The Dance of Shadow and Light

The Dance of Shad­ow and Light is where the juice is. Here, we dis­cov­er the inter­play of pres­ence and action. Learn to let go of rules, and live!

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One way artists achieve “three dimensionality” is to create the illusion of depth through the interplay of shadow and light.

shadow and light woman from back
shad­ow and light are what cre­ates depth

A paint­ing fea­tur­ing noth­ing but light would be a white can­vas; a pic­ture dis­play­ing noth­ing but dark­ness would be a black can­vas.

I’m sure the Nation­al Gallery in Ottawa would be glad to pay a cou­ple of mil­lion for either (Cana­di­an joke—the gallery bought a red can­vas for sev­er­al mil­lion a cou­ple of years ago … ) but look­ing at either leads nowhere.

Black and white thinking, on the other hand, seems to be quite popular.

You know the drill.

The way I see it is true. All oth­er ver­sions are false. I’m right, you’re wrong. Your beliefs are immoral, I’m the pil­lar of moral­i­ty.

Just a Note! Back in 1994, My first book, Sto­ries From the Sea of Life was pub­lished. It’s now out of print, BUT is avail­able as a pdf file. If you’d like to read more of the sto­ries con­tained there­in, amble over to my book site, The Phoenix Cen­tre Press. Once there, sub­scribe to the site’s mail­ing list, and you’ll get the pdf for FREE!

I wrote a story about black and white thinking in my out of print book, Stories From the Sea of Life:

I had a few coun­selling ses­sions with a young woman, while I was coun­selling at a local Uni­ver­si­ty. She was most­ly con­cerned with her sex life, which was not turn­ing out as she had planned.

We dis­cussed it at length, because there was no depth. She was in her first year, and she want­ed to be in an adult rela­tion­ship, and be loved. So, she had been pick­ing up men in cam­pus bars. She’d see a guy, think he was cute, start a con­ver­sa­tion and end up in his bed. Or hers. The few men that hung around past morn­ing rapid­ly lost inter­est in her, or start­ed cheat­ing on her. In bars.

We dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­i­ty that men in bars, on aver­age, were not there look­ing for a woman to mar­ry. They were look­ing for a one night stand. She thought she should be able to change their mind. She agreed, after a bit, that maybe con­text and loca­tion was impor­tant. After all, you don’t buy lum­ber at plumb­ing stores.

By the next ses­sion, she report­ed she’d man­aged two weeks with­out going to a bar. This, she thought, was good, but she said that this had dimin­ished her chances for an adult rela­tion­ship. So, she had joined the cam­pus Lib­er­al Par­ty.

She had gone to a ral­ly. She had bumped into a guy who was cute. They talked, had a sand­wich. They went back to the ral­ly. He stood behind her. His hands wan­dered into her clothes. She thought, “I’ve found true love!” She took him to her room. They had sex. He hadn’t been back since the next morn­ing.

I asked her why she’d con­sent­ed to sex on the first date, with a stranger.

She replied, “Because I’m a Lib­er­al.”

I said, “Par­don me???!!!”

She said, “If you’re a Lib­er­al and some­one asks you for sex, you have to say yes. You obvi­ous­ly don’t under­stand.”

She then explained sex and relat­ing to me, because I was obvi­ous­ly too stu­pid to get it.

I want to be in an adult rela­tion­ship, as obvi­ous­ly, I’m in Uni­ver­si­ty, and there­fore should be in rela­tion­ship. I want it now, and the best way to get a guy for the long-term is to have sex with him.”

I point­ed out that this hadn’t yet worked.

I just need to find the right guy! There’s new bar in town…”

End of ther­a­py.

This Endless Moment

Note: If you want to learn more about this top­ic, and want to look at it from a West­ern per­spec­tive, have a look at my book, This End­less Moment.


This par­tic­u­lar young woman only came for ther­a­py three times, and quit because I couldn’t see that she had no choice.

If a man want­ed to have sex with her, she had to say yes.

When hav­ing sex with guys she picked up in bars caused her pain, rather than exam­in­ing the core belief, she joined a polit­i­cal par­ty and invent­ed a rule that “Lib­er­als always have sex when asked.”

A sub­tle move, this. She went from per­son­al choice to an inflex­i­ble rule to a par­ty man­date. In so doing, she freed her­self from respon­si­bil­i­ty for her actions—her per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty for her sex life was nil. If she got real­ly des­per­ate, she could blame booze.

Notice how one dimensional her approach to sex and relating is.

This is what hap­pens, always, when we have a rigid rule—the rules in a black and white uni­verse are both sim­ple and absolute; they just don’t work.

When a rule fails, black and white thinkers blame others for the failure, as in our story above.

I want to rule this out”

This can mean,

a) plac­ing a ruler under a line, and strik­ing the rule through, or

b) craft­ing an absolute rule—but notice—if I rule some­thing out, what I don’t have is “what to do now.” I just have, “What not to do.”

Black and white thinking is what people younger than 12 do.

You tell kids the fol­low­ing sto­ry: “A man’s chil­dren are starv­ing, so he steals some pota­toes to feed them.” Then you ask them if what he did is “right or wrong.” Young kids will con­demn the man for steal­ing.

Teens, on the oth­er hand, will note the exten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances and say some­thing like, “Steal­ing is wrong, but in this case he was try­ing to keep his kids alive, which is a good thing.”

Being able to see shades of gray is one mark of being an adult.

It can be more dif­fi­cult when it’s per­son­al. When we “take things per­son­al­ly,” we lock into one way of see­ing things, sit­u­a­tions, peo­ple, groups. Blam­ing oth­ers hap­pens when we take things per­son­al­ly; we con­ve­nient­ly for­get that the only person’s behav­iour we can do some­thing about is our­selves.

Letting go of black and white thinking is not a prescription for no beliefs.

When con­front­ed with a seem­ing­ly insur­mount­able obsta­cle, or when our behav­iour gets us unde­sir­able results over and over, the wise per­son begins to look for oth­er ways of act­ing and think­ing.

Spend­ing your life wait­ing for oth­ers to change so you don’t have to is a pre­scrip­tion for wait­ing for­ev­er.

The life well lived has three dimen­sions. It is alive, vital and vibrant. It begins with a palate of colour wider than one or two. It deep­ens, and it finds its depth at the inter­play of dark­ness and light. In the gray. In the tones and hues and vari­eties. In flex­i­bil­i­ty and in bal­ance.

This week, look at the tone of your life. The blacks, whites, grays. See how often you can broad­en the palate.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is known on the web as the Sim­ple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Pri­vate Prac­tice Coun­sel­lor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the lat­est being The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

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