Last year in Tulum, I attended a powerful workshop with Dr. Dan Engle. He covered so much in two hours, and I have returned to the profound teachings regularly. One topic that really stood out to me was the difference between the Mastery of Life and the Mystery of Life. The following is my interpretation of the two, with emphasis on the Mystery of Life.
Most of us are familiar with the Mastery of Life, which takes a very masculine approach of active planning, strategy, and visualizing an outcome. The Mastery of Life takes us from where we are to where we want to be. It starts with a belief that the outcome we desire is possible. Next, we can visualize what that looks like. Once we have a clear vision, we back it with motivation by reminding ourselves of our “why”. This gives us the push we need to stay on course. When we find the drive and motivation, we can apply a strategy to it. Because we are set on our goal and outcome, we endure whatever we need to actualize our goals. I am on board with the Mastery of Life, it makes sense and I’ve used these powerful steps in my life to get where and what I have desired. However, learning about the Mystery of Life, and how it balances out the straightforward approach of the Mastery of Life is fascinating and I believe, invaluable. The Mastery of Life is masculine, the Mystery of Life is feminine. Mastery is about going for it, planning, achieving, and acquiring. Mystery is receptive, open to the flow, and it reminds us that in life, we really do not have much control of anything.
The Mystery of Life flows through Faith, Curiosity, Shadow Work, and Alchemy. We are asked to trust in the interconnectedness and unpredictability of life. That life is happening FOR us, not to us. It shows us how to surrender, which is the other side of the effort of life. We need to find balance in both the effort and surrender to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
What if you had absolute faith? That no matter what path you are led to is exactly the one you’re meant to follow? If you think about it, every step you took was the path you needed to take to get to this point. You may think back and say that you wish you had turned down another pathway, or that you wish you hadn’t spent so much time following a particular path. You may daydream about how life might be different if you had chosen “Option B” instead of “Option A”. The reality is that you can’t, and you can’t possibly know what your life would be if you did choose differently. We either go on the “right path”, or we find the detour or lesson to get us back on track. With the hindsight of knowing you have always been on the path your life is meant to follow, and that any detours, roadblocks, dead ends, or challenging lessons were guiding you exactly where you are supposed to be, how would you use this as foresight? If you knew you could not fail, what path would you follow? If you knew you are always where you are meant to be, how would you show up? Could you surrender to, and fully experience the moment? Would you take a step forward instead of standing frozen in fear? What if, no matter what you choose in life, you had the inner knowing that you would always be supported?
When we operate from a place of Faith, opportunities open up all around us. Fear, the opposite of Faith, keeps us closed in, frozen, unable to take any path. The unknowing of which is the “best” path keeps us stuck. Faith allows us to choose, not from a place of “this is the ideal way and will yield this particular outcome”, but rather from a place of “this feels right, at least for now, so I’ll keep moving and take this path”. You cannot steer a car when it’s in park. You put the gas on and go for it. Maybe you hit a dead end, or maybe it opens up into the most incredible scenery. If you do come to a dead end, turn around and try again. In Faith, you realize that dead end was an incredible lesson and that you’re always going the right direction. You have to get curious and follow your intuition. The more we take risks and trust ourselves, the louder our intuition speaks. We will feel a nudge to jump into the unknown when we operate from this place of Faith and trust.
The unknown is where all transformation occurs. We cannot change our lives if we stay within the predictability of the life that is known. Change requires us to get curious. “What about this? What would this be like? Where does this go?” We are able to step into the grey unknown, and like a fresh canvas, we have a place to splatter new paint. Curiosity opens us up to opportunities we would never have seen if we were trying to keep things the same. Curiosity takes us to new and possibly even more beneficial places. It’s also fun! Being curious can lead to a more playful life. To lead from a curious nature, it’s required that we are able to let things go: limiting beliefs, old patterns, outdated conditioning, or negative emotions. The baggage just won’t fit into an exploratory lifestyle. Curiosity leads us through external and internal landscapes, we can learn so much more about ourselves. When we are curious, we learn to see past the mundane, seeing wonder in everything, even if we see it every day. We can learn how to appreciate what we already have in front of us by looking at people and things in a brand new way. Our baggage is even subject to search from curiosity. “Why am I holding onto this? What purpose has this served? Is it serving me now? What can I let go of?” As we unpack our baggage, we will find items we didn’t know were tucked away. And as we dive deeper into ourselves, pulling back the layers, and turning down tunnels, we will undoubtedly find the place where our shadow lives.
I could write so much about this! Shadow work is such an in depth and fascinating subject. Carl Jung first coined the term “shadow” to describe the area in the unconscious mind that we keep hidden from the rest of the world and from ourselves. Aspects of the shadow are repressed and suppressed emotions, memories, and desires. It’s where our traumas, wounds, and fears have been buried. We stuff them down in the basements of our psyche. If we do not embody or integrate our shadow into our lives, it becomes darker, denser, and can sabotage us. There is no one on the planet who doesn’t have a shadow. We all have, within us, emotions like rage, jealousy, greed, disgust, shame, guilt and any others emotions someone in your life has told you aren’t okay to express. We all have desires and secrets that we would do anything to keep hidden. We spend enormous amounts of energy trying to keep those repressed emotions and desires buried, that the moment something traumatic or stressful occurs, we blow up like a grenade. Instead of keeping the shadow hidden in the dark, we need to shine our light to become aware of its existence. Part of discovering the shadow is to FEEL, and to have a conversation with those feelings. You’ll discover that with practice, your feelings are messengers. They are here to assist you, they have something to tell you. For example, anger is telling you that a boundary has been overstepped, or you were treated in an unjust way, or it’s alerting you that you’re being taken for granted. When we push the anger down, it can explode into rage, causing us to say something spiteful, or inflicting physical harm, sabotaging our life. In a healthy expression, anger can help us stand up for ourselves. It wants us to speak up and communicate. Jealousy show us what our desires are. In healthy feedback, jealousy nudes us to turn that focus back on ourselves. If we feel a jealous ping towards another, instead of allowing it to fester into resentment and a pity party, use that energy to grow the life that turns you on.
We see our shadows in others. The uncomfortable parts to accept of ourselves get projected onto others. It’s easier to see it in others, and it keeps those aspect’s “out there”, separate, and easier to judge. These people will irritate us and trigger us. To alleviate this suffering, we must be truthful with ourselves. We need to accept all aspects of ourselves, including the shadow. When we can accept that we have in us everything we see in others, and that everyone we see has the same shadows we do, we can see the world and ourselves as whole. Every aspect of the shadow desires to have a seat at our table. All it truly desires is to be accepted, acknowledged, and heard. In return, our shadows bring us incredible gifts. They are the gemstones and golden nuggets hidden in our darkest caves.
By accepting our shadow, we can find that the pieces we were hiding were the vitality we needed to live a life in alignment with our highest selves. When you accept your jealousy for another, you find the direction that takes you to your dream job. When you accept your sexuality, you can express yourself in sensual and creative ways. When we reveal the wounds, we can finally heal them. As we confront our limiting beliefs, we get to rewrite the story of our life. These are gifts! Becoming aware of and integrating our shadows, we unlock treasure that points to our purpose. Pablo Picasso said it so well, “The meaning of life is to find your gifts. The purpose of life is to give them away.” When we dive in and heal ourselves, we can help others heal.
By having absolute faith, no matter the outcome, exploring external and internal terrain with curiosity, discovering our shadows, and integrating them into your whole self, a golden lesson and gift will appear. Because you moved with curiosity, the treasure may be something you didn’t expect. Alchemy occurs when we take something that had little value that we stuffed away, or that was encased in shame, and transform it. We realize that without the shadow, the light wouldn’t exist. We can combine the two, Mastery and Mystery, by going after what we desire, believing in ourselves, envisioning it and remembering why we are doing it, but being open to the curves and waves that life undoubtedly will bring.