A Grouping of Questions with Jach’s Replies from the Online Conferences
Encountering the Dark Wood
Q. Jach, please would you talk about the Dark Wood? I have seen only short references to it.
The Dark Wood … Lazaris first referenced the Dark Wood when he talked about the mystery, the magic, and the power of belonging. It is third among our needs according to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And belonging — something we are born with, something that is challenged, and something that we lose — is also a gift of the Ancients.
There are certain challenges to our sense of belonging. One of those challenges is our denial of our Dark Wood. That is, when we pretend that we don’t have a personal Dark Wood, when we pretend that we are not in our own Dark Wood (when we are), our sense of belonging is challenged. With this denial, many things can go askew. One of them is that we drift away, and then farther and farther away, from our sense — the power and the magic — of belonging.
Okay, that said, what is the Dark Wood? When Lazaris referenced it, he referred to a line in Dante’s epic poem, ‘The Divine Comedy.’ (I haven’t read it. [s]) The line goes something like this: ‘Somewhere in the middle of my life I woke in a Dark Wood where the true way in my life was totally lost.’ The reference is to the fact that in the living of life, if, in fact, we are truly living a life at all, we will wake up and find that our true way seems to be wholly lost. It can be at the time of a mid-life crisis. It can be at any number of points and times in the time of life called the ‘Time of the Double.’ And it can come at times of crisis or of extreme stress. We can find ourselves in our personal Dark Wood at any time, I suppose, but there are times that are more conducive, I think. There are those times when we suddenly ‘wake up’ and look around and wonder, ‘What in the world am I doing here?’ You know what I mean? They are times of fear, pain, and shame … adult fear and pain, adult shame. They are times of alienation and often of quiet or disquiet chaos. They are times of sorrow and of despair.
We wake up in these states … subtle at first … We deny where we are (often we don’t really know where we are) and these states of fear, pain, and shame grow. Changing and mutating, they grow. Sometimes insidiously, sometimes brash and brazen, they grow. It can often feel more like we are slipping into a black hole than that we are lost in the wood … the Dark Wood.
But, nonetheless, we find ourselves there. I say we will find ourselves there if we are living a life. And I mean that. I think that if a person goes through life and has never been in the Dark Wood, they have been in denial, or they are numb, or something … They are skating along the surface of life, or something. When we really embrace our lives … when we live loud or when we live daringly, I think we will find ourselves in the Dark Wood from time to time. The key is to recognize it; and the key out is to let ourselves sink into the depth of that wood. The key is to let ourselves sink into the fear, the pain, the shame, the alienation, sense of loss, chaos, and then into the sorrow, and finally into the despair.
And once we have sunk, then we need to fight our way out. We need to thrash about screaming and fighting (metaphorically) to get out of those spaces. We need to climb out once we have touched the bottom. Because at that bottom there is something we need … there is something we need out of that sorrow and out of that despair. Lazaris points out — and I have found it to be true — that in the pit of sorrow there is compassion; at the depth of despair there is will. I have also found that at the depth of despair, at least for me, there is vision. I have found my sense of vision in the darkest corners of myself. It has been tucked away in despair. I hate going there. I hate it; I hate it; I hate it. But I also know the value of going there.
So I do … when I find myself in my Dark Wood. You know, those times that I do wake up in my personal Dark Wood, I am shocked. It is disturbing to look at my life and consider that its true meaning has been totally or wholly lost. It’s disturbing to consider that everything I have done is meaningless or that I have somehow fallen short of my destiny. But as disturbing as it is, when I will face it as squarely as I can, the shifts and then the changes are always so utterly, and sometimes sublimely, wonderful. I don’t look forward to my Dark Wood, no way. But I do look forward to the fight to get out of that wood. [s]
Q. Have you or can you share any ideas of working with one’s adolescent in regard to one’s Dark Wood?
Working with your adolescent and the Dark Wood? Tell him, ‘Get the hell out of the woods and go back home or you’re grounded for a month!!!’
Well, more to the point and to answer your question …
The Dark Wood is not a place for your adolescent. The adolescent in each of us is not equipped to handle the Dark Wood. There are a broad range of emotions there. And while the labels are the same (fear, pain, shame, loneliness, sorrow, despair), the intensity and the depth are very different. Our adolescent self is not sophisticated enough to deal with that intensity or depth in any real or in any truly effective way.
An adolescent in the Dark Wood is akin to one of the challenges to belonging: Denial of the Dark Wood. By that I mean that if it is our adolescent who is wandering around in the Dark Wood and feeling the emotions that are markers of the Dark Wood, we (the adult, the magician, the spiritual being that we truly are) are in denial and/or are just not present. The adolescent may feel the feelings, but they will be adolescent fears, shames, disparities, etc. Though I begin with a joke about sending the adolescent home, I am also quite serious about that. The way to work with your adolescent in the Dark Wood is to gather them up and to send them home. Gather up your adolescent and then recognize who it is and acknowledge that that is where you are in the moment.
Why are you there? What are you denying of your own Dark Wood? What are you denying of your sense of direction — ‘waking up in the middle of the road of life knowing that the true way is wholly lost.’ What of that sense of being lost are you pretending isn’t real for you? Why are you wanting to think this Dark Wood is just a game or just a fun technique?
These are the questions, or the kind of questions, to gently and lovingly ask yourself. In the asking, often the adolescent will retreat from the Dark Wood. They won’t fight their way through it; they can’t. Just as a child or an adolescent cannot fully feel compassion (because they have not yet truly known sorrow), so an adolescent self cannot garner from the depth of sorrow (something they cannot yet fully feel) nor from the depth of despair what they need to fight their way out of the Dark Wood. So ask the above types of questions to expose yourself in the moment. The adolescent will scurry off and leave the Dark Wood.
And who will remain? You. [s] Now you can deal with the Dark Wood … feeling your feelings and plumbing their depths. In the isolation you can find sorrow. Out of that sorrow you can gather the compassion. Beyond sorrow there is despair. And in its depth the adult/spiritual being can find determination/will (and with will is imagination, and with will and imagination is love). You can find a rare and precious love that seems to dwell in the depth of despair … a quality of love that those among us who recoil from despair might never know. You can find a unique expression of each: will, imagination, and love. With compassion and with this distinctive will/imagination/love combination, you can fight your way out of the Dark Wood. And in so doing, often you can find the resolve, the new image, and the new direction that you seek … that we all seek.
And we now enter a phase of the year to maximize hope, light, and magic. So that’s some of what I think about working with our adolescent and the Dark Wood. More and more, I think we can ‘send our adolescent away’ when it comes to working our magic. I do not mean to diminish the adolescent. He/she has a powerful and well-earned place in the expressions and reflections of our beingness. And there was a time that working with that adolescent yielded fine results.
But I think we have moved beyond that level. I think that when we find our child or our adolescent attempting to hone in, we need to give them attention and answer their needs, but I think we also need to attend them and put them back in their place — back in their worlds — and then get back to the commerce of magic. I suspect we will find less and less place for child/adolescent as we expand the Great Work in which we are so intricately and intimately involved, don’t you?
Q: Jach, I wonder if you would please explain the term ‘a ring pass-not’ that Lazaris has used several times this year. Many thanks.
Ring Pass-Not … it is a fairly new term that Lazaris has used of late, that’s true. Actually, I recall that he used it briefly … only in passing … during an intensive on finding freedom from control. But that was several years ago, and it was only a brief mention. I remember it only because the term intrigued me. [s]
This year Lazaris did an intensive on a grander love that is available ‘beyond the glow of enlightenment.’ It was an especially powerful workshop for me. The idea is that we are enlightened. We need to admit that in earnest and without pride. With that admission, we can cloak ourselves in the mantle —in the protection — of our magic, and travel to a point in consciousness that is metaphorically the ‘glow of enlightenment.’ We can warm ourselves there or nourish and nurture ourselves there. We could be content and go no further. We could be satisfied. But that is not our nature. We can relinquish our personal mantle of magic. We can release it to that glow. Then we can receive a different cloak … the mantle of Love’s Magic.
Again, this is all happening at a point of consciousness, and the images are metaphors, and they are messages to a more conscious part of ourselves … to our unconscious mind and our Higher Conscious Self. Cloaked in the mantle of Love’s Magic, we can move beyond the glow of enlightenment in search of a grander love.
But … But along the way … standing between us and that grander love is a ring. It is a boundary past which we cannot pass. It is akin to the bottom line or fortress of our Dark Matrix. It is akin to the anxiety of the Narrows through which we have attempted to pass and through which we have passed many times as magicians. It is akin to these things, but it is different.
With the bottom line or fortress, for example, we can process our way through and release that bottom line or let down the walls of our fortress. With the Narrows, we can stay in them despite the temptations to rest a while in self-pity or martyrdom or judgments or whatever other tempting waiting room presents itself. We can release our fortress/bottom line and walk away from that line; we can stay in the Narrows and enter the fear and then enter the miraculous beyond fear.
But with the ring, we cannot pass. It’s a boundary, and there is nothing we can do to move past it or to avoid it. We can accept it. We can admit that we have one even though we don’t know how to define it or describe it fully. We may never know the components of which it is composed. But it’s there. We cannot pass beyond that ring and thus the name: Ring Pass-Not. We cannot move past it, but we can be guided through it. We need help. We need to receive. It is a new concept, and it is more abstract and more surreal than most. But then we are entering new territory. We are moving into the uncharted territory. In it we will encounter new things, different things. The Ring Pass-Not is one of them.
Another is the Dark Wood. In that case, Lazaris uses Dante’s metaphor with the line from ‘The Divine Comedy’ about entering the Dark Wood where the true way was wholly lost. I am still working with understanding that concept more clearly. I have been there, and I have gotten out. We all have been there, I am sure. We have gotten out as well.
But as we continue our growing and changing … as we continue our evolution … we will encounter our Ring Pass-Not and our Dark Wood. Perhaps that’s why people would rather just gather around the glow of enlightenment and call it a day — and call it a lifetime or an existence. It can be scary out there beyond the glow. No matter what it is that is glowing, it can be frightening. But then we have our magic, and we are magicians. [s] There can be great joy in even the scary stuff that is out there.
Q. There seem to be an endless number of issues all over the world these days, from animal abuse, environmental abuse, wars, abject poverty and suffering to nuclear weapon proliferation, political corruption, etc., etc. – and I’m having a hard time staying out of overwhelm and despair. Any suggestions?
Suggestions … Well, you know, the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘perspective.’ Now, you have keen perception and a solid perspective, I am sure, but … I think it would be helpful for you to work with the Veil of Perspective … it’s one of the veils between worlds.
What I mean is this: If you look at your list of issues, from animal abuse to political corruption, is there a time in this world where this list would be obsolete? Look at the entire last century, for example: the endless number of issues have always been there and probably, to one degree or another, will always be there. Perhaps it would be more helpful to say that you are more conscious of this endless list of issues and that you care a whole lot more about them now than you ever did. In fact, maybe it would be fair to say that you are becoming so conscious and that you care so much that you find yourself slipping into despair. Then you could say more clearly that it is difficult for you to care this much and to be this conscious, and you are finding a way of numbing the caring and reducing the level of consciousness. It’s called feeling overwhelmed and filled with despair. These may be techniques of denial or avoidance; they may be techniques of discounting and distracting. Hmmm … Could you be feeling afraid of caring so much? Could you be feeling afraid of being so conscious?
Now, if any of this makes sense to you, then you can work on owning your depth of caring and making peace with that depth. You could work on facing your fears of caring and your fears of being so bloody conscious all the time. You could place despair at the end of the Narrows and make your way through the Narrows to enter your despair. Consciously entering despair and going into its interior … you can find sorrow, you can find compassion, and strangely, you can find your soul and spirit, and they can bring you joy. Weird, huh? But it’s true. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a possibility. And if you let your Higher Self guide you into that maelstrom, it is more likely that you will find the sorrow, compassion, and the joy. Then you can step beyond your despair … out the other side … and bring the compassion and joy with you.
This is sort of a combination of working with the Narrows and working with the Dark Wood. Lazaris talks about belonging and about how important it is to enter, and to fight to move beyond, the Dark Wood. The reason, he points out, is that in the Dark Wood we can find our sorrow and we can find despair. And we need ingredients from both. We need compassion … the caring born of sorrow. And we need soulful (soul-filled) joy. There are other places to get these, that’s true. But both compassion and joy can be found in sorrow and despair. And since you are close to despair at times, yo
might as well stop in and pick up some extra compassion and joy. [vbg] So perhaps the answer comes with a shift in perspective: work on the global issues, sure, but also working on these particular personal issues might prove fruitful and valuable, too. Those are my suggestions. [s]