Six reassurances for living with a disproportionately large shadow

Vincent Mars

A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow.”
Djuna Barnes

The shadow escapes from the body like an animal we had been sheltering.”
― Gilles Deleuze

“When we are aware of our weaknesses or negative tendencies, we open the opportunity to work on them.”
― Allan Lokos

I fell off my perch recently. I didn’t just slip or stumble, nor was it a little hiccough. I fell from grace in a spectacular fashion.  While it wasn’t a public shaming, it was ugly and vicious and intense.  I felt I’d let myself down.

It was sparked by an incident. Well, a series of ongoing incidents really. You see, few things get me as riled up as injustice. I can’t stand by and see someone, particularly someone I love and care for, treated poorly and unfairly.

Nothing annoys me more than people hiding behind the cloak of dogma, proclaiming how we must all adhere to said dogma, yet behave in anything but the same fashion they expect of others. Hypocrites annoy me. Weakness annoys me. Ignorance and stupidity annoy me.

I’m cranky. Can you tell?

I witnessed what I believe to be an injustice. A debasing of someone who is loving, giving and so very generous. I’ve seen this person’s love thrown back in their face. Their feelings ignored and trampled on. I have seen this incredible person devalued by the people who should love and support them the most.

This constant undermining attack on this loved one has been delivered by people who hide behind the veil of Christian virtue. Their behaviour has been anything but christian or virtuous. Their actions have been coloured and influenced by ill meaning advisors.  I loathe to see people manipulated, used as puppets for other people’s end game but I loathe even more the idiocy of those who are so weak-minded that they cannot rationally approach a situation and see what is clearly happening, as those looking in surely do.

You know those movies where the protagonist becomes so enraged they morph into some unrecognisable fire-breathing monster? Well, that’s what I became last week.  I literally felt like a red-eyed, raging, stampeding beast. The anger, the vile loathing, the deep-seated hankering for vengeance boiled inside me. I thought I would explode with it. I felt I would go mad with it.

I was tainted by and shocked by the venom within me.

image: shadow self sourced from lackofa

I then felt like a hypocrite, proclaiming peace and love yet feeling this ugliness. I decided to share my ugliness with friends so there would be witnesses to my darkness. Why? I wanted to ensured I maintained my integrity by being truthful about who I am. I didn’t want to hide this disgraceful behaviour.

My wise women friends offered some interesting insights and revealed the lessons in the situation for me. I share with you some of what they shared with me, not to justify my behaviour but because it might help you too, if you find yourself in a similar situation.

One wise friend told me that this was my truth. She thought my courage and honesty at sharing the ugliness was amazing. She assured me I wasn’t alone. That other people too have  really tough and intense dark sides. She had, herself, been ‘surfing the inland sea’ for several weeks. I wasn’t alone in my quest for vengeance. That hers had also thrown her into shame and despair.

Without justifying my behaviour or supporting my view-point I was tutored that life is prickly and sticky at times.

What startled me most, and bore into my brain slowly over the days to come, was that this incident, this turbulent inner battle, was progress on my path and a testament to how much work I had done, to not only feel but name what I was experiencing. I was encouraged not to judge my feelings, to just feel them intensely and release them.  I was encouraged to take care of myself and forgive myself.

Despite my despicable thoughts, the tempest, the rage and rantings, my wise women’s circle told me that I needed to know that I truly deserve kindness and love. But also, a parting lesson, that I am only responsible for my own happiness.

So, dear reader, please know, that if you are on a spiritual  path or simply trying to be more present and grateful and loving in life that:

1. it’s human to be angry, to be messy, prickly and sticky. LIfe happens and over time we get better at dealing with it. Ignoring your anger and emotions doesn’t help nor does wrapping yourself in bubble wrap to avoid life.

2. if you feel like you’ve slipped off your perch, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally, you won’t be the only one. Climb back up.

3. we have to forgive ourselves. How can we ever move forward with the weight of self loathing dragging us down? Easier said than done. I know.   I also acknowledge that we must forgive others too. That might, in this situation, take me a little time to work through. But yes. There is huge relief and release in forgiveness, and it will come, in time.

4. as awkward as it might be, part of forgiving yourself and climbing back on your perch is deliberate self-care. Walking in nature, digging in the garden, floating, swimming, massage. Whatever nurtures you, heals you.

5. letting go isn’t condoning a situation or other people’s behaviour. Letting go and adjusting your attitude directly benefits your inner peace.  You can find peace amid the chaos, it’s a matter of choice.

6. you are only responsible for your own happiness. While we can be discouraged, enraged and moved by injustice; taking on issues for others, carrying around unresolved and destructive emotion isn’t helping anyone reach their happiness, nor does it help you with your own quest. I’m not saying don’t take meaningful and purposeful action where you can, just be aware of bottled up emotion and how it affects you and resolves nothing.

We all have a shadow side. Mine feels disproportionately huge. It’s ugly and misshapen. It fumes and steams and flares red hot. But, I’ve realised, it’s human to feel the darkness and to be in the darkness just as much as it is to revel in the light and bask in the warmth life has to offer.

Be gentle with your dear hearts. Remember, self-development and spiritual development are not events, but processes. Ongoing processes.

I send you love wherever you may be on your personal journey.

Shannyn

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Inspired by Artistic Expression

I have a friend who asks “What inspired you this week?” It’s a great question. Often I have to scratch around and ponder deeply in order to respond. This last fortnight, however, I have been greatly inspired by a number of sources. The energy of these artistic sources have remained with me as daily companions.

I visited GOMA, in Brisbane, where Cai Guo-Qiang’s Falling Back to Earth exhibition is currently showing. I find my thoughts returning to linger over the works on display.

I had purposely not read anything about the exhibit prior to attending not wanting reviews to interfere with my experience. I was not prepared for the grand scale of each of the installations.

The cavernous space of the gallery itself usually overwhelms me but it was perfect for this exhibition.  On entering the first room, to view Heritage, I felt as though I was transported to another time and place. Interestingly, I think everyone else felt the same. There was an incredible hush in the room despite the number of people in attendance. There was almost a reverence with which we viewed the waterhole and considered the circumstances under which all the animals would have come together at that one place.  I felt very blessed almost to be in attendance at what appeared, to me, to be a sacred gathering of the worlds’ animals at the waterhole.
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I was initially disgruntled at seeing a large, uprooted tree in the open space between galleries and realising part of my admission ticket was for the pleasure of viewing this ‘piece of art’. My melancholy dissipated very quickly and I was immersed in observing the magnificence of this mighty tree. It’s textures, colours and form, not to mention the surreal nature of having a fifty metre tree, suspended horizontally inside a sleek, modern gallery.

The final instillation was again of gigantic proportions. On entering the room I was immediately drawn to the smooth, almost graceful loop created by close to one hundred wolves. Each wolf unique in its expression was also part of a greater community working together to achieve a single goal. Sadly, it seemed, they were misled and the goal unattainable.

The size and scale of the installations were both mind boggling and impressive. But the deeper statements about humanity behind each piece, the artists skill and talent in bringing such pieces into form and the thoughts and emotions each piece stirred within me have been nudging and poking and prodding my mind these last two weeks.

In last week’s blog I shared my excitement at having heard Elizabeth Gilbert talk on her creative process. Snippets of her talk keep rolling into my waking moments on gentle waves. I’d say I was inspired, wouldn’t you?

I read a novel this week, Left Neglected by Lisa Genova, purchased for three dollars at the local op shop. I literally inhaled it. I could not put it down. I was inspired by the protagonist for overcoming the obstacles she faced and the author’s brilliance at taking on such a formidable topic and engaging, educating and evoking great emotion in the reader. Not only that but I found myself questioning the decisions I’ve made and the consequences of my choices. “Is there another way to live that is more fulfilling?”

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I was awestruck too by the words of Rumi shared with me by a friend, who herself is an inspiration. She is an alchemist, a wise woman and a spiritual teacher. Her own words move me to seek deeper levels of knowing and understanding. On this occasion the words of Rumi she shared struck and stuck at my core. I have attached the poster below for your enjoyment.

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It has been, without a doubt, a magical fortnight. Full of great and inspiring people, creativity and thought. I feel moved, moulded and changed as a result of not only my initial contact with each source but by the lingering impressions each have made on me.

What inspired you this week? I’d love to hear!