Day 1 - Standing
in the Light, Looking at the Shadows
The distant rhythm of breaking waves echoed softly into the
cracks of the smoke-blackened walls as I stepped into the cave
on the first day.
It was sheltered from
Aotearoa winds, and there was
slight dampness in the air.
I had visited the
cave in broad daylight - with its huge vaulted ceiling entry and
labyrinth of alcoves and passageways - but I had never been
there in this dark hour before the dawn… and I had certainly not
been there alone.
A shiver shot up my
Clearly, I was in the
right place to face something I had lived with my entire life,
but never truly seen or understood:
As I stood in the
pre-dawn haze in the center of the main chamber, the first thing
I noticed was that from where I was standing, I could see
clearly into other areas that were also capturing a hint of
morning light, but from this place I was unable to see any of
the darker, shadowed spaces.
Much like trying to
look out the windows of a lit room at night, my eyes could only
see into those areas that matched the light where I was
Mustering up a little courage, I stepped into a darker passage
for a moment and made my first discovery:
As my eyes
adjusted to the shadows, I found that I could actually see
the whole cave better - both light and dark spaces equally.
As someone who has at
times veered away from looking at my own and others' shadowy
aspects, it was powerful to realize that my view wasn't limited
or closed down by the shadows, but rather expanded by them!
Day one, and already
I was getting answers, but I had a feeling there was more to
Day 2 - The
Deeper in I Go, the Further I See
The second morning I felt called to venture deeper into some of
the unseen chambers of the cave, around corners and into little
nooks that never seemed to receive any direct light.
Over the space of an
hour, I cautiously felt my way through and acquainted myself
with most of the main 'rooms' in the network.
Each step into the
unknown seemed to stretch my comfort zone and vision a little
more, bringing up fears and then relief with the discovery that
these dark spaces, once embraced, were safe - and often
illuminating - to stand in.
I wanted to believe this discovery was the main reason for my
journey, but something deep inside knew there was more.
As I prepared to exit
the cave on day 2, I caught a glimpse of a very narrow passage
leading off the main chamber, toward what appeared to be the
'innermost' section of the cave network.
I had noticed the
opening to the passage in daylight previously but had discounted
it because it was so narrow and tight (barely wide enough for my
body) for an unknowable distance, into a completely unknown
I knew that if I went in too far and got stuck, there might be
no way to get out.
For some reason, as I
left the second day, it was with the creeping feeling that my
task for the final morning would have to be to at least try to
feel my way deep into the pure pitch blackness of this space… to
discover what was waiting for me in the innermost chamber of the
cave, and myself...
Day 3 -
Entering the Innermost Cave
the meeting place
light and pure darkness
fullest expression of color
As I stepped toward the cave just before dawn on the third
morning, there was a mist on the ground that almost seemed to be
coming from the cave's mouth, as if seeping from the restless
dreams of a sleeping dragon.
A dragon that was
quite possibly waiting to devour me whole as I ventured into the
depths of its belly.
As fears of bandits, murderers, and rogue feral animals spiraled
in my mind, I crouched onto my hands and knees and began to feel
my way into the darkness of this last remaining unexplored
outstretched to meet the walls, I inched my way deeper and
deeper in. Soon I was on my stomach squeezing under the jagged
My mouth pressed
close to the soot and sandy floor.
My ears, aware of the fading sound of waves behind me, my eyes
anxiously searching for something, anything, to adjust to.
Several meters of inch-by-inch sand crab shuffling and the
ceiling gradually began to recede, eventually opening into what
seemed to be a small room in the very heart centre of the cave.
The ocean's surge and
the rising light of day were nowhere in this place. Only
impenetrable darkness and the rhythmic dripping of water on
My breathing became very shallow. My pupils eclipsed my eyes in
efforts to adjust… but my efforts were futile. I had no idea of
the dimensions of the chamber or what (or who!) else was in
I could see nothing
but my mind started going wild with fearful visions. I was
scared. I felt incredibly anxious and vulnerable. I felt like
ants were crawling inside my skin and murderers were moving in.
I could feel the
walls closing in around me, full of all the haunted spirits and
wounded beasts that had ever been to this dragon's lair.
I wanted to run, but this was not an option…
I wanted to scramble
out of there five times faster than I had crawled in, but I knew
this would risk hurting myself and getting stuck on the way out.
Somehow I forced a
shaking breath into my lungs and dug myself a little deeper into
If this was the energy of what was lurking in the shadows of me…
this is where I needed to be. I took a deep breath into my fears
and nervous imaginings, and with it, I strangely felt my belly
begin to relax.
I took another and my
shoulders gently dropped. I closed my eyes (which was no
different than having them open) and took one more breath.
My whole being began
to settle into this bed of tiny stones and shells… into the
earth beneath it.
As I began to relax in my body, I became aware of a deep
stillness in the cave.
that only the very center of a mountain could know.
that knows without seeing, and sees without looking
that wants for nothing. Yearns for nothing.
that puts restlessness to sleep like a sweet child on a
I felt this stillness
in my body… and a very real sense of peace washed through me, as
though it passed from the open hand of Mother Earth herself.
Held gently in this
womb, I felt safe, calm and connected.
There was nowhere
else I wanted to be, but from this place, I could imagine going
anywhere… being anything! In this place of absolute darkness, it
was as though a light switched on inside of me that I did not
even know had been missing.
I opened my eyes, and just as I did, the first ray of the
sunrise must've reached over the ocean horizon, because it
stretched and bounced its way through the angles of the cave,
sending a single hazy beam into the inner sanctum where I sat.
The timing was
incredible. The very moment that I arrived at genuine peace and
light within the darkness, the light of day had come in to find
I stood up and
stretched my arms to the ceiling and the walls around me…
As I stepped back into the main cave chamber (which itself was
still quite dark), the contrasting light to where I had just
been actually caused me to squint.
Everything seemed so
much brighter and alive. I realized that while I had always been
an optimistic, 'glass-half-full' type of guy, my reluctance to
explore the shadows of my own innermost cave had actually
prevented me from seeing and experiencing my greatest light.
Now I could see and
feel the equal gift of both.
I ran down to the
water's edge and dove in, nearly freezing my head right off of
Looking back across the beach toward, the ocean mist mixed with
morning light reflecting a rainbow across the mouth of the cave.
With it came the
final reflection of my Day 3 lesson:
That in the
meeting place of pure light and pure darkness is the fullest
expression of color.