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FACING THE DARKNESS
Eating or stalking the Shadow is an essential aspect of Shamanic work. When I first began stalking the Shadow, I asked it to appear in forms that could be easily recognizable in the waking and dream states. However, no sooner had that intention been created, my dreams became alive with terrifying energy and dark, hideous forms.
Since I had been raised in the Catholic tradition, repressed energy around fear of the devil began to manifest. Dream after dream, would open to a terrifying place, often depicted as a dimly lit stairway descending into a dark pit. However, knowing that I needed to confront the Shadow, I would focus on inner courage and take careful steps down, holding onto the repetition of I AM.
At the bottom of the stairs I would find myself in a swirling, dark mist, my heart pounding. As the dreams progressed and I found more courage, the 'devil' appeared in a variety of forms and I stood confronting him.
In the last dream I was completely unafraid and entered an old castle-like structure; the energy of which I knew had been completely transformed. A tall, frail man appeared; whom I recognized immediately as being a form of the devil. I understood that his energy was so diminished he was almost dead. Smiling, I opened my arms to embrace him, held his head against my heart, closed my eyes and repeated, "I AM That I AM," synchronizing his breath with mine.
With that, I merged with the Higher Self and felt the devil’s form completely dissolve. When I opened my eyes, he was gone. I was embracing myself.
During this period, I was also having lucid dreams of death and dying which served to reflect what was taking place within the psyche. In the dreams, after a few moments of a death-like state, I would rise up, transformed into an illumined body of light.
This is what the gift of Shadow-work offers. It is a process of complete and irreversible transformation. A metaphor for this work, which is essentially the dissolution of ego, is the metamorphosis of the caterpillar. When it becomes a cocoon, it goes into a process of dissolution, which is a necessary stage before becoming a butterfly.
In the same way, when we start having to face the Shadow, we can feel horrible. It can be a difficult process. We begin to feel as if we do not know ourselves any more. Our sense of identity is shaken. Ultimately, Shadow work is a commitment to saying, “Yes!” to dissolution. Once we say yes, there’s no turning back.
The Shadow offers priceless gifts. It is a dark treasure-house waiting to be mined. However, Yogi and Tibetan Master Shaman's often warn seekers of the dangers inherent in entering the darkness of the Shadow. Some people become so enticed by what they discover there, they set up camp and do not want to leave.
This is a trap that highly creative people often fall into. They worry that they will not be able to produce anything worthwhile if they let go of pain and suffering. For example, several years ago I received a request from Mark, a young writer who wanted me to work with him on dissolving contracting beliefs around lack.
Basically, he was broke and could barely meet his rent and he told me he wanted to change this energy dynamic. However, as soon as I connected in to his subtle energy what I clearly heard was this:
"Though he says he wants greater abundance, at the level of the soul he is not willing to make changes yet. He enjoys 'suffering for his art' and he believes pain equals creativity. Mark trusts the darkness more than the light."
As soon as I shared this information with Mark, he told me he knew deep-in that this was true. In an instant he realized that he had always been afraid of healing and bringing light to dark patterns of energy because he believed he may no longer be able to write effectively. At a subconscious level, Mark equated suffering and angst with lack and in order to protect his 'muse' he was forcefully blocking any avenues that would allow a greater flow of abundance.
Once Shadow tendencies become conscious, we are often able to transmute aspects completely and in other forms, Shadow elements will still be present. For example, flashes of anger might erupt, but where we may have previously been lost in the emotion for hours or days, with conscious awareness we are able to immediately witness it, which allows it to dissipate in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
On the spiritual journey, what is key is whether or not negative tendencies and accompanying dark emotions have the upper hand. Practice is vital. When we keep coming back to the awareness of the Higher Self, we not only break down old patterns, we are also graced with valuable lessons about which situations trigger unconscious responses.
The gift of Shadow work is that is allows us to fundamentally embrace and accept all aspects of who we are. Then we are graced with tolerance, understanding and compassion for others. We arrive at a place where we are not so quick to judge or criticize anyone, because when we do, we know we are judging ourselves. We are also alerted to our own projections and we can have compassion when we are aware of being projected on to. In this way, we can fold our hands in humility and respond with understanding and love.
Shadow work is our own cross and crucifixion. We must submit to it if we are serious about being in harmony with all that is. No one can do the work for us. This is why many Shamanic Master's often refuse to work with a student unless they can see that he or she is doing the inner work on an ongoing basis.
I once heard of a Tibetan Master who told a student,
"You have been at this monastery for seven years, merely turning the soil on the top layer. You must leave. I am unable to help you if you keep refusing to dig deeper."
Being willing to face and transmute the Shadow marks a turning point on the spiritual path. It is the greatest act of compassion and the purest act of surrender. Transmuting our own darkness eventually brings us to a place of emptiness and fullness. It graces us with wholeness and a complete embracing of all that we are. When we are able to love all aspects of ourselves, then we can truly embrace all aspects of creation.
About the author:
Julie is a respected spiritual teacher who counsels people to retrieve repressed energy, access gifts and live with renewed courage and vision. Julie also writes for respected Mind-Body-Spirit magazines in the USA, Canada and Europe. To find out more and claim a free course giveaway go to: www.truealignment.org