The solstice came and went. And with it we welcome the days beginning to turn dark again, thus I find myself contemplating darkness and curious of the shadow. The summers so often show us the light of things, though one thing is certain; there is an equal amount of shadow as there is light in all things.
When it comes to the darkness in us, we generally don’t own it, yet it comes out eventually calling our attention. Often we hate when it rears its head; and equally as often, it takes us by surprise, especially when in the form of utter admiration. I’d like to posit a new relationship to shadow, one of seeing. Because, in actuality, the shadow is great! It’s a very integral part of our human nature.
Here is why. If we consciously called out the shadow in us, I imagine it would be like this: People would know themselves! We would experience the metaphoric death of who we think we are and step into more and more truth in each new encounter with this darker side of ourselves. And in this place of meeting this hidden friend, we can uncover our gift to the world! What we can and are meant to offer our community comes with this deeper knowing of our shadow. Thus, in owning our shadow we are more connected to ourselves and the world around us. Peter Pan teachers us this, as when he finally catches his shadow, we see he is able to fully engage with the world outside of Neverland and he is able to see very real parts of himself that are forgotten in his other world, namely his boyhood and what makes him magical.
So, How the heck can we do this?
It begins with growing awareness about what we are projecting on to others: what do you find yourself hating or loving in friends, partners, co-workers, even pets? What qualities create these high emotional states of aversion and attraction? Then, we take the time to know this part in ourselves, courageously and consciously. This could be through art, creativity, suspended disbelief, and ceremony.
Draw, tell a story, dance, burn, bury. The psyche responds to symbolic emotional experiences just a much, or even more, than actual events.
Just the other week, I have noticed how I project my shadow, because I do not wish to own these things in me, and then I watch the ways I hide these qualities from the world. This is a great disservice. Can we really afford to this to each other? To ourselves?
My task now is to own these parts of myself, so no one else needs to. I recognize it is no small challenge. This includes deeply knowing qualities that are heroic and appalling. It can be vulnerable, revealing, uncomfortable, regretful and shameful. Regardless if the projections are glowing or adverse, we must ask ourselves what right do we have to project our shadow onto anyone?
Shadow offers an opportunity for a greater knowing and realization of who we are, so that all parts of us can show up. Parts of self that have long been cut off and kept in quiet dark caverns believed to be not acceptable.
Shadow catches up to us, as it always does. Behind seemingly bad life events, lies a gift of what is so precious about who we essentially are and can possibly do.
This is an initiation experience. As we know our shadows, we know ourselves, as we know ourselves we step into our maturity, and our shadow introduces us to a part that is essential to the whole of who we are. The most beautiful parts of ourselves lie these dark places. Think of gold in dark caverns of earth.
Nature teaches us this most admirably, as all nature lives in polarity of light and dark, creation and destruction, up and down, male and female. This is the same in our psychological structure. With time in nature, we can begin to see and find the mirrors of our polarities, remembering who we were before we learned to divide ourselves for cultural acceptance. Nature accepts us unconditionally, we can own the shadow within and share it with the world in truth, we can become more balanced in the knowing of polarities.