings participated in an activity I was denied. Feelings from childhood of being left behind activate my cellular tendency to withdraw.
I took the time to give my "inner child" attentive presence. I was delighted by a holy surprise! My soul "awakened," as Murray Stein wrote in my opening quote, to a transformative loving presence much larger than my own. In the process, I received insight into new ways of participating in life, ways I had not imagined before.
Our world needs us to be harvesting and sharing our gifts at the table of life. May we be attentive to scanning our inner landscapes for gifts that may lie dormant in our unique life experiences.
* Cathy Rhoads is a Certified Spiritual Director at the Tri-Cities Chaplaincy.
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