I’ve been thinking recently (dangerous, I know) about various aspects of shadow and what they mean. I’ve also been thinking about how difficult it is in the beginning to stop a reaction or emotion in it’s tracks and try to counter it. That’s where I struggled the most, so I went back and started to unpack all that work just for you. Before I begin, I want to put out a disclaimer real fast. This technique is edging ever so slightly towards the love and light rhetoric. I have to be abundantly clear that I do not, nor do I encourage such toxic emotional deterring. While attempting to live life in only love and light is a beautiful fantasy, it’s impractical and dangerous. As the great Buddha once said “life is suffering. The trick is to find peace within the suffering.” To blatantly ignore and disregard pain and anguish is to set a piece of you aside to rot and atrophy and eventually allow it to come back later twice as strong and twice as terrifying. The only way to achieve personal wholeness is to embrace all parts of oneself. Accept, adjust, and address the pieces that don’t quiet fit anymore and change them so that they become more you.
Disclaimer over, on to the lesson! Come my padawans! Let’s stake these demons and fly serenely off into the dark! (If anyone catches all three references you get a cookie, digital and from a distance, because quarantine lol).
Let’s talk about energy. In the Q’ero tradition, we believe that energy is either heavy or light (physically). There is no such thing as good and evil. Something that is heavy (hucha) for one person to carry, is actually light (sami) for another to carry. In yogic traditions, there is a similar philosophy of the Gunas, largely used to understand the way the mind and body communicate with one another and the energies that arise from an unbalanced union between the two. If you’re interested in the Q’ero teachings, my teacher and friend Jim Two-snakes is still taking on students and I can send you to him directly. Or if you’re more inclined towards the yogic teachings, my former teacher and current friend Beth can be found at Mythic Pose (coldwaterhaven.com) for a more in-depth lesson on life through yoga.
Often times, trying to change an emotion in the moment is really difficult. Humans tend to get caught up in emotions, opinions, and reactions like fish get caught in nets. The practice of addressing the situation after it occurs is one way of unweaving the net you find yourself trapped in. However, what do you do when you find yourself trapped in an emotion that cannot be unwound? There is actually a scene in a beloved children’s movie that perfectly displays what I’m about to tell you. Remember Finding Nemo? Towards the end, Dori gets caught in a net with a school of fish and the whole group is getting drug up towards the boat. Everyone is panicking! Oh no! What do we do? The energy is super high and agitated and no one is able to think of a solution until Nemo (brave little Nemo) comes up from outside of the situation and suggests that everyone start swimming down.
I’m so excited!! This is so amazing!! OK ok.. Let’s break this down. The energy of the school of fish is super high and excited. Nemo breaks through that excited energy by being calm and focused, giving them a goal and encourages them to use that excited energy to force the net down till it breaks the boom on the boat and everyone lets out an excited ‘ahhhh’ at the end when they get freed. I’m going to lay some truth on you now… You are both the trapped fish AND Nemo. Inside of you right now, you are both. You are capable of both. Sometimes, on rare occasions, it will require someone else’s Nemo to free your fish, but 99.9% of the time, your Nemo can break through.
What our goal here, is to cultivate a Nemo. A strong, independent, observant, thinking mind to counter the shadow (trapped fish) to speak reason and find balance within yourself. The practice of observing and pulling apart your reactions after they happen is developing your very own Nemo, so that one day, in the midst of a crisis, your Nemo can be heard.
Essentially, what I am addressing here is the practice of raising or lowering ones own energetic responses, not to find “balance” but to find your true north, your peace within the chaos, your anchor on rough seas, your kite string in strong winds (I have dozens of these…). When you are dealing with very extreme energies, like rage or depression, think equal opposites. I’m not saying counter rage with depression, I’m saying counter rage with calm. Counter depression with excitement or elation. You have to find the emotion that can touch and quelle the extreme one. Find the emotion that will allow Nemo to touch the butt. That way you can talk to that extreme emotion to get to the bottom of why it is so upset. Countering emotions in this way will allow you a pause button, use it to take in the scene around you and adjust accordingly.
Now, there is an alternative to this practice that will eventually come into play. This happened to me, which is why I am sharing it with you. When it comes to extreme emotions, like rage, there will be times when calm will not break through. When this happens, what you have to do is get Nemo real fucking angry and match the rage to get it to listen to you. You will have to get into it’s face and scream back at it to tell it to fuck off, you’re not helping. This also goes for extreme amounts of stasis or depression as well. Sometimes you have to get mad at your depression in order to raise it up and out. When this happens, because it will and it will suck to have to yell at yourself, take time for some self-love once you are out of that emotion. Kind words, at the very least, are important. Understanding yourself and why you had to shake yourself out of it are valuable tools and they need to be cared for.
You are the best tool you will ever possess. Keep yourself well-tended, clean, sharp, and strong. There is no such thing as going to the store to buy a new one when it breaks. You have to fix you. You are solely responsible for yourself, make sure you stay in proper working order so others can learn to do the same thing. This world is tragic as Hel, but together we can tend beautiful gardens. I’m keeping all of you in my heart during this process and I am so excited to see you grow. Love to you and yours!