"Until we have met the monsters in ourselves we will keep trying to slay them in the outer world. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there we must do our work." - Marianne Williamson
I always find myself a little surprised at how little is known about shadow work, and how even less it is being practiced. So as to try to and help clear up some of the confusion surrounding this beneficial spiritual practice and hopefully turn more onto it,
here are a few common misconceptions about Shadow Work.
Somewhere along the way 'the ego' has gotten a bad rep. I've heard many people say things along the lines of "reject the ego, and embrace the soul" or "the ego is our false self and the soul is our true self". But the fact of the matter is, all parts of our psyche are our true self. And although "true self" is usually referring to our most basic selves as we are outside these bodies and this existence, we can not just deny this reality and all that it entails or we are missing the point.
The shadow self is an integral piece to the two-part soul/ego combo we're currently destined to undertake. Completeness can only be achieved once the ego is embraced along with the soul. The purpose of Shadow Work is to bring to the surface all that we have hidden deep within that is causing us pain.
"You've got to fall in love with the shadow. Everyone has it. You cannot deny it, or run from it, or empty it, or attempt to rise above it. Swim in it instead. Listen to it. Respect it. Bow to it. Breathe it. Honor it. Be fully fascinated by it. Connected to it. It can be harsh and demanding. Sometimes cold and cruel. But ultimately, it will teach you. Guide you. Feed you. Strengthen you. Mold you. And it will free you. Knowing your darkness is what affords you the light. We cannot feel the day if we don't touch the night. This is harmony. This is wholeness." - Victoria Erickson, Edge Of Wonder
Unless this proverbial cake is made of glass shards and razor blades, it is most certainly NOT a piece of cake. Shadow Work cuts you to the very core of your being and forces you to face, analyze, and accept all that lies within.
The title gives way to the darkness that lay ahead: shadow - that which resides in darkness. All that we keep hidden away, pushed down. The parts of ourselves we either never want to face, or the ones that have been so far removed we're no longer consciously aware of their existence - the skeletons in our closets. These are the dirty bits which Shadow Work will bring to the surface and then outline in neon lights, making damn sure they will be addressed. Shadow Work is not an endeavor for the faint of heart. It's not for those who are comfortable with their neatly packaged self image they currently have. It's not for those who do not wish to have their entire existence uprooted and turned upside down. Ironically enough though Shadow Work is beneficial and arguably necessary for everyone. It is an integral part of the spiritual journey and an immensely beneficial catalyst to spiritual development.
"Until you make the unconscious conscience, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." - Carl Jung
Wrong. This is the spiritual song that never ends. It goes on and on my friends. Shadow Work is a life-long journey that you HOPE ends when you die. I'm convinced -and like to think I can make a pretty convincing argument as to why- Shadow Work, and ultimately mastering the delicate working balance between the soul and ego is our purpose here on Earth.
Shadow Work is meant to naturally progress as you learn and grow, so as such it follows the natural pattern of birth, growth, death, and rebirth. Like everything that grows on this planet, our souls need to have a 'winter' season. Shadow Work is that season. Spend time diving down into the depths of the darkness that is you, and when you reemerge you will be stronger and wiser for it. But to continue to grow and develop, you will need to continuously return to those dark places.
"Soul work is not a high road. It's a deep fall into an unforgiving darkness that won't let you go until you find the song that sings you home" - McCall Erickson
Where ever you are on your spiritual journey I hope you are integrating Shadow Work into your routine and allowing it to heal you on the deepest of levels.
How do you practice your Shadow Work and what have you learned from the experience? Share with me!
A solitary and experienced Hedge Witch currently residing in Southern Virginia.
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