The Burden of Consciousness

By Doug Marman

“Door in the Shadow” by Utku Yasavul

How often do we see people running away from awareness? They don’t want to know.

Many take up drinking for this reason, or drugs. Some get lost in religious fanaticism, become groupies of movie stars, or addicted to TV and entertainment. These are ways of escaping.

When people turn to religion, they often want God to take care of them, or they want to believe in something absolutely true, so that they won’t have to think about the questions of life.

One of the most unfortunate things that can happen with a spiritual search is when it deteriorates into asceticism — when seekers believe that suffering is needed to be saved. It is a desperate attempt at freeing themselves from the bondage of materialism, but they are going about it the wrong way. It is just another form of running away from awareness.

People who have had bad relationships will often avoid getting close to others. Love seems too difficult and painful. They can’t face another heart crushing experience, so they shun intimacy.

Lots of people think they are pursuing freedom, when they are really running away from the responsibility of consciousness. Aren’t these all forms of the death wish? The desire to fall asleep?

I sometimes call this “The Burden of Consciousness.”

After all, we didn’t choose to be conscious, did we? It is as if people want to give this gift back to God and say, “I don’t want this.”

Life says, “Trust me. It grows on you.”

If we think in terms of symbols, most people are like downward facing triangles, focusing on all the issues and problems of the material world. They agonize over how others see them, whether they are succeeding or failing in the eyes of the world. They worry about all the forces of life that seem to be flooding in upon them. They feel trapped and helpless against the pressures of energies flowing down on them that are too powerful to control.

Not understanding their true innate nature, that Soul of itself is free and can be happy under any conditions, they suffer and run away from their own awareness. Not seeing how the troubles of life all bring gifts, and not realizing how to move with the flow of life to learn from it, their lives become filled with stress. If only they could turn that triangle face up.

In other words, there is a lesson in the desire to escape. Dying can help us let go and move on. We can’t escape our creations, but we can give up our attachment to them. Should our happiness rise and fall based on how the world accepts our creations? Isn’t the whole point of this death wish an inner desire to give up all our worries and to turn our triangle face up?

I think the true underlying need within us is the desire to become more aware and this is why it is important to listen, to understand these messages. Our subconscious raises such dire images of disaster and suffering because it wants our attention. This is how the Shadow often works in our lives. It does things to upset us, like a child does, to get attention. This is just its way of saying that it needs our consideration and love.

Some parents set aside time for their children, where they encourage them to put on shows and plays. It is time for them to watch and give their children care and attention. We can do the same thing with our Shadow, which is our subconscious.

Facing our shadow

For example, if the death wish arises, we can take time to ask our Shadow to show and display its best death scenario. How would it go? Would there be weeping and crying afterwards? Would the Shadow like to be there to see its own funeral? Is this the kind of attention it is looking for? Is this the only way it knows if it is really loved — by seeing the sadness of others after it has left this world? But once we escape all the troubles of love and life, what happens next?

Go through this with your Shadow — feel what it feels because you care about it — and you will transform it. It will move from the darkness into light and it will change from something that tries to embarrass you into something that guides and helps you. Once we truly start listening to our subconscious, to the feelings that lurk below our own awareness, we find that it possesses wisdom beyond our expectations. It is not asking us to face the burden of consciousness because of our failures, but to surrender to life because we trust it, and to find once again our natural lightness of being.

Only we can transform the Shadow. Only we can move it into the daylight and make it our friend. It can be a traumatic experience going through this at first, because it means learning to love the very things we have shunned and criticized. But in the end, we realize how much more important truth is for us. We need truth to thrive.

The story of the Shadow is like the old Gothic novels where an unwanted child has been locked away in a dungeon, until it breaks out one day. We too, lock away the Shadow, which is a part of ourselves that we don’t want others to see.

Sooner or later we need to accept this child as our own, to love it as a part of ourselves. Then we discover that even the ugliest and most disfigured children can return more love than we ever imagined. This shows us how wrong we were about what is truly important. And before our eyes our inner child becomes beautiful.

This is how the Shadow changes us, through the gift it gives us. It brings a fulfillment and completeness that makes all burdens worthwhile.

4 thoughts on “The Burden of Consciousness

  1. ” Spiritual dialogue, therefore, is not only sharing insights and discoveries with fellow travelers, it is also a hidden communication with the living, breathing reality behind all things.”

    “a hidden communication”…….. in plain sight

    I’m 88+ years old, I have Parkinsons condition and I’m not happy with being so handicapped.
    I have not had the knd of experiences you have had but I believe the encounter I had in 1984 and to the present time was direct communication from the Larger Domain, that is my name for ‘it’. Thanks for sharing. it is good work, you are fortunate to be as competent as you are. .

    • Thank you, Betty.

      The experience you described sounds like what I have experienced as well. It is interesting how experiences like that can change how we see everything.

      When I was working as a reporter for a small newspaper in Arizona, when I was young, I met a man who had developed solar cookers and solar energy collectors for homes. This was back in the 1970’s. I wanted to write up a small story about him and his work for the paper. As soon as I met him, in his driveway by his solar cooker, he asked if we could talk in the garage. He then explained that he had an extreme sensitivity to the sun, since he was young. It was actually close to a debilitating illness, because even short periods of time were enough to make him collapse.

      As soon as I said this, I realized why he was doing the work he was doing. Most people ignore the sun everyday. Not him. His handicap made him highly aware of the sun’s rays.

      From this I realized that it is often our weaknesses that end up becoming our strengths. We learn something from the things that cause us suffering that can turn into blessings.

      That has changed the way I look at my own limitations and handicaps. In a strange way, they can also become gifts.

      Thank you for sharing your light!


  2. To Doug Marman,
    I really enjoyed reading your post on getting to know our shadow. I strongly agree and by your small posts, you have influenced my spiritual growth. I greatly appreciate your time talent and efforts to help spiritual seekers like me take one more step. I would like to share point that I wrote after my daily meditation I felt inspired to write:

    One day the angel of death came to me.
    He told me to get my life in order tomorrow I will surely die.
    Being the last day in this world I decided to make it the most wonderful one of my life.
    I would treat everyone I meet, everything I encountered to be the most precious experience I have ever experienced.
    When I went to bed that night reflecting on the day I had realized what a wonderful experience that one day was to me.
    How I savored each experience. each encounter as my last.
    I fell asleep in joyful bliss and happiest I had ever been in my life.
    The next day the angel of death comes to me.
    He tells me to get my life in order tomorrow I will surely die.
    Day after day he would return.
    Telling me to get my life in order tomorrow I will surely die.
    I finally realize that he had been coming to me every day of my life.
    Too frightened to listen to scared to hear I would ignore the angel of death’s warning.
    I would hide under the covers has a frightened child refusing to hear the words to life. Guy Brazil

    • Guy,

      Thanks for sharing your inspired writing. I like the idea that death can be a great teacher, just like our shadow can.

      I’m glad to hear that my small posts have been helpful.


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