The blessings Jacob offers his sons give us much to hope for and much to aspire to. We carry the seeds of leaders and kings. Of priests and scholars. Seafarers, schoolteachers, soldiers, and olive growers. We’ve been given the swiftness of a deer and the ferociousness of a wolf. We’ve been blessed with fertility and beauty.
With all these gifts you’d think we’d move swiftly into integration. Instead, we tend to stumble and fumble, break bones or hearts, and after some famine of love or nerve, end up in this very human land of living, feeling, and doing, where we’re asked to do our work: To labor. To make bricks. To learn our lessons. And to keep learning and re-learning them. Until the pain of slavery becomes so great that we’re finally ready to break free. The next book: Exodus.
Do you more often think of yourself as a deer or a coach potato? Do you live a holy life of goodness and service? Or do you bumble along like the rest of us, causing messes it takes time, effort, and the occasional apology to clean up? The truth is you’re not whole until you’ve claimed each blessing’s attribute, and also integrated its shadow part.
And it’s exactly the shadows around which you have the most resistance that are the ones you need to be willing to claim. To say Oh yeah that’s me. Not necessarily the me I’m proudest of, or love the best. But a me I know well, a me I wrestle with. And out of that wrestling – be it with angel, self, God, or laziness and recidivism — emerges the seeds of wholeness.
Exercise: Identify your best qualities: Honesty, kindness, courage, equanimity…. Everyone will have their own list. Some night, when you’re neither joyous nor melancholy, stand in front of a mirror and light some candles. Close your eyes. Take a few breaths. Think about one of those traits. Then open your eyes and really look deeply at the person looking back at you.
Can you feel those qualities and blessings in yourself? Are you more willing to acknowledge your good parts? Do you shy away from the harder places? Or do you scold yourself for where you feel stuck, and forget about your strengths and the progress you’ve made?
As you do the mirror exercise, ask how each aspect, both blessing and its shadow, serve you. Not only in their highest idealized sense, but in your current you. The you who’s evolved from your personal history. Look at the aspects of self you’re often too afraid to embrace, and the ones that you cling to, that make you feel safe, even if they keep you a slave. Keep remembering that wholeness is possible if you’re willing to risk profound and honest dialogue with yourself.