As we’ve covered in our journey, there are many reasons we might enter our personal caves of evil, and based on our experiences it’s often incredibly difficult to understand how Yoda might want to live near this place of terror and despair. It is, however, important to note that how Yoda approached the cave and was able to leave it and live near it in peace whereas Luke’s decision was to run as far away from it as possible to try and solve the issue. I’d like to take this time note that Luke gave it a bit, but even when Yoda offered him everything he needed to learn how best to help his friends, Luke still hopped in his ship and went to a completely different planet to try and solve the problem in the only way he understood: via glorious lightsaber combat. As a result, we all know he was then faced with information he wasn’t in a position to receive and also lost his hand.
How many of us would rather go to another problem to escape our problem?
Knowing how well this worked in the past, what is the likelihood of us also getting our hand cut off?
I believe that Yoda’s choice, not to fight it, not to deny it, not to run from it (all of which Luke does), is ultimately what allows Yoda to overcome his own shadow self. However, we have a minor issue in that one of our best survival mechanisms is also our worst enemy. Ingrained responses and muscle memory. These two, one the mental version of the other, are what allow us to respond rapidly to situations in order to stay alive. Knowing that, let us say, ducking when you hear the bushes rustle means that the tiger misses you is delightful when you survive. It is less delightful when you hear the bushes rustle and end up cracking your head on a rock. Ingrained responses work for the moment, and usually only for that moment, but they generally focus on the immediate as opposed to the long term.
How this translates here is that in growing up or engaging in certain activities, you develop patterns of addressing concerns. I’m certain you’ve heard of the fight or flight response and I’m also certain you know someone in your life who tends to react in a pretty specific way to situations. We know people who try to hide, delay, or even to try and attack the situation. As a result of how we’ve grown and experienced life, these ingrained responses might even be the reason why we have a stronger shadow self. I know in my life my response to throw my ego into making a shell to protect myself from my darker moments have directly lead to empowering my ego in a negative way. As an example, when I was afraid of a monster under my bed, I ended up forcing myself to think “Well, if I wake up dead, then I wake up, but I’m going to sleep regardless if I die or not” might have made me more stubborn than I might have turned out.
I’m not saying that’s always bad, but what now happens is when I find myself in the dark caves of my mind, the response typically was “well fine then, I suppose I’ll just be financially unstable and will just work three jobs to make life work, so there!” I don’t need to say it, but that’s not exactly the most healthy way of handling it. It took me awhile to finally listen to what people were telling me.
The first step to handling the cave like Yoda is to understand what Luke didn’t see the first time: We aren’t fighting Darth Vader, we are seeing ourselves. I personally view the dark side and the Sith and all that jazz as the other side of the coin within ourselves, that the greatest Jedi can be the greatest Sith and vice versa. I think that the first step is to acknowledge that what we see in the Cave of Evil is ourselves and that is the start to understanding.
When we find our personal Darth Vader coming from the fog, it’s not something complex or mystifying, it’s ourselves wanting to have a chat and sometimes we know we need to sit down and listen. We are our harshest critic and it’s because we have the ability to question every last part of our decisions, we know everything and every possible angle we have in the book. It’s honestly a little less Darth Vader and more like trying to fight our own personal Batman with an axe to grind, but I digress.
Once you’ve acknowledged that you are looking at yourself, it’s now time to ask the best and worst question on the planet: “why?” Why are these questions coming to you, why are these questions pertinent, why now? The goal is not to accuse yourself nor is it to excuse yourself, you (shadow you) doesn’t care. It doesn’t care that you have an excuse, it merely cares about what’s actually happening inside of you and what you’re ignoring. For me, I was forced to acknowledge and understand that I place too much of my personal frame of reference on my job and ability to provide for my family. My dark nights forced me to contend with the fact that perhaps that’s not who I am, it’s just something I do.
It’s a journey inwards in which we ask “why” until it can no longer be answered and it’s a long journey. I’m still working through mine, I still relapse, I still have to go into that cave and work through my issues, only now it’s less intimidating and a little more known. That second step is so important in that it starts the conversation with yourself. Quite often others will be telling us this, but until we internalize, until a figurative Darth Vader comes along and forces us to realize that maybe our personal demons are a tad bit more organized than previously thought. We can hide from ourselves better than we can hide from others, I have found out. The conversation with ourselves though will help us know more about ourselves and this allows us to change parts of our lives or see how certain things are impacting us.
First step, knowing that we are our own Darth Vader in the Cave of Evil. Second step, asking why until we divine the very essence of our shadow self. The third step is carrying on the conversation.
The fourth and final step? Setting up shop and finding some roots to make Yoda’s famous root stew. You can’t carry on a conversation with yourself from a different planet, it’s easier when you can stroll on by for a visit. Remember, the reason why this place exists in the first place is because we didn’t have these important conversations with ourselves, that we stuffed all of our darker aspects in some hole and left it there as we went to our own personal Bespin. When someone talks about self-awareness and introspection, this is what it means. Even the most exalted “masters” still have to be aware of their human faults. Even the world’s most patient man still has a limit, it’s just not one that’s crossed very often. That man still has to know what pushes him over that edge.
I’m afraid there isn’t a cure all for this, you don’t just magically step through and everything is fixed because the work of years and decades isn’t done in just a night. It takes time, dedication, and constant communication to continue to work on yourself and sometimes that communication that passes between yourself and yourself is that today just isn’t a good day.
Sometimes we aren’t in a place to address our concerns but what we can do is lessen them and be aware of them. When I enter my cave of evil, sometimes it’s made lighter by listening to the concerns being presented by myself, not through discourse with myself, some days are just bad for me. But ultimately, I’m still listening and becoming more aware of what’s going on and that allows me to know I’m not just beating myself up anymore, I’m having a cup of tea with an old friend.
This is the last week for this particular sermon series. I wanted to help guide people through their darker moments and help highlight how we can change our perspective on the idea of the Cave of Evil and how it relates to us. This is not an end-all-be-all suggestion, and this is not a replacement for therapy. I will always advocate for people to seek therapy from a professional, especially as they can help guide you through this process and they can also call you out when you need it. I hope you all enjoyed.
May the Force be with you all.