Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Embracing the shadow

According to Jung, the shadow is that part of ourselves we don't want to acknowledge, that part we reject. But the truth is, we not only cannot run from the shadow, we need it. Jung also said that 90% of the shadow is pure gold. It manifests in negative ways, however, when we refuse to get acquainted with it and accept ourselves in all our complexity. The symbol of the lotus as enlightenment, as spiritual practice, is consistent with the principle of accepting the shadow. The lotus is a beautiful, pure blossom but its stalk is rooted in the muck and slime. Likewise those parts of ourselves we find repulsive, that we resist knowing about are actually the material for our deep inner work.

Here are a couple of observations about the shadow I found today:

The very things we wish to avoid, reject, and flee from turn out to be the "prima materia" from which all real growth comes.
— Andrew Harvey in Dialogues with a Modern Mystic

To honor and accept one's own shadow is a profound spiritual discipline.
— Robert A. Johnson in Owning Your Own Shadow

Having a disciplined meditation practice can help enormously with doing shadow work because it can keep us from becoming overwhelmed with what we find out about ourselves. In meditation we learn to notice our thoughts, to accept them without judgment, to let them go, and to return to the support. If we are doing shadow work and feel overwhelmed by something, we can always treat it as a thought and it will have no power over us.

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