The Importance of Shadow Work on the Path of Enlightenment
by Morrighan Lynne ~ MorrighanLynne.com
Born perfect, our soul enters this material world with a set of plans, goals, and intentions. With all the excitement the cosmos can muster, we leave our spiritual home for the adventure that only this world can provide. We have things to do and can’t wait to get started. Unfortunately it doesn’t take too long to realize that not everyone supports our trajectory. Diving head first into a sea of obligations, social requirements, limiting beliefs, and responsibilities it’s a wonder we ever remember the original plan of our soul. We are the proverbial babes in the woods, completely at the mercy of our caregivers and surrounding circumstances. As time beats on, life can beat us down. As we struggle to navigate this human life we eventually begin to forgo the plans of our soul and succumb to the survival of our physicality.
But then one day, something stirs from deep within. Like the embers of a dying fire, the coals shift and the wind picks up. There is still life in those smoldering remains. The knowing that we are more than an empty shell begins to awaken. The tiny fire that was perhaps extinguished flickers back into existence. And before we know it, we find ourselves asking the bigger questions that enlivens our mind and ignites our soul. Instantly we crave for more. More of what, we aren’t sure. But it is more, none the less. But where do we start, how do we give ourselves over to it? How do we trust the inner navigation when it has been mocked and scorned for so many years? How are we ever to rise above the domestication and trust the inner wisdom within? And in that moment, the search begins.
Awareness is funny that way. We didn’t know we were living a small life until we gathered the awareness that we wanted to be more. It’s in that contrasting distinction that panic can set in, leading us to belief that something is missing, that we must find whatever was taken from us. We frantically search the globe for the hidden treasures that will heal our broken hearts and make whole our lacking soul. This is the first response to our awakening.
After a while we move towards our next course of action in the awakening process: to swing hard in the other direction. We over-exaggerate our positivity, thinking that if we train ourselves to only say loving things that it will counter-balance our negative experiences. Often times we get trapped in the game of saying sugary-sweet affirmations and downplaying any instance that does not reflect the language of our new-found spiritual path. This over-acting in the “Love and Light” aspect can cause just as much imbalance within the whole being as when we only focus on the negative aspects of life. Anytime we give too much attention to one side or the other we are out of alignment with our wholeness.
I see many New Age seekers being afraid to acknowledge the not-so-great aspects of humanity. They close their minds to conversations that are anything but positivity and uplifting messages. It seems that if they acknowledge that such things exist they believe it will open them up to negative forces or that they will fall from the “positive pedestal” that has been constructed. And when that pedestal comes tumbling down it can lead to a loss of faith, igniting the ego with fear of being wrong, and opens us up to being judged by others (and ourselves).
So, if living in victim-mode is too limiting, and jumping over to play with unicorns and slide down rainbows is unrealistic, what are we left with? How can we attain the healing and wholeness we are seeking? The answer is…shadow work. This sacred process is the bridge between who we were and who we want to be. If we look in our past and feel ashamed for who we’ve been, but then try to “create” the person we want to be without healing those wounds, we will end up feeling like a phony representation of our ideal human. Pretending to be the person we think is acceptable never fully aligns us to our true self.
So what is shadow work? Shadow work is the process of sifting through the pieces and parts of ourselves that we have hidden away our whole lives. As children we learned to hide them for safety. Much like if you broke your mother’s favorite vase but you threw it in the garbage before she found out. You hid the broken pieces for fear of repercussions. Well, we do that in everyday life. We are so afraid of judgment and rejection that we’ll push down anything we fear might “give us away” to the people we admire, respect, and love. We identify these “unacceptable” components and shove them deep inside so that others can’t see how ugly we feel about ourselves.
Shadow work is the process of acknowledging those pieces we’ve hid away and accepting them as a part of our wholeness. They are the wounds that we have left to fester because it was just too painful to deal with them at the time. They are the attributes that we don’t feel we deserve so we cut them away and denied their beauty. It is anything and everything we feel shame around and just simply don’t have the tools to heal them properly. In order to survive we have learned this extremely efficient, albeit unhealthy, coping mechanism.
It takes a brave soul to open up those doors and peek into the darkness. We have thrown them away our whole lives for a reason…it was just too difficult to face. But it’s in the acknowledgment that they even exist that allows them to begin the healing process. When we are brave enough to face all that we’ve been we can truly step into all that we want to be. By embracing the wounds, giving them a voice, and hearing their stories, they find peace. And in peace there is freedom. If we can simply be the space for these wounded parts to be acknowledged, let a little light shine down on them, they’ll begin to unravel the subconscious beliefs that they are unworthy of love. And when we believe we are worthy of love, we allow love into our lives.
We cannot heal what is wounded by simply being positive and ignoring that the wounds exist. It will not go away if we avert our eyes and deny their existence. And on the flip side, admitting that you have wounds does not make you a negative person. There is a middle space where speaking the truth about your situation and yet remaining proactive in your own healing process that can catapult you to the next level of your life. In this grand quest of enlightenment, truly the way to achieve it is by being in alignment with all that you are. Embrace the path that got you to this point. Honor the experiences that have molded and shaped you. Be grateful for the bumps and bruises, but do not hold them captive. When you can truly accept all you have been, you can embrace all you can be.