Often as I go up the stairs to my garret or back down to the first floor, I pause on the landing and look out my windows to the back yard. There is always something new to see. The last few days I have noticed the interplay of shadow and light and where the two blend and how one seems to highlight the other.
My last post offered some reflections on the role, the necessary role, of shadow in our life, and wouldn't you know, the next morning during my meditation time I came across a reading about shadow. Here is what David Whyte has to say about shadow in his book, Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. http://www.davidwhyte.com
Shadow is a necessary consequence of being in a
sunlit visible world, but it is not a central identity,
or a power waiting to overwhelm us…To live with
our shadow is to understand how human beings live
at a frontier between light and dark; …there is no
possibility of a lighted perfection in this life; pp 205-206
Whyte says shadow is a "clue to ourselves, and to those we are with, even to the parts of ourselves not yet experienced, yet already perceived by others. Shadow is not good or bad, only inescapable." p. 207
And finally, and this is what most struck me in Whyte's chapter on shadow, "To change the shape of ourselves is to change the shape of the shadow we cast."
My life at the moment is warmed fully by the sun. Light surrounds my days, and I feel rich and blessed and full of love and appreciation for all the goodness in my life. I have freedom to use my gifts and to share my life with those I love. At the same time I know there is always potential for shadow to make its presence known through complication or unplanned change or loss. Those external events that require the best of ourselves to survive and move forward are moments when our shadow side may cover more space in our inner backyard.
The shadow may extend into places in our life where we formerly felt transparent and confident. Our pride in our ability to be patient and compassionate or clear and decisive may be muddled by lack of direction or loneliness or fear. All that we think we know about ourselves, especially the side we present to the world, may disintegrate. The good news, the light, is that the shadow is available in moments of disquiet or disturbance to be our teacher. The spaces within ourselves that harbor our shadow responses are rich with opportunity for transformation.
Are you willing to sit with your shadow and ask it what it can reveal about your "go-to" feelings and reactions when you feel threatened or challenged? What would you think about getting to know your shadow now, sooner, rather than later? How about inviting your shadow into a conversation before you feel yourself drowning in anxiety or sadness?
For example, I know when I feel overwhelmed with that "too much to do" feeling, I can become paralyzed. I become irritated with anyone who implies "it will all be fine," or worse yet, "What's so important?" I am apt to become snippy with anyone in my path. In other words, my shadow has a field day. I also know that sitting in silence every day, taking time to meditate and to study the wisdom of others, to pray for the wellbeing of the world, my personal world and the created world, is a way to move through the shadow. To perhaps, shrink my shadow.
As I attempt to become more self-aware, I change how I move in the world. I change the shape of my being and therefore, according to Whyte, the shape of the shadow I cast.
I invite you to notice the shadow in your inner being. What can it teach you about living more fully in the light? I would love to know.