The Great Unsettling

Maybe you’ve been in the same place or still are. I started experiencing a sense of generalized, underlying dread. Like waiting for the other shoe to drop. A kind of existential angst…over which it felt like I had no control. For months, I awoke in the morning and steeled myself to face the day. What new outrage would be presented? How do I navigate the low-level grief – or overwhelming waves of sadness and righteous anger – and be able to function reasonably in my everyday life? My energy was sapped by some stealthy foe.

Then I realized I’d started to grow numb to what occurred…and that’s not healthy. That would only indicate that it was becoming submerged to the point of becoming the norm.

That isn’t who I am or how I choose to live my life. I can pinpoint exactly when it began – and it turns out I haven’t been alone.

Oh, I’ve been through the intensity of the Dark Night of the Soul, thrashing around in the invisible landscape, and came out the other side. You can read about those years in my book Standing Stark. That’s not what this is about. Nor is it about all the times I stood at the threshold – restless for change – sensing, but not seeing, the next realignment of my life. Those times I actively chose. Those were personal. As much as any of us have any control whatsoever, I felt as though I was the rider of that horse who, in partnership, would take me where I was meant to go.

After the many months, I finally determined I’d relinquished the reins and wasn’t on the horse at all. In shock, I’d allowed myself to be thrown off by a dangerous runaway, out of control, underbelly completely visible.

Here’s what makes this different: This challenge was delivered at the meta level. It affects the world community and our collective future.


In June, I was in France for the month, the last leg two nights in Toulouse. A little rest before the long flight home. I was walking along the river when I glanced back toward the Pont Neuf bridge and saw the most curious thing. There at the edge of the circular opening between the piers closest to this side of the bridge sat a figure, its legs dangling over the edge. A red devil. At first I thought it was someone dressed in costume, maybe a street performer. I snapped a photo and posted it on my Facebook timeline, jokingly labeling it The Entrance to the Underworld. A closer look – and the fact it hadn’t moved the next day – determined it to be a fixture.


Overnight I’d done some research and learned of Notre Dame de la Daurade, less than ten minutes from my hotel, that contained a Black Madonna. Excitedly, I struck out the next day. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t noticed the church previously when it was located along the river, quite close to Pont Neuf. Then I saw why. It was a blocky building, looking more like a Masonic Temple or maybe part of the art school whose walls adjoined it. Plus, it was partially hidden by fences and restoration equipment. But the front door was open. So I entered.

The inside walls were shrouded in dirty draping, dust everywhere, building materials scattered on the floor. No pews. Nothing really. Not what I expected. The few workmen I saw paid me no mind. It took me a minute to get my bearings. I knew the Black Madonna was supposed to be in the southern transept and picked my way through. I was about to go through a small opening in the drapery that segmented the back part when a man, probably the one in charge, told me I couldn’t be there. I attempted to talk him into it, “Even for a moment?” But he was firm.

Disappointed, I turned to go. I was nearly out the front door when I felt a strong pull coming from my right. I paused to look around to see if the coast was clear…then followed the energy. That’s where I found her. She was stuffed into a dark niche, stripped of her finery, behind tall iron bars, a padlock barring entrance. It seemed so disrespectful. A couple of candles burned just outside. I stayed for a long time. If anyone saw me, they let me be.


Something bothered me. The only things of significance I took away from Toulouse were that devil – on which I could find no information online – and the Black Madonna. It just didn’t sit right with me. So I sat with it for several days through the first few days I was home. It hit me.

The devil guarding the gate. The Black Madonna and child locked up. Held hostage. Renovation.

I’m one for metaphors. When I’m involved in deep spiritual inquiry, that’s where my mind tends to go. This, coupled with all the environmental upheavals across the planet, brought me to focus. It’s not like I didn’t know this at some level. Now it’s no longer hidden. I’ve got it.

This is shadow work. We’re all being called to it: collectively and individually.

We’re being asked to consider:

  • In what ways we argue for our limitations;
  • The call to re-examine our cultural norms;
  • The willingness to avert our eyes;
  • The act of unconsciously filtering because we can’t contain it all.
  • How we perpetuate implicit bias.

I’m deep in the thick of it. Sorting. I don’t have any answers yet. Just the questions that have been there all along now made plain and visible.

For me, insights come in silence and solitude – in the early morning when all is still and little is fighting for my attention – still fresh from sleep where so much is recycled and put to bed. The way through reveals itself in the aftermath of meditation, in the process of writing or creating artwork, and during the method I use to clear my brain.

Whatever answers finally come are mine and may not be yours. But my deepest hope is that all will hold the core values that nurture the collective. In the meantime, these things I write of here are helping me fine-tune the path I take.


Categories: Global Consciousness, Healing, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “The Great Unsettling

  1. You know I love this piece, Carla. Apt metaphors indeed. And you speak to what people all over the globe must be feeling. If not on the personal level–where much pain is about from the shadow–then the pervasive insanity of the collective events that are flooding our awareness. Yes, we are being asked to face it all, to tell our truth, and to begin the healing, the turning. Thank you for being there and for being aware!

    • Thank you, Pam. As you read, I sat with this for quite a while to determine exactly what was afoot. Yes, it’s up to each of us. I don’t see how anyone can deny that.

  2. Joan Enoch

    As a Jewish woman born in 1940, what you are writing about is certainly not new to these times. It sometimes amazes me when folks “get it.” For this country I saw a parallel to Nazi Germany very early in ,last few years. If my skin color was darker, I’m sure I would have seen it much earlier. Dread, the human condition, suffering. Good luck on the “awakening” of humanity. Personally, I think it’s a myth. The
    “D-evil ” is in the details – the tribal human being with the large brain and the shadow, dark emotions. The black Madonna has always been in chains.

    • Joan, I agree with everything you’ve said with the exception of largely overcoming these dark times. I will forever remain an idealist. One by one does make a difference to me. Those with white privilege have consciously or unconsciously colluded. I’ve had to deal with things due to gender – especially when much younger – and now as I’m aware of implicit bias toward elders. But my safety hasn’t been threatened. Nor have I lost my home or family as others have. I’ve always been a believer in human rights across the board. But with this huge wave of insidious disregard and even malevolence, I believe we’re all called to step up once again before history repeats itself as you said. We each have our own ways of doing so, of course. Silence doesn’t win out.

  3. Jo Elliott

    Carla you have so eloquently voiced what I wake and feel often in the dead of night or early hours of morning. Thank you for your explanation, it makes sense to me – it feels too big to be completely personal, and like you I am attempting to process it slowly.

  4. Bradley Burak

    Hi Carla, You really share from a deep place, and I feel moved to reflect that to you and express my appreciation. As I take this moment to respond, my surface conceptual mind is like a tool that is able to magically create one word at a time. The feeling process to select each word is intuitive, meaning I can’t understand it with my limited consciousness. It is an art. I manifest thoughts from my deeper self where my wisdom and power and true love and compassion are . . . I just can’t know this place with my small mind. As I live my journey, life presents opportunities constantly to, like you mentioned, “fine tune” this art of feeling and intuiting from my deep self and responding from this place instead of reacting unconsciously from my normal conceptual mind with all it’s issues. The “shadow work” is being able to feel what I haven’t been ready yet to feel, but maybe in this moment, I am ready. Each time I do that I get to live with more of my amazing deep self, and get to experience writing magical stuff like this. Much deep Love!

    • Bradley, thank you. I know you come from a place of deep spiritual inquiry, also reflected in what you’ve written here. We need so many more like you. Sending love back to you.

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