INTERVIEW by Sianna Sherman on Shadow work for Origin magazine, issue 1
1) How do you define shadow work?
well there are many different ways I could answer this question.One way is to define shadow as the work we do to engage with the aspects of our psyche or if you prefer our personality that are more in the "dark", that have less light of awareness. So is the process of engaging with the unknown, the frightening in us, the things we avoid and thus expand our boundaries and our consciousness. It is this work that eventually opens our hearts, to allow our full potential to manifest, to incarnate and the light of our being to shine.
2) Why is shadow work becoming more center stage?
I like to believe because our planetary consciousness is changing. Change requires the death of the old form in order to create space for the new to be created. The socio economic system we have created can no longer be sustained. We see it collapsing all over the globe. This system is based on greed that leads into exploitation and depletion of the planetary resources but also of the human resources. Greed has a lot to do with a wounded ego ( you can also call it narcissistic ). Greed has to do with me thinking of myself, my prosperity disregarding what and who is around us. Greed has to do with always asking for more to perhaps feed a deeper wound in our psyche. Greed has to do with 'competing against' instead of "succeeding together' . The spiritual message of Oneness is still evolving in our consciousness. We come in this world into a state of oneness, unconscious of what is 'I' and what is other. Then we find ourselves separate from everything else, and perhaps now we can unite again with a different consciousness. Pretty much as the developmental stages we pass as human beings. Moving from babies, to children, to adolescence and now perhaps to adulthood...I hope! However substantial changes in the collective level as well as in the individual level come with a crisis and a breakdown. Crisis comes with fear, try to avoid that fear in turn makes us re-act, instead if act. We then get trap in that circle since making fear the voice of authority in us that is telling us what to do, is exactly what feeds our shadow and make it bigger. The demons grow as we try to avoid them. We can't run away from our shadow, that is the shadow of our own light, since the one can not exist without the other.
3) What happens when we repress or avoid our shadow?
All the 'evil' of the world comes into manifestation, 'hell' breaks loose, both in our inner and outer world. We can repress our shadow for a while or a little longer 'while' but not for ever. To repress something, to keep it under the surface we have to use a force bigger than the one it is exerting. Both the energy we are repressing and the one we are using to repress it are part of our own life force, our own creative potential. So we can get depleted, or depressed and when the pressure cooker is at it's pick we can even explode with the slightest stimulation...even because someone forgot to leave the toilet seat in the right position! In between we can just have addictions or being neurotic, etc.
Avoiding to do this work will result in not owning our shadow. This mean that there is going to be a tendency that everything that goes wrong within us will be projected outwardly to the people around us. The best candidates for blame will be the people closest to us ,the people we love the most. Our relationships will suffer for it as are we.
All in all, we don't face our shadows, we are not in harmony with ourselves, others or anything else for that matte., If we are not in harmony, then joy eludes us.
4) How do we recognize and engage our shadows?
There are different ways. One way is to use life and the people around us as a mirror. Let me explain further. This doesn't mean that whatever people say about us is true, often because we are mirrors for them as we are also the recipients of their projections - as they are for ours. It rather means that when something that is happening outside us creates an intense uncomfortable feeling within us, we turn our awareness within and we use that feeling as a doorway to our less visible part of our psyche. For example imagine the X thing keeps happening in your life and you finding yourself getting angry. Before taking any action to try to change that, we could turn our gaze within to see what does this external situation is triggering within. Once we work in that level then we can act, taking the necessary steps to deal with the situation outside us, instead of re acting because our shadow, in this case the anger and what lies underneath, has taken over the control of our actions. There are many ways to explore what hides in the darkness within; mindfulness, drawing, dream-work, Gestalt techniques, bodywork, active imagination techniques, psychotherapy, in depth yoga practices, only to name a few.
5) How do we see our shadow for what is is and not indulge it? Is there a danger to working with our shadow?
There are different dangers when engaging with our shadow.
Sometimes it is tricky to recognize what is the true shadow in a situation. We can get stuck for example on working with our feeling worthlessness and failing everybody's expectations including ours. But it might be that the true shadow is being or feeling a victim, and that in turn can be a dysfunctional way we use as we try to reclaim our power....
Over indulging with our shadow can be another problem! Indulge with it, deep inside it for a while but don't over do it. The reasons we do can be because at some level there is something we gain out of it ( even if we can't see what we could possibly gain out of it), power of habit , or maybe because that is all we know, etc.
Being too long stuck in the dark though you might believe that that's all there is
I have seen so many people being in love with their dramas, and as I said they get attached to this drama because even in a dysfunctional way it still feeds them. I personally think it is much more fun to fall in love with what I find beautiful.
There is another danger when we decide to work with the shadow that I would very much like to mention because I think it is very important to identify. It is what often is revered as spiritual bypass. It is obvious to most of us that dealing with our emotional pain or fear by taking drugs ( legal or illegal) is not a good idea, nor does it help. Some can even recognize than just going to the gym to deal with ones anger might not be enough. But what about a spiritual practice. You see I only want to live in a state of love and I don't really like myself angry. So I learned an amazing love and compassion meditation that now I m using every time I feel that anger rising! Anything wrong with that picture? A lot will say, no, that is a good idea. I will say it is NOT! It is a 'cleaver' way to repress what is rising from within. The true shadow worker or the true light worker, ( those are one and the same), will work with the shadow to reveal more light in oneself. Not work with the light to bypass the shadow. Of course light practices are important and a meta meditation on love and compassion can help us to experience a state of bliss, but please don't do it when you are angry, or sad or experiencing any other uncomfortable feeling.
Practice presence in the here and now of what is rising and falling within. Honor the experiences you despise as the ones you love. Become an engaged observer of your inner life. No judgment. Feel fully but do not become it. You are much more than anything you experience, anything you feel.
6) Why is the dark so frightening to our psyche when we rest best in the darkness, close our eyes to sleep and feel at home when wrapped in our lover's embrace?
It is a very interesting question, one that I haven't asked myself before. The first thing I see is that the two darks you are describing have a different quality. The frightening dark is unfamiliar, unsafe; our sleep and our lovers embrace is a familiar resting place, it is safe. Maybe the problem is not with the 'dark' but rather with the unknown that we are frightened off. And I don't think it is our psyche ( Greek world for Soul) that is frighten but our egos that have limited awareness. It is like our small self, the ego is frighten of knowing the bigger Self, our psyche, both equally important to our journey.
7) How can we best teach our children or do the children naturally embrace their shadows and we can learn from them?
I think it was Gandhi that said " be the change you want to see in the world" , so first we start by accepting and working with our own shadow. That will give us the ability to contain and be able to engage with our children's shadow. If for example we are not comfortable with our pain then when our child is in pain we will react in a way that will teach the child how to disconnect from their pain. I wouldnt say that children naturally engage their shadows but their definitely have develop less filters (or defences if you like) in their experience of their inner world, and feelings. Engaging our shadow really is an act of conscious surrendering, of dying. If it happens in a less conscious way I wouldn't call it shadow work but rather 'life happening'. Haven't seen any child that will surrender into their pain, for example. They will rather run to find comfort in the safety of the parent, but when the parent hasn't done the work she/he will be unable to contain the child's pain, and the child will at some level pick up on that and will learn to be frighten of pain in this example. Children are learning by the adults close to them. If a cockroach walks into the room minding her own bussiness ( it is a 'her' in my language) and the parent panics guess what might be the learning of the child standing by.
8) How can shadow work help humanity as a whole? How does our individual shadow dance serve the Universal Light?
We are this humanity you are mentioning and we are deffinetly part of this universal light. Just imagine the actions of people that can own their shadows... Just imagine what the world be like, if no one projected their shadow to another. I think we are talking about paradise on earth. A human race in harmony. The work starts from the centre Our universe, Oneself. And it expands, as one light lights others. Once the majority of individual consciousness changes, the community's consciousness changes too, until the whole humanity vibrates in a different reality. It is a possibility, if only we commit to the work with ourselves.
9) What is your vision of balance between the light and dark in one's life?
The answer is within your question. Balance. Modern alchemists, that can play with the elements within, unleashing their creative potentials, freeing their souls to express and manifest and supporting others do the same. People that can walk in the dark with the same ease they can walk in the light. These are not really two different things, rather two different qualities of the same. It is what the Tao suggests. In plain words for me will be people that will leave in alignment with oneself, with other, with the planet, with creation.
Seeking the Shadow by Adrienne Kimberley
I saw my shadow this weekend. At first it looked... pathetic.
My shadow took the form of an overworked business man—hunched shoulders, large circles under his eyes, weak with pale skin and a somber expression. He wore a frumpy business suit and looked exhausted. He was isolated in a white room, staring at me blankly, expressionless.
I was told to move closer to my shadow, and so I tried. Yet, the instant I intended to move closer, my shadow, suddenly and explosively, turned into a monster. Figure-less, all-encompassing and multicolored, the shadow screamed and my visualization went completely black.
I could not move closer. It was impossible.
Now, let’s back up. Before this weekend, I never explored a “shadow,” and moreover had no clue there was a crazy one living somewhere deep within myself. I identify as a practical, grounded and incredibly resilient person!
As joyful and strong as I am, I’m aware of a curious weakness I have: bringing heartfelt, vulnerable insights to my teaching.
I’m fantastic at being attentive, physically present and empowering, but going deep into the physical asana practice, for whatever reason, numbs my ability to articulate emotions and creativity in the moment.
Feedback from my colleagues is always: I want to see more of YOU in your teaching; I know you teach for a reason deeper than the exercise, so what is it?
So, this weekend I spent some time with soulful, mystical Sianna Sherman and her Psychotherapist partner, Theo Kyriakos to dig a little deeper and reflect.
The introduction to the shadow, led by Theo, exposed the tip of an iceberg for me. You see, a shadow is just fear tucked away within. We react to it every day, yet it is hidden from our view. It is unconscious and inaccessible through practical, cognitive thinking because we are unaware that it exists!
A shadow might manifest as a mental block, inability to connect with others, frequent anger and frustration, depression, withdrawal, stress or other issues.
So, how do we make the invisible, visible?
Theo uses active imagination (visualizations), guided meditation, grounding through the body and creative expression to access the shadow. We can use metaphor, stories, symbols, colors, sounds, physical movement and poetry to bring light that which we cannot articulate, but can certainly feel.
Theo challenged me to remember that, regardless of what my shadow did to me in my visualization, I was safe. He encouraged me to bravely do what I fear the most with that shadow. If I am afraid of being eaten alive by the screaming monster, I should walk straight into its mouth, because then I will know it has no power over me. I am safe, and I am free.
This is just the beginning of much deeper work.
I have quite a long road ahead of me to find peace with my shadow. I know now that fear, guilt, shame, and anger live deep within all of us—even if we can’t see it—and until we understand what it looks like, feels like and its origins, we cannot heal, or facilitate healing objectively in others.
It is not resilient or strong to remain emotionless, detached yet highly functional, and seemingly fine. When I confront and embrace my pain and fear, I can truly flourish with un-obscured, heartfelt intention.
THIS is the path to connect with others in an emotional way: I must first connect profoundly to myself.
Article by Adrienne Kimberley