Recently I have been reflecting a lot on the notion of shadow work and self love, both in examining my own life, and in my yoga classes and conversations.
In case you are wondering what I mean by shadow work, when I say shadow, I am acknowledging that each of us has a forward facing persona that is an agreement of our ego and our culture on how we are going to present ourselves in the world to be accepted and successful. I love the Ram Dass quote, “I’ll pretend you are who you think you are, if you pretend I am who I think I am.”
Shadow is then the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden because family, culture, religion, society have told us they are unacceptable or at least ineffective. Often we get so good at hiding these qualities, we disconnect from them and forget they are there. Much of the basis of these concepts comes from psychologist Carl Jung and his work with archetypes and the integrated self. Young suggest that we need to face and integrate these qualities to be whole.
There are two major qualities of my shadow that I continue to become clearer on and integrate, that I would like to share with you.
1st – There is a part of me that has an animal nature that has been suppressed on so many levels that often when it has tried to express itself it was either met with so much resistance, or anticipated resistance, that it came out as anger. I am learning to love this primal nature and to express it when it shows up in a transparent and vulnerable way, so I have no need for anger in the moment, or resentment later. For me, resentment is a sign that something is out of alignment. I also love and accept that there is a animal part of me that would go to extreme measures to survive, even to the point of aggression to protect life and innocence. Like having a daily awareness of death, I have found that it is valuable for me to embrace this wild creature and recognize he is always with me. I love that there is a primal part of me more powerful that I imagine that would go to great lengths for life. And although in loving this wild creature I embrace the potential for violence, what I have found is that I do not go around hurting others, because that is not what is in my heart. Instead I am able to accept and embody my being in my fullest potentiality as unbroken by civilization and wild.
2nd – Sometimes in shadow work, I feel there is a strong inclination to focus on the darkness as negative, bad or even ‘evil’. What I have found is that a big part of my shadow is my sweet year old boy. I learned to hide him because he can be vulnerable, easy to pick on and his feelings can get hurt. Yet never has it been more evident to me that he is always been there, than after I adopted Stitch, the sweetest puppy on the planet. And although people can be unkind, no one can brake my heart because I love myself.
So, what I have been learning to do in my self-love practice, because that is what it’s all about, is to fully accept my wild animal and my sweet boyish natures as part of my whole. And with this I can integrate these part of myself, and I can express them whenever it feels in alignment without any attachment to how others will perceive me or respond. I wish this for YOU. And it is from that place that I chose to share with you now. Do with it what you will.
I love you, because I love myself.