Shadow work: How I felt my shadow


It is not unusual to find my brain joining imaginary dots at 2am. Being perpetually busy is easy to do giving our days structure and we have social media for the down times. Living with this heady cocktail, I am looking for a different way of living more in touch with natural rhythms without caffeine. Here comes the thang, when I drop into my body, I disengage from fantastical thoughts and basically sloooow the feck down.

Living where I live with open space and changing sky helps as watching this subtle beauty allows the mind to quiet. Old patterns die hard though, and it is easy to notice how Nature influences our own nature, but it takes more commitment than that. An owning of my wiring, and that overthinking tendencies is a habit much like over eating.

I was drawn to an online course this year that delves into shadow work and works with Mother Archetypes whereby we get in touch with our sacred feminine. This is not a walk in the park. No amount of study or intellectualising is gonna to get me through. Take away this crutch and I’m left wary – I’m told to go gently the course does you…!?

Am I doing it right? How can I think my way through this to reach some utopia?

It’s a regular Sunday, I get an incidental phone call from my cousin but somehow I am triggered into worthlessness. Like a cloud on an otherwise sunny day, bleak thoughts ramp up all vying for attention at once. Normally, I’d push them aside, possibly work harder at getting sh*t done, exercise or inadvertently lose it at the kids an hour or two later. But, this time I just stop. Bent over under the clothesline, I let myself free fall. I open up as my body shakes rather than cling to the safety of intellect. Taking myself away to the garage with pen in hand, I draw what I see. A face, a neck, rope, tears. It’s unbearable at first, but I hold on to this picture and keep drawing. More faces, more tears. Lost parts of me calling for comfort. Asking for love.

Maybe this is what spiritual seekers experience on drugs like toad venom or cactus juice? A reckoning when you stop and face your shadow. What you’ve feared to look at by giving it form becomes an entity, a known quantity and from there, it can be transformed. Stuck emotion around abandonment, rejection and isolation can bubble up to be released. We hadn’t known how to process them at the time before they latently start running the show.

There is a practice based on an 11th Century Buddhish Tibetan woman’s wisdom and more recently made popular by Lama Tsultrim Allione work, ‘How To Feed Your Demons’.  A peer of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, Allione shows that by feeding our demons, we can nurture them and thus free ourselves from inner battles. Even that word ‘demon’ sounds scary, but they aren’t ghoulish devils, rather any blocks draining our energy, negative thoughts, fears, addiction or relationship woes. When we sit with them and give feelings form, we ask them what they need which is always some form of love or comfort, and from that place feed this liquid love to our demon. And surprisingly they lose their power, redundant by love. I reckon we’ve all had that happen before, there’s nothing quite like falling in love, though not always long lasting. But this process is because it is self-love. Underneath our dark knobbly bits, our vicious thoughts and deprecating fears are opportunities for pure self love.

After the face off with my shadow much like a beach after a storm, debris is floating, dislodged. My mind is surprisingly vacant, I put one foot in front of the other back inside to make dinner. Somehow I am more connected and own more parts of myself.

Who knows if or when we are ready? But at some point, there is a shift from reacting to embodying, and we wanna get real. It comes along as a process, a game of cat and mouse with apparently random occurrences that lead us to question who the hell we are, and what’s this thing called life about? Whose to say one path is any better than another.

I don’t believe in ephiphanies maybe because whenever I have one, I’ve (mistakenly) hoped it was this all defining ‘ah-ha’ moment, only to realise that I still wake up with the same neuroses a couple of weeks or months later. As that famous quote goes:

Before enlightenmentchop woodcarry water. After enlightenmentchop woodcarry water.”

Even the aim of enlightenment seems futile in the striving and trying. All I’ve discovered (which isn’t much when I’m buzzing around in my head) is in the gentle art of feeling my way, I nourish a relationship with myself. The more I sit in the depths of my heart, I get comfortable with not knowing what’s coming but ultimately more connected and confident that the ride and rewards are great.



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