“The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is.” ~Unknown
A dream: I am in a woman’s prison. The cells and halls are dark and dirty. The prison looks like a damp dungeon. Inside the cells are women dressed in rags along with their children.
I am not in a cell, but walking around, observing the faces of desperate, imprisoned women. I need to get out, and find myself in an empty corridor, long and wide.
At the end, I see a glimpse of light: freedom through the corridor. After a long walk, I arrive at the place of light, an oasis, an ocean retreat filled with sunshine, laughter, and happy people wearing white.
But before I enter the long tunnel, I see a girl crying, and I ask her why. She tells me she has a feeling something bad is going to happen to me.
This dream has become the metaphor of my life. The quote above resonates with my dream and the journey I have walked, but what has inspired me to write this post, is this: the tunnel is the illusion.
It would seem that since the “new age” movement, we have heard a lot about illusion—about what is real and what is not. What we should focus our minds on and what we should not.
How we have a choice that we need to make every day, perhaps every moment, between fear and love. Between prison and freedom. It makes us think we might have some power in a world that often does not make sense or brings us to places we would never want to be.
Here is another quote by Carl Jung.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
It is not that I don’t agree that the tunnel is an illusion, but it concerns me that this word, illusion, gives us permission to not care about the tunnel—to not care about the process, which brings us from where we are to where we are going.
I mean, if it’s an illusion, than it doesn’t matter, right?
The light at the end of my tunnel was Maui—an oasis of ocean, sun, breezes, and people waving and smiling Aloha. But, I was a long way from Maui. I was living in a two-story home in a suburban cul-de-sac in Minnesota.
I had the husband, the dog, the two kids, money, and the white picked fence surrounding it all. And I felt imprisoned. I thought it was my external circumstance confining me, but it turns out, it wasn’t.
After a brief stay in “The American Dream,” we sold our home, found a lot and a builder on Maui, and began to change our external circumstance. But, we never got to Maui. Instead we ended up in a small town in the middle of a gray, Minnesota winter.
She tells me she has a feeling something bad is going to happen to me.
This began my experience in the long, dusty corridor. Every restricting and confining structure that was deeply embedded within was beginning to surface in this tiny, isolated town.
Here I found my pain, my loneliness, my bitterness, my abandonment, and disappointment. The only way through the pain was to bring my eyes within, and look deeply—to make the darkness conscious.
What I learned there, what I discovered, illusion or not, has become the foundation of wisdom and perspective on which I stand today, and it is not over. The lessons and discoveries continue to unfold and expand, further deepening me within the truth of who I am.
This is why the tunnel matters. In fact, I believe it matters a lot. The tunnel is the longest road most of us will travel.
The tunnel is where we find the pain. Where we find all that is unconscious in us, and if we continue bravely and openly, staying focused on this, and not the “figures of light” we will get through and have a foundation of wisdom that will never fall away.
A foundation cannot be discovered by imagining “figures of light,” but the foundation can be found my making the darkness conscious. And as Jung says, we will do anything to avoid facing our soul, and what’s inside.
It is easy to become swept away in the light, in what we really want, and tell ourselves our pain is an illusion, so why bother with it. We can be shamed into thinking our pain is negative and we should be more positive. That we should choose love over fear. That the tunnel is an illusion.
To walk through the tunnel, illusion or not, is not a choice. We don’t have a choice if we will go or not go. It’s a matter of when are we willing and ready to go, and understanding it is a process we may go through time and time again.
The tunnel and the light are not separate. It is almost as if they work together, and it is by facing what is in there time and time again that we find something beyond it. Where we might find fearlessness. Where we will find the never-ending light.
To only focus on the light, however, is not our work because the light never fades. It never leaves us. It awaits, no matter how long we are in the tunnel, or no matter how many times we go through.
What the illusion might be is when we find our self in a ray of that light, on a mini-vacation at the oasis in the sun, and we think that we are done. We may be, but we also might not be.
My point is that it all matters. The beginning, the middle, and the end—and especially the middle.
Photo by ToastyKen