Client: What comes up is, I have been doing, recently, some of what people call "shadow work." I'm starting to look at the things that I have been pushing away from myself, parts of myself. Some people call this 'shadow work'. I was hoping that you could give me a little more insight how I can allow those parts of myself to come out and express themselves, more. I especially feel I have been pushing away my intuition, creativity, and healing ability…I feel I have a repressed emotional flow.
Orion: And what techniques are you using in this exploration? Are you doing drawing? Are you using tarot? Are you using images to create association?
Client: Well, what I'm doing, mostly I'm doing it through meditation. And so, I'm trying to develop a relationship with my shadow self and to feel into, intuitively or through meditation, what's going on.
Orion: Let's being with our understanding of 'shadow' and 'shadow work.' A lot of people see it as dark, in the shadows. They see it as things that we're afraid of, as negative qualities, as inner fears and so on. There may be elements of fear and negativity, but in the most neutral fashion, shadow work is elements we don't fully see – elements of ourselves that for reasons of life circumstances are tucked away and hidden. We lose touch with these aspects, but we always sort of sense them. This is why people have a feeling that something is not quite known behind their actions, but most people are still very uncomfortable with the whole idea that there is an unconscious. Many people are also uncomfortable with the idea that there could be other forms of consciousness, so people and the culture, in particular, like the idea of "I am in control." And that's why, even now, for instance, psychiatry and psychology still has an element of stigma to it, because people don't like the idea that their conscious mind is not the director of all things. They don't want to know that something that happened in another part of their life is moving in this life. It's just too big for them to be at ease with. You are comfortable with that and even comfortable with the idea that something that could have occurred in, what we call another life, could have an influence in this life, such as the 'repressed' energy you sense.
Sometimes things that feel repressed, could be seen in the conventional way, i.e., repressed as in jammed down, as in fear stopping something. But it can also be an alignment situation. In this way, repression might be seen as emerging, as needing a degree of integration before it can become fully present. When you experienced your blockages, it came to you to be willing to 'look' at the shadow. "I will try to get in touch with that which seems to elude me." But by broadening our understanding of shadow to include that which is not yet fully aligned or ready to emerge, you can see further into the situation. So you are not just looking for a talent or expression of yourself that you have hidden because of unconscious fears, experiences and concerns. You are also considering that perhaps the idea of shadow work as arisen because that very talent or expression is ready to emerge. And by finding clarity with your understanding of earlier fears and constraints will help create the alignment for the 'hidden' elements to blossom. Simply put, it's not just that you've hidden from this talent. It's that this talent was not ready to be in its fuller expression at other times. So it's a coming together of all these things.
One of the things that we see very present, which you are somewhat aware of, is fear of difference. And fear of being rejected, abandoned, and ostracized because of difference. You've always felt this and the way of keeping the low profile, the way of letting yourself be, what do we want to say "out," academically, all served you for a very long time. The way of hiding power has served you for a long time. People misinterpret your manner. You seem always very centered. You seem very quiet; you seem all of these things. You misinterpret your manner. What's coming present now is to understand that strength and power are energies with strong velocity. If they were sounds they might be very loud and insistent. But strength and power may be loud, strong or assertive and not necessarily aggressive, angry, and dangerous. For many power becomes merged with leading to anger and aggression.
You observed anger and aggression around you, and like many a child, made a choice of "I will not be like that. I will be the opposite." But like many a child, you didn't understand that power and the ability to create, i.e., power as in energy that moves something, as in powering an engine, is very different than aggression and anger, which can use all of those things in a way that is not useful. We cannot simply say that one is bad and one is good because there are times that what is the balancing point is clearly anger and aggression. There are times that energy is the most aligned to meet the situation. You even had a couple of times in your life where you might say 'lost it', but it stopped and prevented a more problematic outcome. It in fact was 'right' action. One cannot come into the realm of healing, the depth of intuition, of seeing, of hearing, far seeing, far hearing, and creativity without your own power being known to you. You cannot come into these realms and cannot act for the benefit of others without a clear comprehension of, and experience of, your own strength and power.
You are comfortable being a student and we see you emerging from the cocoon of 'student' What began to happen is you sensed and knew other than exactly how you were being taught. You are still a learner, but not a student in the hierarchical way where this one is the master and teacher and you are the unknowing student. There are times that that is the appropriate learning technique. It often feels safe and comfortable to the student. But we feel that you' are also exploring seeing yourself as a strong man able to comprehend complex and subtle things which you will synthesize. For instance, we hope you will what we talk about with you, find what resonates, what integrates, and will make use of it – you will customize it for yourself by yourself. And if you will, customize it, for you. We fully trust that process. We see your strength. You are not yet fully seeing your strength. You are not yet fully trusting it. Your strength and power are in the shadows, not fully seen or felt. We feel your shadow work is also leading you to find a way to see strength and power as separate from and different from aggression and anger, with the challenge of allowing that there can be an aligned usefulness of what is called aggression and anger.
One cannot simplify everything to "this is good, this is bad." Culture leads us to make that simplification as our framework and it can be useful at times. But for one with a wider view, one has to keep an awareness that the fullest reality is one reality. When we consider all as Unity, then, there may come times in our lives where we suddenly have to just come into the truth of the energy – present in that moment and follow that action. You can consider that even if you choose to rigidly follow ideas of good and bad, to really be integrated with life, there may be a time that one's idea has to fall away. You may find that the right action, in that moment, and we mean 'right action' as in 'aligned with the All', would be something that would seem at another time, an option you would not choose.
We see this desire to simplify into good and bad is often connected to a young child who modeled his world on how he would not be. But young children do not see all of the world they are in. They don't know the antecedents of someone’s anger. They don't know what sets things in motion. So the frameworks we create are from a partial view.
To expand our knowledge of ourselves and further understand our unconscious our world views, some people delve a lot into the memories of their own childhood. For others, this might be very distressing and may not facilitate a true release in the end. We suggest a combination approach.
The main principle in this approach is the understanding that inner frameworks and patterns are developed at young ages and they become the eyes we unconsciously, or without much question, see life through. For many people, getting a key image or remembering a key experience from childhood, can act as a talisman to help them to remember to question if today's actions are based in the present or linked to the past, as in, "Ah, I'm afraid of this because of that." For some, there may be so much trauma that recalling is difficult, but they can use the principle that the past may be leading the present and say, "Perhaps I react this way because of how something was in my past." Once we can pause in this consideration, we can bring ourselves back to ask, "But what do I do now"? "Is this from me now, is this from me then"?
Some people get in touch with aspects not fully recognized by using evocative images. This is a place where something like tarot cards or any kind of images spur our associations. Tarot cards are very useful because they are based on archetypal images and are designed to be evocative. We have seen young children be able to tell the stories in a tarot card, because they respond to the archetypal images. In our view, archetypal energy exists. It is recognized. It is known. When using the cards for association it is not essential to use the described meanings or interpretations. That is another layer which one can explore or not. It's more important to recognize as you look at the images your own associations. You can make use any sources of images. The idea is to get other input. In a way, you are going to try to 'trick' the conscious mind into following a new path, to leave the familiar understanding.
Even in meditation, the mind may follow familiar patterns and pathways and sometimes it is useful to bring in something fresh – new music, new scent, new position, new room. In the same way, if you were familiar with Tarot, we would say, get a deck that you don't know. Again, the usefulness of the cards is that they are mixed up and one can't anticipate what card, what image is going to come up and therefore serves as a useful stimulus tool. You're bringing something unknown to the layers of the mind.
Another tool to get in touch with our own unknown is what we call freestyle drawing. A technique we like is to get a big piece of paper and a bunch of crayons. Just let yourself go into the meditative state and then without consciously choosing colors, without even looking at the colors, perhaps without looking at the paper, begin to make color on the page. We're not even going to say 'draw', per se. Take a color and move your hand until you don't want to. Then do another and another. And when the process seems stopped, sit with it and see what comes up. Some of these experiences may end up being significant, others might not seem significant at all, but what you're doing is opening other channels, if you will, other ways of dancing with energy.
Still another technique with images is to hold in your mind a key word, such as fear or strength or even a phrase, such as, sadness from my childhood and 'google' these key words for images. You might simply look at them and see which ones are evocative to you and note whatever arises from looking at them and you may also want to capture them for a future collage or perhaps to simply look at again.
In any case, enter the process as you began when you said, "I am willing to explore what I think of as my shadow." You can carry that intent, but we would say make it fuller by adding, "or whatever else is useful for me to see now." Because, again, we lock into a intent, an approach, and there is a tendency of the mind to then begin to winnow and to focus only on that specifically stated intent.
We feel this winnowing is a natural occurrence since we see physical human form as an operating system that winnows. You do not hear every sound in the world; you do not see everything. You cannot function if there was a completely unfiltered receptivity of everything. The form doesn't work that way, it winnows to function. Because of that, the culture also gets into winnowing. "I can't look at everything. I'll look only at this." It's useful, very often it is absolutely necessary. But when you're trying to engage in a broader exploration, and knowing you might winnow, you can add to your desired focus the simple caveat "And I am willing to see more."
If 'seeing more' feels too open-ended and uncomfortable, then we suggest that you might also a further caveat, "I am only open to that which is aligned to my best interests." Of course, all these phrases are examples for you to find the wording that resonates with you. You might say, "I am open to exploration in a way that is balanced and aligned. And I am closed to that which is not."
It is important to give yourself permission to allow that there are times when you do not want to there accept energy or information that feels uncomfortable or frightening. Inner exploring does not necessarily mean you must 'face your fears' just as they arise or emerge. It does not require you to experience and re-experience trauma and discomfort. Rather, to us, you have the right and the responsibility to take care with your experience. If you feel energy that you don't like, simply allow, "I am closed to this energy. If you wish to communicate, find a way that feels at distance, or is more comfortable, or whatever it is." Don't give up your experience to just experience. You are not the naive student who has no discernment. Rather, you are one who is seeking more learning. And the moment you choose to seek learning, you already have to acknowledge, "I must have some learning. I must have learning if I can even ask the question. What more is there to know?"
Often, it feels safe to be the student. It feels safe to be, almost in archetypal terms, the innocent. What may not yet feel safe is your being the strong person. Being strong does not mean you would not be gentle; does not mean that you would not be compassionate or tender. A small child may have made a whole array of emotions having to do with loudness and power unavailable in development, finding softness and quiet comfortable and safe. But when one grows, we are able to discover that we need different energy. We have changed. What served before now feels like too small shoes. To do what you are drawn to do, to be in the world as you are drawn to be, asks for more balanced interaction of energy. It says, "I cannot hide any more. I have to look again. Does all power mean aggression? Does all aggression preclude compassion"?
One needs to open up early definitions and understandings. And although we talk about the 'opening' conceptually - giving the mind a way to understand it - in the end, it is not a process of the mind. You cannot get to your strength by only thinking you are strong. But through your inquiry you can give the mind a new structure to understand from. As you ask 'What did I believe? Who taught me to believe this? How did I learn to believe this? and then say, "Oh I see that situation and I see what I took from it," you create openings for the mind to come to new patterns, a new maturing, another integration.
One is always dancing with mind and the fuller All of oneself. We do not want to polarize and never want see the mind as less. The mind is our useful partner in this reality. In our view, what is evolving in this reality, deep within consciousness, in is the recognition of integration. Integration is not a solid thing that merges all together. It is, again, a dance of many moving parts, which at times seem in paradox, seemingly opposite. So for the whole, aggression is not useful in culture. And yet, there are times it is the balancing point. And this is what the individual comes to learn. The culture seems to be having a hard time maturing. So what we trust is that individuals, who are willing to live the work of awareness, are building the movement of consciousness.
You wanted to explore your 'shadow' and you have invited into your awareness this period of exploration, consideration, reconsideration, and allowing integration. Again, you cannot do integration, you allow integration. And as it goes on, what you'll find is that when the old pattern kicks in, some part of you can observe it and say, "Oh, I'm being quiet here because I'm a little concerned about being too assertive. Does that work right now or not"? And that small pause, small question, can be a pause to freedom. A moment where one does not follow the path already laid. A moment when the person of this time and place makes a different choice than the one first chosen long ago and far away.
One small pause, one small question leads you new options and choices. It let's you discover the person you are now; let's you see your evolution ahead of you. The past does not need to be hidden from nor does it need to be buried or released. It simply needs to be seen, acknowledged, perhaps understood and allowed to become the 'history' that it is – part of you, but no longer the driver of all your choices and actions.
Patterns are often just that, a 'patterned reaction or response' - recorded loops of awareness being repeated. It is important to remember that in and of themselves, these old patterns do not open to new pathways. The inner judge really only 'judges' – the pattern itself does not support you in using the information in the judgment to make a more useful or new way. It is locked in the energy of judgment. That is why if you do make a shift or change, the inner judge finds something else to judge. This is the movement of these patterns be they fear, self-doubt, old pains – they are locked in time, anchored in the past and not evolving with you. What can open them is the pause that lets you stand aside from their script and 'look' for something else.
The pause to question is a main tool to help you work on creating new patterns, anchored in and evolving from where you are now in life, your current state of development, integration, spiritual maturity. This is not easy and requires the practice and consistency of learning any new skill. It will feel frustrating when the old pattern quickly re-emerges. It will feel uncomfortable when you see that you are awkward with your new approaches. You will want your new thoughts to come up quickly, to 'pop up' first and they may not for a long time or it might be two steps forward and a spin to the past movement. What you really have to keep in the forefront is your willingness - to listen, observe, learn and grow. Become your own ally and support in your own evolution.
From that small pause, you can ask new questions, take new steps. As we said, it will not always feel comfortable, as the new choice is not yet familiar. But you have already recognized that the 'familiar' may no longer be the ally it once was. If the old pattern shows up again, and it will, acknowledge it and know that there will be a next time where you can make, again, one small pause. One small choice. And as one of the most known axioms reminds us, it truly is 'One day at a time'. And that reflects our true choice – to be present, in this one day, each time. Orion
Excerpted & edited with permission from a personal session, with thanks and appreciation