This is a kind of extension of the posts I have written lately about my own spiritual awakening (which is an ongoing process).
There is a lot written about allowing the light to shine within you and finding happiness and stillness in the moment. This is something that Eckhart Tolle teaches often.
One of the lessons I had to learn before I was able to do this was an acceptance and partnership with my “shadow”. The shadow of the psyche is something that few people write or talk about, since it is the darkness that we all carry within us.
The idea of a shadow was introduced to me by an elder in the psychedelic circles named Ann Shulgin. She participated in many hours of counseling patients while utilizing psychedelics throughout the decades, though at times it was illegal. I consider her a master of healing the psyche.
I heard her talk about the shadow of the psyche on the Psychedlic Salon here. It was presented at a gathering in 2002. She detailed working with people to confront and accept the shadow part of their psyche. At the time, I really had no interest in spirituality, but Ann’s talk really struck a chord with me when I heard it in 2010.
Basically, the idea of the shadow is that every one of us has a dark side in our psyches, or subconscious if you like. While each one of us has the capability to be completely peaceful and altruistic in our lives, we also all have the potential to be uncaring mass murderers. Most of us fit somewhere in the middle, of course!
Over the course of our lives, events happen to us which feed the shadow, whether we want to or not. We may see something terrible, be in an accident, or do something which we knew was not right at the time. Often, we don’t confront these dark parts of our pasts and this feeds the shadow within all of us.
For me, my shadow was engorged by being for all intents and purposes, a slave in the military and working in surgery. I would see the worst of the worst that people do to each other, especially in a trauma hospital in Iraq. My main course of denying these events was to drink a metric ton of alcohol to escape.
I would drink so much that I would often black out and do crazy things as if I were possessed. Looking back on those times now, I see that when I blacked out, it was my shadow’s time to cut loose and shine in this reality because I had so thoroughly suppressed it in my conscious mind. This is a mistake that I feel a huge majority of people make with their own minds in various ways.
After hearing Ann’s talk about her work with people and their intense shadows, I began to work with this myself after leaving the military. Often, it was while meditating or smoking medical cannabis. This was a relaxing way for me to expand my imagination and attempt to meet and accept the deep shadow that used to be a destructive part of my subconscious.
I borrowed a lot of these shadow techniques from Ann’s talk and I thought I would share some of my internal tactics here:
- While meditating, allow dark thoughts to boil up to the surface. Realize that this is your dark shadow communicating with your conscious mind.
- Accept and love this part of your psyche. It is a part which at times is useful when you are being attacked physically or emotionally.
- Ponder the origins of your dark thoughts. Is there a specific time or event which is associated with these thoughts? Do certain memories or daily situations trigger these dark thought?
- Realize that as these thoughts from your shadow surface, your conscious mind has the ability to analyze and change the way that you react to them.
- Re frame the dark thoughts from your subconscious and realize that you have the power to let the dark thoughts drift away, or that you can change them into positive purposes.
- One of my favorite thought techniques that I gleaned from Ann Shulgin’s talk was to pretend that as you feel the darkness come to the surface, realize that it is nearer to your conscious mind at that time. As you learn to love your shadow self and accept it, imagine that your conscious mind is climbing inside your shadow self. Imagine that you are changing it from the inside out and that before it was a dark part inside your consciousness. As you climb in and look from the dark perspective, your positive conscious thoughts are within that shadow subconscious. I think of it as a way to get even with it!
There are many people in the New Age and spirituality movements that speak only of the light. Many people become frustrated with these teachers and I think it is because the darkness within us all is not addressed by them.
When you only focus on the light within you, you are ignoring the major part which is probably causing you problems in your mind. The light that people are taught to access as they meditate does have a major role to play in dealing with the shadow, though.
In many cases, when I see teachings about meditation, we are taught to access the light and go within it. But, if that is the extent of your interaction with the light, then that seems like an end point. My view is that this is a never ending and on going process.
An idea which helped me a great deal was to use this light and imagine that it was bathing the shadow of my psyche and “incinerating” the dark thoughts, which is not to say that they disappeared, merely that they had been changed to the positive.
The more dark thoughts that I envisioned to be bathed in this light, the more content I became. The more I practiced this, the easier it became as well.
To wrap up and give you a visual about this little spiritual, consciousness lesson, I like to think of the Caduceus. I may be biased in this emblem because I wore it for 8 years as a Navy Hospital Corpsman, but the following ideas have helped me to wrap my conscious mind around these techniques.
The Caduceus is the winged symbol with two snakes wrapping around a staff in the middle. I imagine the staff in the center as a singularity within my psyche where all thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative reside in harmony and equilibrium.
One of the snakes is the “light” within me, and the other snake is the “dark shadow” snake. They can also have dual meanings as the conscious and the subconscious, or the conscious and the collective unconscious, if that helps you more.
The two snakes do a dance and coil around the harmonious singularity within the dual parts of my mind. When they are in balance around the singularity, they mimic the peace of the singularity and the wings at the top represent a true sense of freedom from knowing your full self.
Peace and light (and dark!),