We often hear and read about “shadow work”, or that person is “operating from their shadow”, “you need to integrate your shadow”, “I am struggling with my shadow” etc, but what does that even mean?
To understand the “shadow”, we need to start by turning to our physical, natural reality and ask: “What is a shadow?” A shadow is a disruption in the flow of light, casting a visual copy of the perceived object form the angle of the direction of light. Though shadows from the same object can differ in size and sometimes seem like a totally different shape, the object source of the shadow remains the same, but it is the intensity of and angle from which the light is shone that changes the appearance of the shadow. It is only in the total absence of light that a shadow does not exist – in darkness, a whole other topic.
Everything in our physical existence can cast a shadow when a light source is introduced. I am sure you have heard the saying that a flame does not have a shadow, signifying that by being a source of light you will not have a shadow. Yet, when you cast a light source on a burning candle at the right density or brightness and angle, even a flame will cast a shadow. What am I getting at you ask? That even a light source can cast a shadow when another light source is introduced, so no matter how “spiritually evolved” you may become, shadows will always come up to be dealt with.
So how does this apply to the spiritual aspect of our shadow?
Most of us have become so distracted in life; occupied with the mundane tasks of living, being part of society, living up to expectations, being what our families, jobs, communities, partners, children etc need us to be, that we never get to see ourselves, nor notice our shadows, until a light source is introduced – very often through a harsh life experience that shakes the flaps off of our eyes, but sometimes through a natural deep inner awakening.
We see ourselves for the first time, start to get to know ourselves, our true selves, seeing all parts of us as the Light shines upon us. And then we notice it, cast to the side in a shape that seems familiar yet unrecognizable – our shadow. It makes us see ourselves from a different perspective and angle. It makes us think differently about who we are and what we are going through in that moment. Sometimes making us act totally out of character or unaligned with good moral values.
Picture this situation: Your best friend of many years rubs you up the wrong way and suddenly that love that you feel for them feels a lot less like love and a lot more like anger, hate or vengeance. Something that has never happened before, so why now? This is the Light making you aware of the shadow part of your Love. It shines upon you, casting a shadow and using this quarrel to draw your attention to it. Acknowledge this shadow. How big is it? What is the light source casting this shadow? Is the light coming from your past? From your childhood? Does it have to do with your value and how you are perceived? How does this shadow make you feel? What aspect of the quarrel caused this light source to cast this shadow? Was it a word? An expression? Sometimes the light source comes through meditation, a healing session or another person shining in our lives and making us vulnerably aware of ourselves.
Now comes the time for decision: am I going to act on this shadow and roll with the anger, hatred and vengeance? Or am I going to act on the light source and heal this part of myself that is calling my attention? By having an honest awareness of yourself and a willingness to master your shadows instead of acting on them, you will be able to acknowledge when this happens and make the right decision – following the light to resolve the source of this issue instead of acting out and retaliating to your friend causing irreparable damage to a loving relationship.
The size and shape of the shadow and thus the difficulty or intensity needed to work with it will vary on the light source. Again, let’s turn to our natural surroundings to understand this a bit better: When a light source is weak or rather far away, the shadow will seem very dull, sometimes not even totally visible. When the light source is closer and brighter, the shadow is denser and more clearly visible. When the light source comes from a lower angle, the shadow appears long and stretched out and equal to the opposite, from a higher angle, the shadow will appear shorter and smaller. If the light source is very close, the shadow will be much, much bigger than the object itself.
The same happens with our shadow aspects. It depends on the intensity, angle and proximity the light source is coming from that will determine how dark and big this shadow will be in your life. And as we work on the light source to understand what is causing the shadow, we start integrating it. Pulling it closer to us until we can absorb it in to us and heal that part of us fully. Keep in mind that as you work on this light source, as it moves closer to you to integrate, the shadow moves along with it; changing in size and density, affecting your surroundings in different ways until you have integrated and healed the light source and the shadow disappears.
This is what it means to work with your shadow. Understanding that you will cast a shadow as long as you seek Light in your life and then being open and honest with yourself when that shadow is cast to see what light source it is coming from, so that you may integrate it and that shadow will no longer be cast, but instead become part of your being as wisdom and power to propel you forward on your path of soul evolution. It is not about “integrating your shadow” but instead integrating what is causing the shadow. Seeing the shadow as a teacher instead of an enemy. Knowing that this process will continue, always, until you yourself become integrated in to the Ultimate Light.
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