Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shadow Dancing: Meeting Your Darker Half

I've really kept the tone of this blog fairly upbeat and on the lighter side of the coin, but now, I think it's time to bring in the shadow. The shadow is a scary thing to most people, and that's part of how it gets his or her power, depending on who you are. It is fed by repression and neglect until it builds up and starts beating down your door. But you don't want to see it or admit that it's there, so you run. You run into ridiculous positive affirmations that are valueless if you can't see the whole of reality. While I believe in the ultimate good that has no opposite, most of life lives in the duality of good and evil. That needs to be honored, and only when you know how to accept and receive evil can you step into the space of ultimate good.


Receiving and Respecting Evil
This is probably a shocking subhead. This isn't the way most spiritual teachers are talking these days as we focus on attracting good things and being in the present moment. This isn't bashing anything, but we have to look at our shadows. If we don't, really bad things will happen.

The shadow consists of all the things in our lives that we don't want to look at. These are things like our fears, hatreds, shames, sadnessess, despair, and all other manner of "negative" feelings. I put the word negative in quotes because that is an ego judgment. It says, "These feelings are good, and those feelings are bad." I've been working with some issues around isolation and sadness that are surfacing in me as I engage more fully with my shadow, and it's interesting how much easier it is to just be with them. The shadow side just wants acknowledgment--at least most of the time; there are a wide variety of circumstances. Sometimes you have to take decisive action depending on your shadow and what you've done.


Meeting Your Shadow in Real Life
Sometimes your shadow demands your attention so badly that it manifests in a person. Probably this person doesn't quite have all your shadow elements, but they'll have enough that you can project the rest of those attributes onto them. For instance, you have huge power and voice issues. You've swallowed down all kinds of things that you should have said and given up your power when you should have done something. All this stuff has been sitting down deep inside of you--squashed down by repression. Maybe the repression is shame about your lack of voice and inaction. Maybe it's fear. One day, you have a boss who is an absolute tyrant. He screams at you and belittles you. He makes you do all the worst kinds of job. Congratulations, this is a powerful moment. You've just met your shadow.

Shadow Work--Serious Business, Sometimes
Depending on your shadow, this can be some serious stuff to work with. In the former example, you may want to scream back or maybe even get into a physical altercation. This is what your reactive ego would lead you to do. It won't actually heal your shadow issues. It will most likely lead you to get further admonished and de-based in the situation, fired, or even put in jail depending on what you've chosen to do in the situation (and even in a reactive state, we are choosing our decisions). Identification is huge, and it's the first step. When you can look at someone and say to yourself, "Ah-ha, I see you shadow," you've taken a huge step towards dealing with the issue yourself. If you still think that life is treating you poorly, then you'll miss this identification part, and subsequently, you'll have to deal with this situation for sometime. Even if you leave that job, you will most likely attract another shadow aspect to fill that place in your life.

Step 2 is about understanding what you've repressed. What is all this pent up anger about? I often view pent up anger as blocked action or energy. Somewhere in your body and in your life, you stopped an action. You had something very important to say. You had something very important to do. You didn't say or do those things, and now you're pissed at yourself. Your shadow is screaming to get your attention. Journaling helps to figure it out, but with anger, I like to encourage people to give themselves an additional outlet.

Step 3 is about finding that appropriate outlet for all that rage or whatever the feeling is. If you don't, you'll punish yourself or you'll end up punishing others (which is also punishing yourself). I personally like sledgehammers. There is nothing more fun than finding a pile of rocks or other useless debris and bashing the shit out of it. It's amazing. It's a great workout too if you're looking for that. I'd encourage you to work in some verbal abuse. It is a pile of rock after all. It can take it. Maybe you work yourself up into some profanity. Maybe some of you are balking at that last part. "No, I don't like to curse." You don't have to, but then again, it sounds like you've found another way that you're restricting your voice. If you're coming to that place because you don't like the feeling of swearing, that's fine. But if it's because you've got a mental ideal about right or wrong things to say constricting your larynx, well, then I'd encourage you to swear like the nastiest sailor out there. It'll be fun. If you don't know any good swears, message me. I've got a few good ones.

Step 4 is about changing your patterns. Now that you know what the issue is about and you've given yourself an outlet, you have to change the pattern that created the situation. In this example, you'll have to learn how to speak your voice and use your power when you're called to do it. If you don't, you'll just re-create that aspect of your shadow. The situation will re-create itself in some way or another until you fully shift the pattern and clear any deeper karmas around the issue.

What Lingers in the Dark: Bringing the Light of Spirituality Into the Blackness
We all have shadows. Sometimes, they're just blindspots. Sometimes, they're things that we want to forget. Sometimes, they're simply lessons that we have to learn in this life. They're not bad. They're not evil, but if they're not addressed, they will act out in often destructive ways. Everyone does their shadow dance differently. It's a profoundly powerful piece to the spiritual path, and it's one that I'll be devoting more time to discussing over the coming weeks. Because while the depth of love that we can all experience is amazing, it only gets deeper when we can fully see and engage with our darkness. In that way, our shadow becomes our newest and most important lover until the blackness melts away into the light.
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