When I was in college, I met and fell in love with a man named Marcelo. Today, the sixth of March, 2016, marks the tenth anniversary of his untimely death. Marcelo was one of my first and greatest teachers in life. He was an extraordinarily rare man, devoted to truth. He left a successful career as a professor of mathematics at the Naval Postgraduate Academy in Monterrey to follow his calling to become a healer and eventually, a mentor on the spiritual path to many. When I met him, I had never been exposed to anyone quite like him before.
During the first conversation that I had with Marcelo he stopped me mid sentence and said, “Sylvia, you have a lot of unacknowledged shadow around you.” He then looked at me deeply, inquisitively, with love. I felt embarrassed. I didn’t even quite know what he was talking about. Shadow?
Marcelo would spend the next six years of my early life teaching me about the shadow. Without his influence, I am almost certain my early spiritual practice would have been mainly about repressing the shadow. I would have sought to transcend my humanity with meditation or other spiritual practices. But Marcelo taught me the complete opposite of transcendence. He taught me to meet the shadow, square in the eye and without blinking. He taught me that the clearest, brightest, purest light comes from fully embracing the dark.
Like any pioneer, Marcelo suffered two steps ahead of what he taught to those around him. He struggled mightily with the shadow in his own life. He had vices that pulled him into places of shame and occasionally, hiding. A few years into our relationship, he had become a teacher to many students in his native country of Argentina, where we lived. He felt the burden of his shadow mightily. He did not want to lead anyone astray or cause suffering. And yet. He had a destiny, just like the rest of us, that was human and imperfect. He taught from that imperfection. He was tender and vulnerable in a way that I have since come to see is exceedingly rare. He taught me to become comfortable with my own vulnerability.
Marcelo became ill with cancer a few years after I left Argentina. We had parted friends, but I was not by his side when he passed away. I know, from those who were with him during that time, that he continued his spiritual work until his very last breath. One of the last things he spoke of was that he knew that in order to fully complete his journey of healing, of full integration of the shadow, he had to die. That dying was, in fact, his final step to becoming whole.
I think of this teaching often. The last transmission of Marcelo’s life was only complete with his final breath. It continues to ripple and resonate and touch not just me, but many others, to this very day.
I owe him a debt of gratitude.
Marcelo, wherever your spirit walks today, know that a piece of your spirit still walks with me.