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The Sifter and Lady Justice


I made the decision to stop running.

I stopped fearing the literal darkness several years ago after realizing that it was only a canvas. It held only what I projected upon it.

Now for the sucking darkness that taunts me from the center of the vortex of fear and anger and grief and rage. This darkness, unlike literal darkness that I experience after the sun sets, lives entirely within me. How can I be so afraid of and resistant to something living entirely within me?

Since I have stopped running, I have committed to turning fully toward myself, and walking headlong into whatever I find there.

I suppose we all hold different emotional armoring underneath our supple physical form. Mine seems to be mostly crafted of anxiety and judgement. Fear of being rejected and reasons to reject others. There is this sorting function that lives within my emotional armoring. This is too good for you, this is not good enough for you. These people will never accept you, you should not tolerate those people. On and on it goes. It also screens my behavior, endlessly, for whether or not it is acceptable and to whom.

Now that I am squarely facing this function of my armor, let's call it the Sifter, I can see how exhausting this is. The Sifter is ever-vigilant. It's criteria for "enough" is constantly shifting based on hormones, mood, diet, moon phase, environment, media consumption, etc. It gets no direct feedback for the quality of its discernment and is left to only guess whether the split judgments are accurate.

I am aware of the archetype of Justice, carried in history by Lady Justice. She is balanced, wise, weighing all actions against a moral code that she embodies completely. Lady Justice holds scales in her right hand and a sword in her left. This sword acts as her instrument of cutting away what is in excess so that balance can be restored. It also imparts authority and the power to judge swiftly. Lastly, she wears a blindfold to denote impartiality. She has overcome her human emotional attachments and sees only by inner wisdom.

Lady Justice is the ideal to which the Sifter falls hopelessly short. As a mere mortal human, I cannot hope to gain such impartiality, such clarity, such poise. I acknowledge the function of Justice in how I move through life. It encourages me to move toward what is healthy and to move away from what is dangerous or harmful. Unfortunately, the moral code that I have been given by my culture makes impartiality, clarity and wisdom very difficult to come by. I have received so many mixed messages, so many contradictory "facts," so many confusing and superficial anecdotes that I cannot find solid ground for the Sifter to stand on.

The Sifter, instead of acting as a wise guide on the path of wholeness, has been hijacked by fear, mistrust, propaganda, and the constant threat of betrayal or abandonment.

Although this aspect of my psychological armor is clearly flawed, sitting at the feet of this ruthless judge has taught me so much about what I fear. It may seem like I fear disappointing people, making a mistake, looking foolish, etc. What I actually fear is the feeling in my body that the Sifter conjures. The burning heat of humiliation. The rising fire of anger at being betrayed or misunderstood. The feeling itself feels like it will melt me to the ground. It will leave me a pile of ashes and rubble. It will destroy me.

And yet, it doesn't. Every time I can sit in the fires conjured by the inner judge I find that there is actually nothing there. It is only a story. A fantasy. A lie.

On the other side of the feelings, there is nothing. There is space and possibility and grace.

The fate promised by the Sifter, of being rejected or betrayed or humiliated, almost never actually happens. And even if it does, the feelings that it causes do not actually destroy me. They can only destroy me if I run from the feelings into rash actions that I later regret and cannot rescind.

Here, in the dark, in the center of the fear, I find that I am actually untouched by the pain that I recoil from. It cannot do anything to me, lest I allow it to hijack my voice or my hands or feet. Here inside the twilight within, it is powerless as long as I stay still and allow it to move through.

Here in the dark, with my breath, with grace and softness, I am completely safe. I am learning who I am aside from the voice of the Sifter. I am learning what I love and how I want to move, without being hijacked by fear of nothingness.

I suppose I am learning how to let go, how to forgive, how to walk the path that I choose rather than trying to follow the ill-marked path left by others to a destination that I may not actually want to reach.

Again, I realize that the darkness is truly just a canvas. I decide what to create, and the work of making these decisions in alignment with the person I want to be is work I am more than happy to dedicate myself to.


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