Living in the Light is about a different way of looking at one’s life than philosophies most of us were raised in modern Christian-dominated America. Gone is the judgment and fear of burning in hell that serves as the motivation in many Christian traditions. Instead, Gawain presents a vision of “a new world” that she sees developing around us. For her, life is a series of lessons to be learned as a we use our intuition to tap into the higher powers around us. By using our intuition, we can become creative channels for the higher powers of the Universe while we work on growing and improving our souls.
Along our road to growth, we have to learn to be truly open to whom we are. We need to become balanced beings who are able to give and to receive. To understand ourselves fully, Gawain argues that we need to face our “shadow sides,” a Jungian term for the parts of ourselves we are afraid of. It is only in accepting every part of our beings that we can find balance. This includes learning to embrace our emotions and face our problems. It also means recognizing that we are both souls and humans in bodily form, and we must live as both. Despite what many schools of thought might teach, our bodies are perfect, just as our souls are. Even though they have limitations, our bodies are amazing, and we need to respect them and listen to them in order to live healthy lives.
Shakti Gawain also discusses the concept of the world as our mirror: whatever we are struggling with inside of ourselves will also manifest externally. By paying attention to these synchronicities around us, we will be able to accelerate our healing and growth. Even though things around us may seem to be negative, they aren’t actually. Instead, what manifests in our lives are gifts for us to learn from; problems are actually messages if we are willing to use our intuition to listen to them. Our careers, our financial situation and even our health will reflect what is going on within us. Then, through the same mirroring perspective, the beneficial changes we make within ourselves will then be reflected throughout the world, too.
The most powerful chapters in the book for me were those on the male and female within which demonstrate that we all have both masculine and feminine energies within us. The masculine side is the action side of us, the part of us that wants to do things. The feminine side is the intuitive side, the part that helps us find the correct direction to move in. Most of us have embraced one side at the expense of the other, but we all need to have both the masculine and feminine within us to be balanced in our lives. Like Gawain, I embraced my masculine side for the first 35 years of my life; in the more recent years, I’ve had to learn to accept, embrace and love my feminine side as well. As I have done so, I’ve found greater peace than I’ve ever known previously.
Working from this place of balanced masculine and feminine energies, Gawain demonstrates that romantic relationships in our culture have been built on theidea of romantic partners completing the other. Because we are not allowing ourselves to be both masculine and feminine, we end up in dysfunctional relationships because we want someone else to fulfill the part of ourselves we don’t accept or want to embrace. When we learn to be what we want rather than asking others to do it for us, we are able to enter into healthier relationships built on being complete individuals rather than partial ones. This new energy of balanced relationships will also spill over into our relationships with our children as parenting takes on a new perspective. By developing honest relationships and respecting our children, we will no longer expect our children to complete us either.
Living in the Light is not without its minor flaws. At one point Gawain refers to the Native American and African cultures. While an error like this might have been possibly have passed muster in the original edition of the book, the 25th anniversary edition that I was reading should have been edited to correct the better cultural understanding of our times. There is no one Native American culture. There are common elements shared by many different Native American tribes, such as a unifying belief in the sanctity of the Earth, but to speak of one particular Native American culture is lacking in perspective. Likewise, Africa is a continent that is over two million square miles larger than North America; Africa’s current population is double that of North America. To generalize that there is one African culture is completely missing the reality of the multitude of diverse cultures on the African continent.
The one place where I felt that Gawain hasn’t fully worked through her theories yet is in her discussion of “Taking Care of Ourselves” (chapter 14). Often as we as a society develop ideas, we swing between extremes. Think of the conservative 1950s, the liberal 1960s, and the more balanced 1970s. Here, Gawain has responded to the societal tendency to repress our emotions rather than facing them; she swings too far in the other direction by stating that by being honest about our needs and emotions, we will get we want most of the time. To me, this section feels too much like a distorted law of attraction. Unfortunately, honesty will not always get us what we want because those around us are individuals with free will, too. Some will chose to respond to our honesty by removing themselves from our lives rather than engaging honestly with us. Living and speaking honestly will change our lives, but we won’t necessarily get what we want. We will, however, get what is best for us by being honest.
It is rare that I recommend a book to a half-dozen people after I finish it, but that happened to me in the days after I finally finished Living in the Light. As I have begun my spiritual singles meetup, I have shifted the original plans I had for the group in order to use this book, asking participants to read a few chapters each month as we work our way through the larger concepts of the book. The material is that powerful and that helpful. I’ve included a huge list of book group or discussion group questions below that can be adapted as needed for your group. For mine, I’ll be dividing the questions over 20 sessions over eight months or so.
Living in the Light is a book I suspect that I will return to many times over my life, and I suspect it will always be a book that will give me helpful reminders and insight no matter where I am in my journey at that point. Even as I read it the first time, I found that synchronicity prevailed, and whatever I read was exactly what I needed to hear at that particular moment.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC