Tag Archives: shadow self

Little Shadow

Patience, shadow

For all your sight, there’s no sight to see

Little shadow, little shadow

To the night, will you follow me?

Pardon, shadow

Hold on tight to your darkened keys

Little shadow, little shadow

To the night, will you follow me?

Closer, shadow, for all your strikes

Still we’re caught between all this sorrow

Little shadow

To the night, will you follow me?”



I think if I have learned anything on this path it’s that your shadow self is what saves you. That subconscious, tucked away you. That’s where your wisdom comes from. That’s where your greatest self will emerge. It is the chaos where you will be created, like the open darkness that birthed the big bang. It keeps you honest, and it will never give up on you, nor will it abandon it’s knowing that it must emerge into your consciousness for you to shift. It is what you must wed in order to become whole. And this shadow longs for you.

Now what you choose to do with that, or how you react to that emerging shadow is a totally different story. Where consciousness gets involved we often get less centered on wisdom and more rooted in fear. Dark = Bad. We blaze fires to keep the shadows at bay. Burning fires like drinking, drugging, cutting, eating, exercising, earning, fucking, running, distracting, zoning, buying, whatever ~ing, really anything as long as it’s not BE~ing. This manic throwing of logs onto the flames, anything to avoid letting the light going out. And it’s exhausting. Anyone who has gotten a good fire going has seen how it can eat through fuel. Then suddenly we are wedded to this promise of light and committed to keeping the flame.

At times in our exhaustion we pause and say, “Wait why are we not supposed to let the fire out?” But by this point the known path becomes equated to literal survival. It’s no longer just that we were scared of the dark because we didn’t know what exactly it held and that made us anxious (a totally natural response to the unknown and one that makes you pay attention and focus as we walk into that territory), it becomes that the dark IS bad, and that if we show it to ANYONE including ourselves then we/they will realize that WE are bad, and no one would ever love us, or connect with us ever again.

Welcome to hell on earth. The subconscious part of you that wishes to complete you on it’s constant steady march to become conscious. Your conscious mind convinced this subconscious information (feelings, memories, sensations, beliefs) is planning to kill you or at the very least destroy your entire life and ruin everything you love. It’s a bit of a pickle one might say.

So what to do, one may ask. Lean in. Gently. With love. Knowing this is a practice that will take time. At first you might be able to lean into that shadow for ten seconds. Just enough time to become aware of this weird body sensation perhaps in the pit of your stomach, or your racing heart, or that twitchy feeling like you want to run or scream and you aren’t sure why. Then breathe. You build endurance, experience, and know how. Ten seconds starts to become 30, then a minute, then 15.

The trick is going to be as you start to lean you must let go of the judgment. Of the belief and assumption that this is bad, or that you are bad. This is just information and energy passing through. Some guidance or insight for your perusal, that asks the tough questions, and makes the good points. This is not the part of you that wears the mask so you can hustle for other’s approval, this is the part that reminds you of what preferences, interests, emotions, beliefs, dreams, desires, questions, wounds lie beneath the mask. The stuff that needs to be acknowledged so you can decide to integrate, revive, or release. Shadow is the intuitive part of you that knows how to heal and not become weighed down by our life experiences, but to learn from them and continue on.

This was the part of me that emerged after that text conversation. A flicker in the pit of my heart and stomach. She walked towards me without stopping, even when I tried to stifle her, to numb from her. I was tense and crying and fumbling into valleys of questioning the point of living at all. Till I was exhausted and run down standing in my shower and I could finally hear her because I was too tired to fight it anymore. And what arose inside was that this part of me was not afraid to live a life without other people, or a life where people would never totally accept me, as I had been lamenting. This part did not want to live another day apart from ME.

It hit me like a wave, the tension melting from my body as I sank to the bottom of my shower sobbing, hugging myself. apologizing to myself over and over. Opening my heart to all the pain that this compartmentalization, performance, and self hate had caused. Feeling it pour out of me.

As I felt the pain I became intensely aware how true this was: I don’t want to live my life apart from myself, afraid of myself, despising myself. As I huddled there I thought of the advice I often gave to my clients as they discussed needing to act a certain way for a boyfriend or girlfriend to make it a good relationship, to make sure others saw them as worthy of love, “You know you are the longest relationship you will ever have in your entire life. Seems like it might be worth your time, attention, and energy to make sure it’s a good marriage.”


In the days and weeks and months since that shower scene, I’ve come to realize I am a rather fickle bridegroom. My shadow bride is, and always was, much more resolute in her vow to me, and I know I take advantage of that. How she will always be there, walking towards me. But more and more I hope to walk towards her, to give up my commitment to keeping the flame of fear and go with her. Into the night. And discover me.

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Tea Parties, Razor Blades, and How We Sell Ourselves Short

The instruction for meditation and mindfulness is so easy to say and excruciating to practice. I think what makes it so difficult is that we really don’t teach each other how to sit with ourselves. We teach each other how to distract, how to get away; how to DO instead of how to BE. We say buy these clothes to show how unique you are, drive this car to prove your success, get this job, live in this neighborhood, take this pill, watch these movies, this music, get the body you want, find that soul mate that will complete you, and on and on.

In this move to be proactive there lies a distinct message that we have to “fix” something, which immediately suggests there exists something that needs fixing, which of course implies something is wrong, and you guessed this gets translated into there is something wrong with US for feeling/thinking whatever we are. This whole philosophy comes from a perspective of lack and deprivation.

In Brene Brown‘s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she quotes Lynne Twist:

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.’ Whether or not it is true, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our life hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of…We don’t have enough exercise. We don’t have enough work. We don’t have enough profits. We don’t have enough power. We don’t have enough wilderness. We don’t have enough weekends. Of course, we don’t have enough money–ever.

We’re not thin enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not pretty enough or fit enough or educated or successful enough, or rich enough–ever. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with the litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack…What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for an unfulfilled life.”

When we first begin to sit with our experience in the present moment, with the thoughts and feelings that arise, we will notice things that we push away, that we want to deny. Some refer to this as the shadow self. But what is important to remember is that shadow self isn’t bad it’s just another piece of us.

We tend to banish things to the shadow that we think (or have been told) make us unacceptable. Like banishing Cinderella to the basement. Aspects, thoughts, behaviors we might have shame about or feel make us bad. But there are great lessons to learn in the dark.

For me, when I began to sit I was flooded with a deep sense of emptiness and loneliness. Suddenly this profound emptiness within came into my conscious awareness that asked, “Who am I? What is my purpose? Why do I exist?” This led into me questioning whether I even wanted to exist.

Now this first feeling of loneliness and emptiness felt like space, blankness, and a touch of sadness. The suffering really kicked in however when I started to analyze and judge these feelings. This is WRONG, we SHOULDN’T feel this way, we need to DO something, we need to FIX this, this is awful, we should tell someone, maybe we should take something, this feeling isn’t normal, we should get help, but wait we can’t ask for help, they’ll think we’re crazy, no one will understand, I’m totally ashamed, how could I ever think I could help another person if I have these feelings. I think you get the picture.

So instead of just sitting with the initial feeling of loneliness and emptiness I was now on a tidal wave of self critical cyclical thoughts of my own inherent wrongness. Then a memory came to mind that gave me some space in the midst of this tsunami.

When I was about 4 or 5 years old I lived in an apartment that had a wheel chair accessible shower. The bathroom was this large tiled area with a line of tile that stuck up about an inch and a half to keep the water from flooding out into the rest of the bathroom. This shower was AMAZING for tea parties as a little girl, there was enough space for me to lay my tea set out and sprawl out under the shower until the water ran cold.

One day I was sitting down legs padding in the water leaning back on my hands when I suddenly realized my mom’s shaving razor was under my right hand. I pulled my hand up and stared at where the razor had sliced into my palm; chunk, chunk, chunk, three parallel slices into the skin. Blood started to rise out of the cuts. It did not hurt. I was not in pain. But when I saw the blood a voice in my head said, “This is not good. We need to cry to get someone. We need mommy to come do something about this.

And there it was, the beginning of the track that still plays in my head, “It is wrong to feel this way. You can’t handle this. We need to get someone or something to come fix this.”  So I’m having to step back from this training, this track that’s been playing since the days of Ms Bliss being a wee one. There is nothing wrong with this feeling. It’s just a feeling. I don’t have to ACT or REACT to these feelings, I’m just learning to BE with them.

More importantly is that I am challenging the belief that underlies that old track the spins in my head, the belief that I can’t take care of myself. That is a lie. I can take care of myself. I can’t do it yet. I’m still figuring out how to do it. But I know that this capability is within me. I know this because I am helping clients find this inside themselves all the time. I know it because I believe we all have this capability within ourselves. And I deserve to spend time exploring, practicing, and investing in increasing this capability within me.

This is just another part of the game. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth while. You deserve this. I deserve this. My shadow deserves this. All of me deserves this. So let’s sit with what hurts, let’s sit with what feels good, let’s just sit with it all and stop believing that we’re something broken that needs to be fixed. Sometimes life is tea parties and sometimes it’s razor blades, and sometimes it’s both.

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