13 September 2012

Setbacks in Shadow Work

I've spent a lot of the past few months consumed by my shadow.  For me the shadow tends to  manifest as procrastination, over-indulgence, and self-recrimination.  This means I haven't gotten a whole lot done of late and pretty much feel like crap about it.  I've let way too many things that are important to me slide by the wayside and I mean to remedy that.  So today I'm going to talk a little about setbacks in shadow work - appropriate no?

The thing about shadow work is - it's hard.  If it's not hard you're not doing it right.  Shadow work is soul searing, gut churning, bone shakingly difficult.  Reaching into your own abyss, pulling things out, and turning them into strengths is a lot like re-breaking an improperly set bone so that it can grow straight and healthy again - absolutely necessary and worthwhile but hurts like hell.  The more it scares you and the more you try to avoid it the more important it is to face it.  Remember the movie Labyrinth?  There's a scene in the movie when the main character is trying to navigate underground tunnels and huge rock faces start shouting at her to turn around and that she's on the path to her own doom.  Then her companion tells her that the stone faces are actually "false alarms" and that the more of them there are and the louder they get the more likely they are to actually be going the right way.  Shadow work is a lot like that, the harder it is the closer you're probably getting to something important.

Setbacks in shadow work are inevitable.  Anything as difficult as proper shadow work is going to be mentally, emotionally, and magickally exhausting.  It's absolutely necessary to take a rest every once in a while or you'll burn out and probably experience some major mental backlash (I know I do when I take things too far too fast).  Every few weeks take a rest from shadow work.  Go do something that doesn't take a lot of mental prowess and that is emotionally and spiritually fulfilling.  Go for a hike, paint a picture, play some games, throw a party.  Do a ritual of thanksgiving to celebrate the bits of you that aren't covered in psychic muck of your own making.  It's easy to go myopic doing shadow work and forget that your shadow is just a small part of who you are.  You are not your shadow. 

The whole point of shadow work is to make you stronger and more whole so that your shadow becomes your ally instead of your enemy.  The shadow is not bad; it's just unacknowledged and unfulfilled and occasionally acts out like a bored child.  Sometimes it doesn't feel like it's making you stronger, but just the opposite.  As you sit in meditation, shaking with stress and fighting back tears that make no sense to your logical brain you feel anything but strong.  But here's the thing, would you rather breakdown in the safety and privacy of your circle or wait until something in the world triggers your shadow in public where who knows where the fallout will land?  And, once you've faced a particular aspect of your shadow, once you've had your shootout at high noon moment, it's never quite as bad again.  The next time it will be a little less fierce, and even less fierce the time after that, until eventually you'll wonder what the big deal was.  Of course, you'll probably have exposed more deeply buried scary bits in the mean time and have other things to worry about. 

Shadow work really does make things better.  The more you integrate your shadow the more whole you become and the strong your center becomes.  As we all know, our center is the seat of our magickal power and the stronger it is the better able we are to do just about anything and the less vulnerable we are to any kind of outside attack.  If you specialize in defensive magicks like me, strengthening the center is absolutely critical.  Shadow work seals the cracks and fissures in the aura and makes shielding little more than childsplay.  Yeah, shadow work is hard and can really suck ass some times but it's worth it.

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