Sunday, June 26, 2011

Shadow Expressions: Permission to be Messy on the Spiritual Path

A lot of people have this pristine version of spirituality stuck in their heads. They somehow think that it's the option to the cleaner, safer version of life. A lot of that is just avoidance. It's a way to avoid the crappy parts of us, and ironically enough it's a way to get stuck in the muddy parts of life. Well, life is as much the mud as the clean, pristine paved road. Sometimes to get to the road we really want to take, we have to slog through the mud. So here's a post to embracing the mud...at least as best as any of us can do.

Shadow, Mud, and Darkness
Down in the shadows, you've hidden a lot of yourself. If you want to fully embody your truth and deepest light, you have to see these shadows. All this crappy stuff you've done, all the terrible stuff that's happened to you, and everything in between must be dealt with. It's already showing up in your life, but so many people try to bottle it up. If you're doing that you're probably getting ready to explode. In one of the conversations that I had this weekend, a person mentioned the phrase "feeling contained" to me. It's a great phrase. I think it's applicable to 90% of this country--maybe to 90% of all the people in the world; I don't know. So locked up in images and ideas of what and how we should be, we just want to scream. We want to scream for a very long time and break things...so do it.

Making Room to Express the Shadow
All that repressed crap needs to come up. I encourage you to let it. It's trying to anyway--every day of your life. But instead of waiting to burst and medicating yourself on a painkiller to dull the reality washing through you, make time to have this expression. Find a safe space. Find a safe person or people to be in this shadow aspect, and explode. Go fucking nuts. Really. I mean it. If you don't, it'll just happen another way, bringing with it unintended results. So you wait until you're overloaded and can't take a critique from your wife. You explode. You scream at her. You break a couch, and then suddenly, you're looking at divorce papers because she can't handle your outbursts anymore.

Maybe you go into counseling after that, and a lot of soft spoken people talk quietly about "What's going on inside?" And you kinda want to explode again, but you still don't really know what it's all about. You are just trying to hold it together because the subliminal message is that it's still not okay to be raw, wild, upset, and a little god damn crazy.

Counseling, Psychology, and Other Therapies
There are so many awesome therapies out there, and you should take advantage of all of them. But they do have their time and their place. I don't know half the things that I should for all of these, and I'm pretty sure that some of them do offer ways to really let out all the upset feelings in a mess in a safe way (Think of my example in an earlier blog post about bashing rocks to smithereens with a sledgehammer while swearing profusely: You can't hurt rocks' feelings). I've already mentioned other tools like journaling where you can just let loose on your feelings, and I've talked about how you can start to dig through the feelings to the core, unmet issues. Perhaps you get stuck. This is where a good counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, healer, or other such person can help you get past the sticking point. Because until you uncork that issue that's clogging you up, you'll just build back up all the frustrations and angers and griefs until the next explosion.

Simple Messiness and Making a Regular Spiritual Practice of It
For some of you, you aren't working on huge issues right now, but you still get locked up and feel that need to express parts of you that still don't fit inside your ego shell. All egos are shells, and even after awakening, we all don some kind of new shell. It's important to slough that off from time to time to let out frustrations and let in other parts of us that perhaps we forgot about or didn't realize we had. For some people, this can just be dancing your heart out to the wee hours of the night in the middle of the desert. Dancing is an amazingly expressive practice, and I see so much pain and sadness sweated out as well as joy and fun invited in through dance and movement. It can be a practice in messiness for some people who haven't allowed themselves to really enjoy their bodies and are stuck in a rigid social construct of who and what they think they can be.

Other simple types of messiness can be:

  • Screaming and yelling
  • Pulverizing an inanimate object like a rock (I know I've mentioned this before, but I like it) or punching a boxing bag
  • Crying
  • Wailing (I've heard of a term called "keening" which is usually done for grieving the loss of a loved one)
  • Dancing (Really opening yourself up to your body)

By and large, when done in the right location and space, this harms no one and feels really good to do. I don't recommend screaming wildly in your apt complex. Other people won't understand, and it'll ignite all their unworked out issues. It will also evoke a lot of concern because normally the only time people really scream is when they're already in physical danger (although I think the way all of us hold in such emotions means we already are in significant danger to ourselves, as in the example of what happened with the divorce scenario I mentioned earlier).


All Emotions and Feelings Are Sacred
One of my friends said that "If we weren't supposed to be able to feel it, God wouldn't have given it to us." It's such beautiful wisdom. So for all of you who think spirituality is only about feeling good, high-states, bliss, love, and what-not, I encourage you to re-think that. You're creating a hugely powerful and overwhelming shadow side of unexpressed feelings. You are also your anger, sadness, rage, depression, and debilitating fears. All of it makes the whole of you. Without any part of it, you are lessened, weakened, and diminished. You can't move with the fullness of you into the embodiment of your truest light by denying parts of yourself. You have to take everything on your spiritual journey.

Sure we all work to release emotions, attachments, desires, and issues that do not serve us, but remember that you can't escape all the things that may not necessarily feel good to you. This is life. We get the whole thing all at once, and that's the only way to come into that space of experiencing the unconditional love--the love that has no opposite, is in all things, and accepts all things.

And so I encourage you to express your shadow in safe ways, and accept the whole of yourself.
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