In preparation for this Sunday's New Moon, I have spent some time contemplating on what I'd like to focus on. Being winter, the dark and quiet season, I decided that this Dark Moon would be a great time to do some shadow work. Of course, the Universe was quick to begin dealing me lessons, and (even though I knew it was coming), it hit me like a ton of bricks. As uncomfortable as it is to work through such murky waters, it can also be comforting and freeing.
If you're not aware what shadow work is, allow me to share my own working definition that I use in my private practice:
Keeping in mind Carl Jung's suggestion that your shadow self embodies your "dark" emotions and aspects of your psyche, I understand it as being the space within your consciousness that holds on to energetic imprints, such as anger, pain, hurt, frustration, loneliness, shame, guilt, saddness and regret. Often times, these imprints are the result of uncomfortable or traumatic life experiences. It bears mentioning that this "shadow self" is not a separate entity from who you are, but a part of it, although many choose to view it as being an independent personality, or do so out of necessity as a coping mechanism. But, those are possible topics for a future post.
Shadow work, for me, is the art of recognizing, accepting, embracing and healing these shadow-self memories and imprints, and their associated emotions. Remember, nothing in Nature - including you - is wholly light or wholly dark, but a balance of the two. In my practice, it is impossible to move forward on a path of spiritual and emotional growth if half of your self is ignored.
So when I made the conscious decision to focus on shadow work for the new moon, it was overwhelming when opportunities for healing began presenting themselves. I faced my own feelings of inadequacy, my quiet craving for validation from outside sources, my unintentional (and unnoticed) disconnection with my spiritual practices and rituals, my fears of loss and abandonment, and the pain, anger and resentment I still harboured about a long-ago relationship, and that person's drug addiction.
That last one was a doozie, because while supporting someone I love through a personal experience with someone who shares habits with the person from my past, it forced me to face the fact that I feel nothing kind, nurturing or compassionate for that individual. This made me feel like a terrible human being, because I have never experienced feeling so empty toward another person. So completely devoid of feelings, good or bad, that knowledge of their very existence makes me think: "meh". In my mind, I scolded myself ~ I mean, how cold is my heart that I could possibly not care? I felt ashamed, and like I was the most horrible woman on the planet.
During this process, though, I was made very aware that I do, however, hold a seething cauldron of nasty emotions toward everything they did that caused harm, stress, pain and suffering to my family and myself. Admittedly, I am still working through this bit of shadow, because it has been festering beneath the surface for a very long time. My first step was to forgive myself. Because I am human, and I am allowed to be angry and hurt. And I am allowed to not be happy about being mistreated. I don't have to forget it to move on ~ I can accept that it happened, and give myself permission to be dismissive, impatient and unsympathetic toward other people like that person. That does not make me a bad person ~ it makes me a woman who has drawn a line in the sand regarding who and what she will allow in her life. I can still hold space for healing and love, but instead, I can focus on holding it for the families and friends of people with addictions, to give them strength as they navigate through that special kind of hell. Of course, I would never be the ideal candidate for an addictions outreach counselor position, but that's not on my bucket list anyway.
Maybe one day in the future, I will feel differently about this, and I truly hope that I do. But for now, this is where I am ~ forgiving myself for not being perfect. I've recognized, accepted and embraced this shadow, and I have begun the process of healing from it. It's a long, long road, and there are absolutely no shortcuts. But it's worth the effort - because I need to be patient and love myself unconditionally. All of myself, not just the pretty parts.
And that, my friends, is how I practice shadow work.