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Archive for November, 2014

Shadow work allows us to acknowledge and integrate as much of our multidimensional selves as we are able, enriching our lives and our capacity for more growth. While Marianne Williamson might say in A Return to Love that “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us,”* I know from personal experience that the dark can be terrifying as well. And if the light is frightening, maybe it’s not only for its sheer power, but for its power to reveal our “darkness,” our shadows, the totality of who we are. Shadow work is important because our unexplored parts are part of who we are, and it’s important to get to know as much of ourselves as possible so we won’t be blindsided by our own secrets, and so we can harness all of our energies for our highest good.   What do we keep hidden from ourselves and others, and what is our fear we have of it being seen? That is one of the basic questions of shadow work.

 

To begin, an initial journey you might want to do is re what does the shadow mean to you, apart from anyone else’s definition?

 

Here are some of my thoughts about ways of working shamanically with the shadow:

 

  • We can work with the Jungian definition of our shadow parts, which are aspects of ourselves our ego casts off / doesn’t accept. These are parts of ourselves that need to be acknowledged and integrated; I wouldn’t suggest merging with them too soon though or give them what they want necessarily; they can tend to be like wounded children who need love and acceptance so their true gifts can be revealed. Sometimes all they need is to be acknowledged; sometimes the integration work is more complex.

 

Here are some journeys you can do:

  • Journey to see if there’s a helping spirit that wants to be your specialist for this (might be someone you already work with; might not).
  • Then ask to meet one shadow part at a time.
  • Acknowledge it with love and compassion.
  • Ask if it needs anything.
  • Ask what its true nature is.
  • What is its purpose?
  • What is its medicine?
  • Journey to your True Self and ask what you need to do to be able to accept this part.
  • What healing do you need to do?
  • Does that shadow part need any healing?
  • And then work with your helping spirits to offer it the healing it asks for.

 

It’s a good idea to do this work with a trusted Helping Spirit, and ask them to facilitate anything that your Shadow might ask for. Remember, you can always come out of a Journey if it gets too intense or unpleasant; you can always say “no;” you always have free will. Your intent is to bring only what is for your highest good into your life.

 

  • Another obvious definition of our shadow that I’ve been shown is that “shadow is [just] the response of light to form.” While we’re in physical form, we’re going to throw a shadow, i.e. take up space. So a nice way of approaching this is to journey to the shadow your physical presence casts and acknowledge that it’s ok to exist as a physical being. Acknowledge and appreciate all that happens in the shade. Explore what is this Self that casts a shadow? What are your gifts and talents?

 

  • Along these lines is approaching shadow as a gift – darkness as grace. Mary Oliver writes in her wonderful poem Sleeping in the Forest, “All night / I heard the small kingdoms breathing / around me, the insects, and the birds / who do their work in the darkness.”**  We need the darkness. We need sleep and worms who burrow in the earth. We need to appreciate the beauty of mystery and creative chaos and the shroud of “darkness” around All That Is. Without the quiet space between notes there would be no music.

 

Journey to Mystery! Get to know your subconscious, that rich, fertile soil that lies within us. And acknowledge that much will never be understood or grasped consciously. Allow yourself time to explore silence and uninterrupted, unplanned time to go deep into yourself. Allow yourself to “be in the dark” about things – to not always have to know. Explore what are your shadows about but gently.

 

This is actually one of the hard things about living here in such a beautiful place like Los Angeles – there are so few rainy days to burrow in under a blanket and explore your interior world without the exterior, sunny world calling loudly to you. But here in the Northern Hemisphere the days are cooling off and getting shorter, and even in LA we’ll be getting some rain, so interior work gets easier.

 

Eucalyptus tree shadows - Golden Gate Park - © Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus tree shadows – Golden Gate Park – © Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus Tree shadows - Golden Gate Park - © Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus tree – Golden Gate Park – © Lynda Skeen

 

  • Another way to explore the shadow is as the flip side of our strengths – the shadow of our light – the yang to our yin – the other side of the coin.
    • For instance, we can understand Love because its opposite exists. Acknowledge your capacity for the full gamut of emotions. You don’t have to act on them all; just acknowledge their existence.
    • And explore how on this plane of duality, energies and emotions can be expressed and experienced in “positive” and “negative” ways. It can be enlightening to explore how your passion for peace might actually be an expression violence (“hating war” more than “loving peace”), or how your “love” for someone is actually more a form of clinging out of your own insecurity. When you feel a twinge of discomfort about an action you are taking, that is a clue it’s something you might want to explore in terms of the shadow. Emotions have a huge spectrum – exploring them and shifting where you sit on the spectrum can be extremely empowering.

 

Soul retrieval, extraction, ancestral healing, energy work, and other forms of shamanic work can greatly assist with shadow work – before, during, and after. It’s important to sort out what energies are actually yours and what you’ve been holding onto from others, what have glommed onto you that aren’t actually yours; and what energies have you lost touch with along the way. It’s a spiral, not a linear process. The more whole and healthy you are, the better able you are to accept and integrate the shadow side of yourself, and the more of yourself you can accept and integrate, the more whole and healthy you become.

 

In addition to shamanic work, here are some suggestions for other ways in and to process what you’re shown:

 

  • Depending on what comes up, you might want to engage the help of a therapist to work on a psychological level. Regardless of whether or not you decide to work with a professional, it’s important to have emotional support during this process, a loved one or group of close friends who will be there for you as you do your work
  • Ask for insight from dreams before you go to sleep
  • Body work, both to help release some of the energies and to process them after they are released – including acupuncture, massage, etc. – keep the energies circulating and integrating
  • Meditation, acknowledging but not focusing on whatever comes up
  • Stream of consciousness art/music/ writing
  • Being out in nature, feeling your feet on the ground, acknowledging the four directions and your physical place in the world
  • Yoga and other forms of exercise the connect the body, mind and spirit

I hope these ideas might be useful springboards in your shadow work explorations. Take your time, be gentle and curious with yourself and the process, and remember that this work doesn’t end!

 

Many blessings on your process.

 

Joshua Tree rock spiral - © Lynda Skeen

Joshua Tree rock spiral – © Lynda Skeen

 

 

 

*http://www.marianne.com

**from Mary Oliver’s collection Twelve Moons , p. 3; available online at http://www.poetseers.org/contemporary-poets/mary-oliver/mary-oliver-poems/sleeping-in-the-forest/

 

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The Poet in Bed in the Morning

 

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out…
–Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry”

 

She drops a mouse into her bed of poems
to see what it would do – what she would do.
It crawls across her covered feet,
then wraps its tail around her bedpost
like a string around its finger,
not wanting to forget its strength
(it can do this –
it can do this).
She picks some words from between her teeth
and holds them out to the mouse.
“Come back,” she says.
But the mouse leaps onto a window ledge
then disappears through a slit in the screen.

So she licks the words from her fingers,
leans back,
and looks at the day.
She is a child under a sprinkler,
a baby at its mother’s breast.
She has no idea what to do
with either words or nourishment.
Drinks too much.
Lets herself feel full and dull and stupid.
Maybe she should shave her head.

Instead, she muffles the day with ear plugs,
rolls over around a pillow,
covers her eyes with a blanket,
and releases herself again
to the dark.

 

© Lynda Skeen

 

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