Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Seeing Your Shadow

This past Monday, the ground hog saw her shadow, meaning 6 more weeks of winter. When you see your “shadow side” do you feel a winter’s worth of discontent or a cooling of relationships and life giving connection to others?

What do we mean by “shadow?” Whether in Jungian terms, or in the metaphor of the Jackal, we each inside of us have natural darkness that companions our light. We are primates of this earth, and we will always be looking at others we know and judging whether they are friend or foe, if they mean us harm, or whether our relationship with them will prove to our advantage. We need this to survive. Our native ability to survive howls like a “Jackal” when we turn this biological valuable discerning process into domination, violence, or negative judgment of the other.

Another version of “shadow” is that if we have a certain combination of gifts, it means that we will have “shortcomings” in other areas. For instance, perhaps you are quite empathetic with what others are feeling, meaning you can really see yourself in their shoes. However, this strong empathetic sense can lead to despair and depression as you become overwhelmed with the suffering of the world.

“Shadow” can also mean that there are realities of your life, experiences, and native orientation that you have not embraced, and that you judge as not part of you and “wrong.” When you turn away from the deep knowing and truth of your own life, you “project” your own discomfort and self-judgment onto others, hence treating them as less than human or with less kindness and compassion you might otherwise.

So many shadows lurk in our lives. In reference to that old radio show; “who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, the shadow knows!” Indeed, such wisdom there is in this. By getting to know our shadows we can learn where the seeds of judgment, denial, and violence lurk, and shower them with our attention so that they grow into life giving understandings of ourselves.

For example:

Let’s say that you really don’t like people who “talk too much.” You avoid them because it’s obvious they don’t care about anyone but himself or herself and are social misfits. Where in this do you see your own shadows? Do you judge yourself for conversing with others? Did someone in your past judge you for talking when they wanted you to be quieter? Are you a natural “extrovert” and you think out loud, and in your past people have rebuffed you for this natural gift of yours (Extroverts’ gifts are that they tend to be friendly, outgoing, and welcoming of others, and the shadow is, well, they can talk a lot and forget to listen to others as much as they would like). Also, perhaps we don’t want to be around people that frequently talk because we desire quiet ourselves, or safety or ease in public spaces, and also know that we have a deep desire to be heard and understood. All of these examples of what your shadow is telling you can be life giving. They tell you that you have formed judgments of yourself and others based on what someone needed from you, or that you need yourself. If we connect to the beauty of universal needs, we might let go our judgments, and be more present to the light of possibility in our relationships and in self-awareness.

So go ahead and see your shadow, for it means that there is light to see the beauty that is inside you, is you, and is all around you.

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