There is a great story in First Nation US folklore about the origins of the crow. In the story, the crow was originally created in many beautiful colours and loved his colours deeply and how the light shone on them. But when he noticed his shadow, behind him, black as black, he became increasingly perturbed and started to peck at that shadow, to try and make it go away. Over time he became so obsessed with the shadow that he forgot about his colours entirely. All his attention was on the shadow and he pecked more and more… until the day that the shadow had had enough and pecked back, swallowing the crow up and leading to the black bird (with a shimmer of other colours) that we know today.
It’s easy to understand that crow. Just as we are attracted to picking at a scab or a spot, or perhaps to checking again and again in the mirror a supposed blemish we have noticed, we might often let our thoughts and attention return to a pathway that we know negates us. It could be external – Trump, May, bankers, “terrorists”, “state of the world”, paedophiles, things we can’t stand in our loved ones – or it could be internal: that secret side of ourselves that we never show, or of which we are ashamed.
At its worst it might have the addictive OCD quality that means we look again and again and again, more and more often, blotting out other horizons.
In reality, of course, “internal” and “external” are not separate. The drama is inside us: the seemingly good, the seemingly bad, the bright colours, the darkness. And there is only one way to break the addiction and to stop the shadow pecking.
That way is to love the shadow. Love it, honour it, accept it, claim it. Once you do that, it grows quiet and we find that thoughts and attention turn to the directions that raise us up as we should be raised.