Opening To Our Shadow

How does it land for you when someone says ‘It’s all perfect!”? Does it really ring true? These days in our ‘New Age’ we hear these words more and more. But for those who have known the shadow the phrase may raise more questions than peace of mind!

There is much focus on ecstasy these days, peak experiences which open our hearts and minds to the unknown. Self proclaimed Goddesses and Gods abound. There is an established belief system that should I fill my life with the positive there will be no room for its opposite. If I fill my life with light, then the shadow cannot exist.

Let us be compassionate with ourselves, but let us also be true. The shadow is there, and it will follow us wherever we go.

Ceremonies, therapies and rituals abound with plant medicines, breathwork, cacao and sound. They may be wonderful opportunities to embrace the light, to bring rapture into our daily life. But what about the dark side? The one we effort to avoid?

Our culture has taught us to turn away from what darkens our inner landscape. We have developed sophisticated coping systems to avoid it, a new religion of acquiescence that frowns upon the truth being told. Behavioral psychology, as efficient as it may be, can only ever be half the solution, and it’s by working with the shadow instead of running away from it (what a funny thought!) we can achieve the deepest healing in ourselves and provide a true point of reference for others. As a healing practitioner we cannot claim authenticity unless we are prepared to look at ourselves completely.

The shadow has enormous power, and unless we make friends with it the power gets compressed – like in a pressure cooker. As time passes the pressure increases, until what may seem an insignificant act will ‘trigger’ us. It may be a comment or a criticism, or the behavior of another which touches us deeply, and ignites what we have been hiding from. Our reaction may be explosive as we are confronted – not by the act of another, but by all the things about ourselves we have been avoiding. It can be quite overwhelming, and we may be horrified to have over-reacted in such a way.

What can we do? We can begin to open to our shadow. We can ask it questions, and show that we are interested to know more. It takes courage to turn towards something you think might be chasing you. But if you can, you will be surprised that it is not that bad at all. Perhaps you have heard the example of being chased by a herd of buffalo. If you keep running they will overtake and trample you under foot. But if you stand still and strong they will part their ways so as not to hit you.

It is empowering to befriend the shadow as it contains so much energy that can be transformed  When the darkness in us (“Hello darkness my old friend?”) is recognized it becomes a resource and a strength. It supports our determination, resoluteness and staying-power.

It also rounds out our character, and instead of seeking to be a God or a Goddess, we can accept who we are completely, and become more tolerant of others as our compassion for ourselves and the challenges of the human condition grows.

How do we open to our shadow? Try a writing exercise! Before you do your morning 3 minute breath practice, ask permission of your mind to re-member with the things you may have forgotten. As you breath, visualize your journey as an expedition into the past as you become alert to messages or signs. Don’t analyze, just watch and stay present.

After your session take, 20 minutes and write about your childhood – anything that comes. It doesn’t have to be dark and dirty, just an opening into realms that you may have forgotten or cast aside. Let your fingers lead the mind. Notice the rhythm of as they tap the keyboard or create the words on paper. Let the writing come through you, not from you. Don’t think about what you are writing, just continue.

Start with the first 7 years of your life. What happened? Carry this inquiry with you through your day. Ask members of your family, your parents or relatives if they have stories about you that you may have forgotten. Let them know you are interested to learn more about what your life was like.

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