How can I grow without ignoring my shadow self?
Question: “I am curious about shadow work. When working with it or noticing the energy in the body, is it enough to sit with it and just notice it (Eckhart Tolle Power of Now method) or is it necessary to engage it, feel it, express it, even if it is violent or very confused energy? I read a story about the two different wolves, the dark and the light, which said the one you feed is the one that grows. I am wondering if this applies to shadow work. Ignoring the shadow does not make it go away, so I am wondering how to feed the light without ignoring the dark. This is still very confusing in practice for me.”
I feel you ask a great question. It is true, what you focus on increases as in the story of the wolf. So you want to focus on the light, but the thing is focusing on the light needs no help ‘from you’, re: from the ego-mind.
Dissolving of the shadow happens by itself, when you do not focus your energy into animation of the shadow. The shadow manifests due to organization of the mind due to our conditioned habitual use of the mind, as the ‘shadow personality’. When we stop using our energy to animate the shadow, in that moment of quiet mind our energy can be used to reorganize our mind and remove a programmed track or two which is part of the shadow’s emergence and existence.
Here is the secret: the shadow is not removed in one fell swoop, as it is composed of many thousands of programmed tracks in the mind, due to our conditioned, learned habitual response to happenings in our daily life. The good news is every time we withdraw energy away from the old habit of ‘animating the shadow’, it counts, and a part of the shadow is removed. This is a slow ‘growing’ or transformation process as the mind reorganizes. This slow growth cannot be seen on a daily basis, but if you continue to work with it, you will see leaps in consciousness or awareness over time, and with hindsight will see the truth of what i am saying.
To repeat. Each second of quiet mind counts and is precious. In the interval of quiet mind, the mind is changed. The more seconds of quiet mind you can attain, the more the mind changes. As programmed tracts dissolve = shadow dissolving, the shadow has less influence in your life and conversely the light has more influence in your life. As your awareness and light increases, the shadow self becomes more more visible when it arises.
You don’t have to do anything to make the shadow dissolve, except to not use your mind. The shadow of course, does not like this revelation, because the shadow wants to be doing something. The Shadow needs to keep busy and needs confirmation that it’s efforts are doing something, it feeds on reactions and notions of being something important or valuable. But the shadow does not dissolve when we are using it, it only reinforces and strengthens it.
We are not used to being as light, which feels like ‘doing nothing’ (to the shadow, what we are used to), but in reality it is everything. To be as light, to be quiet in mind feels like dying to the person identified still with the shadow side of self. That is the hard hurdle to get over, to totally let go of the familiar non-stop mind-chatter and story and emoting that we create as our shadow world self. When we stop that activity and we can’t hear anything or feel anything, it feels like we are dying, so then we start the chatter up out of fear of obliterating ourselves. But of course, the shadow is not real, so there is nothing to lose.
Hope that helps! Thanks for asking such a great question, so I could respond.
August 28, 2012
Addendum: What i wrote is not about ignoring the shadow. It is best to accept our reality no matter what it is. The more our light increases, the more the shadow becomes visible, which makes us able to see it more clearly. Then we can query our reactions and get to root reason why we reacted like that, etc. Answers to questions of querying our shadow’s reaction result in self-knowledge or wisdom which allows us to then not react that way again (if we choose not to do so). We cannot see our shadow while identified with the shadow, there is no ‘distance’ to observe the phenomena. This is why we focus on increasing our awareness, so we can bring our shadow self into the light. Once we see our shadow’s reactions then we are observing and can learn more about it, etc. Getting out reactions is good, especially strong ones, as it causes pain and motivates us to look for the cause. Okay, what I wrote above is the essence and shortcut to go beyond the shadow’s antics for more advanced practioners. The part of querying the shadow’s reactions is usually necessary in the beginning so we can consciously choose to drop our old way
of reacting and in that instance ‘be quiet’. As we adapted many conditioned responses because they gave us a value to react that way. To drop a favored way to react, we have to understand what value it gives us to do that and what we gain by letting it go, before we are ready to stop reacting that way. But the transformation itself, the dissolving of dark to light, happens in the space when we ‘choose’ to be quiet. And we choose to be quiet whenever we are AWARE we are behaving as our shadow.