That’s How the Light Gets In

Ever wondered if there’s any good to that side of ourselves that we’d rather not acknowledge?  Those aspects of ourselves that open us to pain and that get us into trouble over and over again? Like naivete, rigidity, control, depressiveness – they are endless.

Last week, an icon passed – Leonard Cohen.  Some think of him more as a poet than a song-writer. So much like Bob Dylan, he’s both to me.

He wrote about the beauty of our imperfections as humans. He was a pacifist and saw himself as a soldier. Cohen always ended his shows with a military salute, and when asked about this, he remarked, “I sing serious songs, and I’m serious onstage because I couldn’t do it any other way…I don’t consider myself a civilian. I consider myself a soldier, and that’s the way soldiers salute.”

In memory of what Leonard Cohen gave us, I want to talk about the value of our imperfections, or of our shadow side. When I first heard someone – one of my mentors – say there is a light side in our own shadow, I was confused.  Isn’t that something we should strive to identify and eliminate from our lives?  How can our shadow hold anything good?

How, for instance, can being trampled by shame be in any way good? Or hiding behind mediocrity? Or any of the ways we place our power and authenticity in the shadow? Each of us can identify our own ways. One of mine is shame – I can feel shame not only for something I’ve done, but even more keenly for something someone else has done.  I’ll feel embarrassed for them, and fall over my own shoestrings accommodating them for it, even to the point of carrying the blame for whatever created it.

Not my finest moments.  And yet, if I’m courageous enough to remain open as I fall yet again into the abyss of shame, I always find a bud, something growing in the muck of my shadow that eventually brings joy.  It may be a personal realization, or the impetus to do things differently from now on.  It may even be a softening of my heart when I see another go through what I go through.

The point is, if it wasn’t for those moments of darkness, I don’t think I’d appreciate the brilliance of the light.  And for that I’m grateful.

Leonard Cohen – Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack – A crack in everything

Quote of the Day
… I’d like to thank Leonard Cohen.
The book is named after an excerpt from his poem/song – Anthem. … I first used that stanza in my second book. When I contacted him to ask permission, … he got back to say he would give it to me for free.
I’d paid handsomely for other poetry excerpts, and rightly so. I’d expected to pay for this, especially given that at the time, six years ago, Mr. Cohen had just had most of his savings stolen by a trusted member of his team.
Instead of asking for thousands – he asked for nothing.
I cannot begin to imagine the light that floods into that man.

– Louise Penny, How the Light Gets In

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly


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