As we enter into the final blog (for now) on Shadow work, I want to leave you with a few parting gifts. This has been such an interesting and rewarding ride for me and I am ever so grateful that you have come along with me. I am so proud of all you wonderful and beautiful people that are doing this work and I believe in each and everyone of you. I know how hard this work is and how, at times, you just want to throw in the towel and give up. But our new perspective on our world won’t let us, so rest when you need to and work when its necessary. No matter what, keep chipping away and keep exploring. You will be glad you did.
There has been a lot of “experts” coming forward talking about shadow work in the last few months. Maybe it’s the nature of the flow of life, maybe it’s the time of year as those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are quickly sinking into the coldest and darkest days. Either way, I want to make a few things clear. If you came to my blog seeking the “magical formula” that will help you rid yourself of your shadow once and for all, I’m sorry to disappoint you. You cannot rid yourself of your shadow in the same way a rose bush cannot rid its self of its thorns. But that’s ok! You shouldn’t want to! Your shadow is as much a part of you as the pieces that are in the sun. Our goal is to understand all aspects of ourselves so that we can become whole and smooth over the rougher surfaces of ourselves.
Some people claim that our shadow is nothing but negative pieces of our psyche. They, in my experience, are wrong. One of my shadows is my sense of play and enjoyment of life. If I do anything for myself, whether it’s resting, crafting, playing outside being silly or taking a day off because I need it, I experience guilt and shame for not working myself into the ground. This is both a societal and a family grown shadow. If you don’t give every piece of yourself away to work, family, friends, religion, then you aren’t doing everything you can to be useful in this world. Which, upon further inspection, is a shitty way to live. If you run yourself into the ground in service of others, you run yourself dry and become incapable of helping others in the future by becoming sick, angry because you’re not honoring yourself and your needs, or a worse fate may befall you.
There is a philosophy in the Yogic traditions (and in Norse that I’m slowly unpacking) that talks about tending your own garden to feed those around you. In a nut shell, to be the best supporter in your community, to have enough to offer, your own garden must be tended well. You cannot tend the gardens of others and expect them to flourish. Just like they cannot tend your garden and expect it to flourish. The fruits of your labor feeds others and vice versa. This does not mean that you need to have expertise in every aspect of life. This does not mean that you need to know everything about the world and what’s inside of it. This only means that you should strive to understand yourself and your capabilities inside and out and improve/prune where needed.
Shadow work is a life long journey, improved and supported by experiencing life and everything it has to offer. You don’t need to focus solely on shadow the same way you don’t need to focus solely on love and light. This throws things out of balance.
I want to change gears just a bit. I know I’ve talked a lot about digging into shadow and figuring out where it’s rooted, but this isn’t the only way. A large part of shadow work is allowing the emotions to be felt and experienced. We are taught to ignore or stamp down certain emotions (fear, anger, sadness, frustration etc) because they are “bad” and if you’re a woman and you express any emotion, you’re being dramatic, but if you’re a man and you express kindness or care you’re weak and pathetic. Neither of these “teachings” are true. Not at all. In my experience, shadows are often born because we run away from experiencing our emotions. This lessens our emotional IQ and causes our emotions to become difficult to manage and maintain or causes the emotions to come out in extremes.
By becoming aware of our emotions and their flow, we allow ourselves to feel and experience the world in a whole new way. We are able to not become overwhelmed by the emotions and they become less difficult to feel. A gentle warning, when you open the door to your emotions, in the beginning they will come in waves. Often intense, painful, and unpredictable. That’s why your bug-out bag is so important as is having someone there to hold space for you in whatever way makes you feel comfortable. Without these physical tools, helplessness is a very real thing that will happen. Someone who is willing to just listen is a vital force for this work. If you feel you need to seek out a therapist or counselor, know that I support you in that decision. I wouldn’t have been able to make it to where I am without the aid of someone who does that kind of work.
One final shift in gears before I wrap this up. At first, you may not notice that you’re healing. That’s just the nature of this work. But you will eventually start to notice moments of pause. These pauses are an indication that healing has started. Behavior will also begin to change. Times when you normally would have acted one way will shift and change. Before, when you might have backed down from something, will start to look like you defending yourself and taking a stand. Be aware that you are not reacting in the moment to the emotions. Lean into the pause and allow the emotion to play out before responding. Rationality will become a norm for you and reason and understanding will become its foundation.
Those around you will also begin to react differently to your change. Some will cheer you on and be excited for you, others that depended on your shadows control will have a more negative reaction. Neither of these are your fault. Never be ashamed of your growth. Tend your own garden, and others will follow.
This next leg of my own personal journey will be taking me down interesting and new paths. I’m excited to bring you along with me. One of these days I will write a post detailing how I got here, the challenges and barriers I faced along with the exciting break throughs that happened. But not today. I will be taking the holidays off and will return in January 2021 with a post bidding farewell to the year of 2020. This has been quite a journey for me, and I’m over joyed that you have followed me this long. Feel free to reach out to me, either here or via email at email@example.com. I do readings and am a good listener. If there is anything you would like me to talk about, let me know and please support me by sharing this blog with your friends. If you’re more of a listener then a reader, or know someone who is, check out the podcast I co-host with Jim Two Snakes and Sarenth Odinsson, Around Grandfather Fire, where we talk about everything from spirituality, aphantasia, comic books, and more. Love to you all, and happy holidays.