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Shadow Work Part One

               If you listen to our podcast, Around Grandfather Fire, you have heard us talk about shadow work. We delve into what it is, sort of what it looks like, and how grueling and difficult it is, but we rarely ever talk about HOW to do shadow work. And I know, I know, you’re probably sitting there going “But storm, you said this blog was going to be stories!”. It is, and it will be. The stories will return, but in the time that it will take me to do the Work to better myself and to be able to provide you with quality stories that really pack a punch, I will be sharing with you my method of shadow work. This will likely be a many part series and as I go through it myself, I will be carefully piecing it together for you to possibly follow along or to add to your own method of shadow work.

               In life, I have largely taken the most difficult paths I could take. Mostly by choice, because I’m stubborn and “I can do it on my own!”. However, lucky you, this has put me in a position to allow you a small glimpse into what I have found to work and potentially make this work a little easier for you. Now, it’s not going to be all cakes and puppy kisses, but I have tools that I can offer you to help you manage this work with ease and a bit of grace.

               Before we get into the deep end, I have a little favor to ask you. Promise me that if (and when) this work becomes too hard, you will seek out help. Either from a professional, or a trusted friend or partner, someone who will hold you and tell you that you are ok and remind you that you are here, you are loved, and you are worth it. Ok? Promise? Ok, here we go.

               The way I started shadow work was… Jarring and stupid. So, I’m going to make damned sure you don’t do the same thing. And if you are like me and you just jumped in, then perhaps this will help pull you back out. Before you begin shadow work, you must have some sort of system in place that will help lift you back up and put you back together. Because we will be facing down years’ worth of trauma and bullshit that has held you back or hurt you and let’s be honest, you will be taking a few good punches at yourself. So, we need to start with the basics.

               I want you to take a moment and think about what makes you comfortable. Think about those items, be it a book, movie, tv show, sweatpants, that purple fuzzy blanket, whatever it may be that really brings home that soft squishy feeling of comfort. Maybe it’s a blanket burrito in a cardboard house in the middle of your living room while snacking on your favorite cheesy snacks watching cartoons or smashing the shit out of zombies in your favorite video game. Whatever it is!! Now, I want you to create a list of no less (Seriously, NO LESS) than ten things that bring forth that squishy wonderful sense of complete comfort and safety. Oh, wait, you need to grab a journal? Go ahead, I’ll wait…

               Next, I want you to think of five (no less, but can be more) physical activities that you enjoy doing. Maybe it’s disc golf, walking in the park, swimming, biking, dancing, singing, jumping up and down, anything that involves the physical body and add it in a different section of that first list. This will help combat feelings of disassociation when we get into the sticky parts of shadow.

               Next, we are going to list our favorite foods/snacks/and drinks. This list can be as long or as short as it needs to be, but try to list at least three items. Maybe you don’t have a favorite snack per say (I’m one of these) but instead you have a favorite flavor or taste. That’s fine too, you can write that down instead. For example, on my list I have chocolate, something salty, something spicey, fruit and some sort of hot beverage be it tea, coffee, or hot cocoa etc. Next time you go to the store, make sure to grab at least ONE of these items to have on hand at all times. If you have roommates, explain that these are “special snacks” and you will need them to remain intact within their container. In other words, please don’t touch. Tape a seagull from finding nemo on it if you have to, just make sure you always have at least one available.

               This next one is optional, but it was something that really helped me through the brunt of some of the worst moments of shadow work. Create a journal, or a word document (try to avoid putting this stuff on social media, I’ll address why a little later) that is filled with inspirational and feel good quotes from whatever source you want it to come from. This can (and should) include scriptures from whatever source material your religion or belief system comes from. You can pull from the Eddas, the Vedas, The Sutras, your favorite author, quotes from TV shows or movies that impacted you. Where ever these quotes come from, make sure they illicit a feeling of comfort, peace, joy, happiness, or inspiration.

               And finally, the last one is one you’re probably sick to death of hearing about. Meditation. I’m not talking about journeying. I am talking about the traditional understanding of meditation through a yogic or Buddhist lens where you sit quietly for a certain amount of time either focusing on the breath or a mantra you choose, and become the observer of your thoughts. The reason why this practice is so important and impactful to shadow work is because it allows you the ability to observe, but not participate, in your thoughts and see patterns. It allows you to watch how your thoughts form, transform, what they can manifest, what they destroy etc. In the waking, working world, meditation allows you the ability to catch the emotion in the moment and gives you the choice in how you wish to act, react, or take the path of non-action. There are many sources online about how to start a meditation practice, but my advice to you is to pick a time that you can devote yourself to everyday, at the same time every day, to just sit down somewhere quiet with a four word mantra or breath to focus on for five minutes a day. Every time your thoughts pop up and pull you away from your mantra, gently tell yourself “Thinking” then return to your mantra without berating yourself or feeling guilty for allowing your thoughts to stray. Let me tell you, I’ve been meditating for over 10 years and my thoughts STILL do this to me from time to time.

               The important thing about this practice is that you make sure you show up every day at the same time (the location can change, but try to keep a rhythm as best you can) with the same mantra and that you sit there for five minutes no matter how much of a disaster your thoughts try to be. I’ve had plenty of days where the only thing I thought about was what I had to do during the day to come, five minutes go by, my alarm goes off and I say “Shit, I didn’t say my mantra once!”. That’s ok! It happens.

               Alright, Storm. You’re starting to ramble. Why is all of this important?! Right, back to the point. This is going to be your bug out bag. When you’re going through the shit, everything will be raw and hopeless and raging and terrible and and and. You’re going to need a physical reminder, a list (or several. Make sticky notes!!) somewhere you visit every day to remind you what you can do to pull yourself out of the muck. Because your brain isn’t going to remember it. Trust me. It just won’t. So, make the lists above and copy it as many times as you need and place it in your bathroom, on your bedside table, the back of the persons head who works in the desk in front of yours (maybe not here, but also maybe here), your cars steering wheel, laminate it and put it in the shower, where ever you will need it the most. When you return to and complete an item on this list to bring back those feelings of comfort and joy, you will be building trust with yourself, so it is VITALLY IMPORTANT (imagine big God voice yelling this at you) that you actually do at least one or more things on this list to re-center, re-balance, re-ground yourself when the shit gets tough.

               Oh yea, this is all called self-care. The reason why this was step numero-uno in shadow work is because you are going to need the support. The point of doing shadow work is to break old habits, old ways of existing that no longer serve you, to grow and become more yourself and less the wounds you carry and without the support of a self-care system in place, this work is not only worthless, but will likely add to the shadow making it harder to heal later on down the road.

               This will be my last ask of you before we dive in next week. Take this week and really think about if you’re ready. Ask yourself, am I capable of taking on this kind of work? Can I allow myself to be vulnerable enough to see further? Am I willing to trust my intuition when it says “Enough”? And when it does, will I step back? If I feel like I am unable to take this on by myself, can I trust myself to take the necessary steps to seek out professional help? Am I willing to go all the way and be all in?

               I’m trusting you to trust in yourself. This work isn’t easy, and it especially isn’t easy on your own. So, I offer you part of my tool set to help you through this. Take a week, find your lists, maybe enlist a friend and or partner to be a reminder/support/cuddle bug, or whatever you need them to be as well as whatever they are willing to be, and really allow this to unfold. I know we talk about how difficult it is, how scary it can be, how hard you can hit yourself, but in the end, its worth it. Keeping in mind, this method may not work for everyone. Check in with yourself daily and ask yourself how you’re doing, making extra sure that you are ok to push forward.

               Next week, we will be going into how to identify and observe our emotions in the moment and after the fact and why this is important to shadow work. For now, get started on that self-care and I will see you next week!

Published by Lady Storm

I am a spiritual practitioner that has walked many different paths. Some could call me a jack of all trades when it comes to belief systems. While I don't hold all the answers, I hold many tools that will help unearth answers to questions anyone may have.

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