I'm having a Samhain Celebration this Saturday and one of the things we'll be doing is a shadow work meditation. I went through the meditations I'd written in the past and nothing had quite the right feel. I wanted something that would be suitable for anyone, regardless of whether they knew anything about shadow work or where they were in their personal path. The following meditation is designed to open a path to understanding your shadow and to be a first step towards the power that shadow work can give.
Use whatever method of entering into the meditation that works for you. I like to visualize stepping through a curtain of mist. However you choose to do it, I suggest giving yourself at least 10 minutes after you've finished to process whatever emotions and thoughts come up during the meditation.
You stand at the gates of an ancient graveyard. The path is overgrown, the stones untended. The chill wind blows the last of the autumn leaves off the skeletal trees. The cloudy sky casts no light through the gloom, but you can find your way easily enough. You walk forward, feet crunching on the gravel. There are whispers on the wind, echoes of the past. This is a graveyard of forgotten memories - times gone by that will never come again, memories locked away, left behind, forgotten.
To your right you see a stone marking the memory of a fight with a loved one where you said unforgivable things. To your left you see the grave you made for things you’ve done that make you ashamed. These are memories you’d rather see remain buried, things you’d rather keep hidden in the dark. Look out into the darkness. Just how much are you trying to hide?
You continue along the path. Moss has grown across the path here and your feet squelch as you step. A chill breeze whispers across your skin and the darkness deepens.
You come around a large willow tree and before you stands a large, ornate mausoleum. The entrance is flanked with crumbling columns, ferns and moss growing on the ancient stones. In stark contrast to its aging exterior, the iron gate across the entrance is brand new. At the foot of the door sits a sad pile of broken padlocks, each one a testement to what cannot be contained within.
Silently, slowly, the gate begins to swing open. You step back in a rush to avoid letting it touch you. From the darkness within, a figure draped in shadow steps forth into the weak moonlight. Piercing black eyes stare at you from the deep folds of the cloak. The figure looks you up and down and you can feel its gaze penetrating to your very marrow. You know that it sees everything you are, everything you were, and everything you yet may be.
The figure steps forward once again, drawing back its hood. You gasp in shock, it looks just like you...well, you if you’d been locked away from sunlight and half starved for years. It smirks at your dismay and speaks.
“I am your shadow. I am the part of you that frightens you; that you’re ashamed of. I’m the part of you that isn’t so nice. I am everything about you that you loathe: too strong, too weak, too passionate, too cold, too willful, too selfish.
“You’ve tried so hard to bury me, to lock me away, but it won’t work. I’m a part of you, you know. You can no more be rid of me than you can be rid of your eye color. Oh yes, you can mask me for a time, hide me away, but I always come back. I don’t like being shoved away. I will fight it with every breath in your body. I will come bubbling up from the back of your brain to destroy your fragile peace. The harder you suppress me the worse I will make things when I get out.
“But I don’t have you be your enemy. Really I don’t. The only thing that makes me dangerous is your abhorence of me - I take it rather personally. I’d be your ally if you let me. I ask so little and can give you so much. Acknowledge me; stop being ashamed and afraid of me. Accept me for everything that I am, everything that you are. See me and see yourself. Take me out to play every once in a while, it doesn’t have to be so bad. A very little will tide me over for such a long time. The choice is yours. We can be friends or we can be enemies, but I’m not going anywhere and you can’t keep me locked up forever.
“Go now, back to your world of shining light. I’ll be waiting whenever you’re ready for me.”
The figure turns and pulls its hood back on and fades into the shadows. You suppress an involuntary shudder and turn back up the path to the gates. You look up at the sky and watch as the clouds part, revealing a sliver of growing moon. Your feet crunch on the gravel and an owl hoots in the distance. You reach the gate and step back through the mist.