Personal Development: Light and Shadow

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Personal Development: Axel Trinh-Cong speaks of light and shadow, yin and yang and Winter rebirth.

In books devoted to personal and spiritual development, one can often find references to the notion of progress which, by definition, implies a passage from a point A to a point B,
the latter being either qualitatively or quantitively superior to point A.

However, this concept carries two implications. The first is that we judge ourselves on the basis of when we reach point B, or when we remain at point A. And judgement can never be compatible with acceptance and love of self. The second consequence is that we might judge others on the basis of where they stand in their so-called progress, and perhaps adopt a discriminatory attitude towards them. And to hurt others always means hurting oneself.

To my mind, the notion of progress is misguided. All we have are experiences which we either have or do not have, according to entirely personal reasons or plans. My experience has shown me that, whether we make the conscious or subconscious choice, it can sometimes be necessary to lose all of one’s bearings and resources, to stray from the path others have paved before us, even to abandon our own hopes. All to suddenly and unexpectedly find a new path, which turns out to be far truer to ourselves than anything we could have dreamed of before.

My experience has shown me that letting go – whether it be a relationship, a situation or a part of oneself – can give way to something new, unknown, and often so much more relevant. To let go means to welcome what the ego dreads, or to avoid situations the ego would gladly welcome. Therefore, there can be no question of ‘progress’ – only of having the courage to accept death. The death of habits, dreams, loyalties and relationships which, at a given time, might lose their relevance and need to disappear in order to allow life to flourish again.

I believe it would be more appropriate to replace ‘progress’ with terms such as ‘path’ or ‘journey’, which are devoid of judgement. Indeed, we can all be very quick to declare that certain things are good and others are bad. But in a spiritual sense, there is no good nor bad. Instead of this dualistic framework, I would much rather use the concept of ‘causality’. Causality refers to the constant and necessary relationship between two phenomena. In that respect, the good requires the bad just as the bad requires the good – neither one is actually good or bad, and both are useful and necessary to one another.

In order to illustrate this idea, I would like to invite the reader to imagine a candle. If I were to light a candle outside in broad daylight, I would have a slim chance of anyone noticing it. On the other hand, if it were lit in a dark tunnel, then it would be impossible not to see it. A single light is invisible in the sun – it requires darkness. Obscurity is useful and necessary for the light to reveal itself.

Similarly, if we lived in a fairy-tale land where there was nothing but love, joy and serenity, then what would we know of love, joy and serenity? We would be incapable of even recognizing it, surrounded as we would be in a kind of pink fog. It is through non-love, pain, anger and doubt that love can truly be seen and become significant.