“You are perfect just as you are. And you can use a little improvement.” Suzuki Roshi
This is one of my favorite quotes because it gets to the heart of our human predicament. We are part perfect and part neurotic, part evolving stardust and part self-absorbed couch potato, part divine and part selfish pig. The journey toward maturity and wholeness travels through the uncomfortable terrain of this paradox.
This past Sunday I watched the moon journey across the sky to eclipse the sun. As the moon obscured the sun’s radiance, an unusual phenomenon occurred. The crescent sun created crescent shadows. Then, at the peak of the eclipse, the moon upstaged the sun’s brilliance to form a mischievous Cheshire-cat grin.
This astronomical moment reminds me of our human condition: a centered Source of Brilliance orbited and occluded by ego’s stony mass. Our inner greatness casts long shadows when ego blocks its light. The ego, which helps us survive by creating stories and strategies to cope with life, takes itself a bit too seriously. As those stories and strategies calcify into rigid ways of thinking and a defended self-image, we experience ourselves more as stony mass and less as Inner Brilliance.
That stony mass we’ve built up over a lifetime isn’t going anywhere. So you can stop wasting energy trying to get rid of it or pretty it up. It is what it is. A more productive pursuit is to focus on embodying your Inner Brilliance each day. When you do that, ego’s stories seem less solid. Is that really true about me, about that other person, about how life works? Are there other possibilities? Is there room for some light here?
When you step more fully into your human potential, don’t be surprised if the most unattractive, controlling, selfish parts of yourself also arise and try to eclipse your sunlight. Ego’s job is to maintain a comfortable homeostasis, and growth is rarely comfortable. So don’t freak out when you cast crescent shadows. This is normal. With time and intention, you can become more skilled at seeing and navigating your ego’s patterns so that eclipses become rarer and your true humanity shines more freely and brilliantly. Who knows? Perhaps the crescent shadow you’ve been casting is a sign that a luminous part of you is ready to blaze like never before.