Shadow Magick is serious work. It requires the practitioner to be absolutely honest with themselves: to pay attention to what they do and why, to examine their own motivations and feelings, and to own up to the consequences of their actions. Shadow Magick doesn’t work if you do a ritual with absolute honesty and intent and then bugger off and start lying to yourself and others. Shadow Magick is designed to change the way you look at and interact with the world. You have to integrate it in your everyday life for it to work properly. Shadow practice is always going to be more effective when integrated into your life than otherwise. The bulk of Shadow Magick’s formal practice is made of rituals and exercises to recognize our shadow selves, to see ourselves and our world more clearly, to integrate our shadows, and to transform ourselves. These practices need to be supported by our everyday actions, but it isn’t easy.
Living shadow every day means being very, very self aware. Self-destructive habits, meaningless routines, and self-deception can all kill shadow work. You need to be able to step back out of the every day and look at what you’re doing and why, and whether or not your actions are really supporting you. Too many of us are trapped in routines and habits that just take up time for no real benefit or, even worse, that actually send us backwards. Living shadow means looking critically at every action you take and asking yourself if it gives you a benefit. Your actions can help you earn a living, gratify your senses, make you feel good, help you improve yourself, help someone else, etc. Are there things that you do that don’t actually benefit you? Why do you do them? (“Because you always have” is not a sufficient answer.) If you can’t answer that, then it’s time to stop doing it. Living shadow means acting mindfully.
Even more difficult than being aware of what you do is being aware of what you think and feel. Yes, living shadow means looking at your feelings under a microscope. It’s not exactly a comfy process, but it’s necessary. Are your thoughts and feelings based on truth, or are you twisting the facts to fit the way you want them to? Are you angry at your friend because she actually wronged you or just because she did something totally benign that made you feel threatened or did you just misinterpret what she did? Look at the facts of a situation objectively before you make decisions. Get an outside objective opinion if you need one (someone who has their own experience of the situation, not just your [probably biased] description). This examination is most important when you find yourself thinking negative thoughts or experiencing negative emotions because they have such tremendous power to color your entire experience. What a waste to spend all day angry because of a simple misunderstanding. Even worse, how are you supposed to do magick to see yourself more clearly when you’ve spend eight hours in self-delusion – that’s energetic moment that will ruin the most carefully planned working. Being mindful of our thoughts and actions helps us to sustain the magickal momentum we begin in our workings and makes it more effective.
Of course, being mindful of our emotions does not mean we don’t feel them. We all have moments when we feel things that we’d rather not or that seem counterproductive to our plans. There’s nothing wrong with that – we’re just regular human beings not bodhisattvas. The trick is to experience our emotions and then let them go, rather than hanging on to them and stewing in our own juices. For example, when I get cut off in traffic I get furious and that anger will stay with me for a while, depending on just how close the bastard got to hitting me. When I step back from the situation I realize that I get angry because someone has endangered me for no good reason and forced me to modify my behaviour unexpectedly. What I’m really feeling is a flash of fear and panic, and being forced to feel those negative emotions makes me angry. Knowing that my anger is really caused by fear will allow that anger to dissipate once I’m secure in my physical safety. My anger is a defense mechanism that fills me with adrenaline so that I can deal with danger. It’s a useful emotion that serves a purpose, but it can be destructive if I don’t truly understand it. I’m not actually angry with the other driver, I’m afraid for myself – that’s a big distinction. Shouting at the other driver or getting road rage, while oddly satisfying, does nothing to satisfy my need for safety and thus won’t actually help deflate my anger. I can feel the fear and anger, recognize them for what they are, and then let them go. Unfortunately , it’s hard to step back when we’re in the midst of strong emotions and if you can’t do it at first that’s ok. When you’ve calmed down a little take some time to examine what you were feeling and try to identify the root causes. Once you learn to do this after having strong feelings it will become easier to do so while you’re feeling them. Much of the practice of meditation is designed to help people do just this, and for many people it can take a lifetime.
Living shadow means being mindful in your everyday life and making choices that continue the energetic momentum of your workings. Having the courage to be truly honest with yourself during your everyday life and not just in circle is difficult. In circle we know we’re in a safe space and we usually have the time to take care of ourselves if we have disturbing realizations, in our workaday lives we rarely have this luxury. Make this level of awareness a goal and work towards it slowly. Allow yourself to progress at whatever pace you need and just see what happens.
A few resources that I found helpful: