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“Maybe the only thing each of us can see is our own shadow. Carl Jung called this his shadow work. He said we never see others. Instead we see only aspects of ourselves that fall over them. Shadows. Projections. Our associations. The same way old painters would sit in a tiny dark room and trace the image of what stood outside a tiny window, in the bright sunlight. The camera obscura. Not the exact image, but everything reversed or upside down.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

This week the collective shadow was in full feather due to the full moon and the lunar eclipse on Thursday April 25.  As I made my way home from work I felt as though I was traveling through some sort of cataclysmic disaster movie.  Police and fire, car accidents, break downs.  It was all in full view.  Whatever we need to face right now, is indeed, in our faces.  Big time. In fact, these days the darkness of everything we’ve hidden and pretended wasn’t true about us, is showing up either through the horrifying actions of sick individuals or through the lens of our own collaborative dances with the devilish functions of our lives.  You cannot have light without shadow,  and therefore, you cannot have a human life without acknowledging your own part in the collective dream (and nightmare) of our world.

The day to day world we see is malleable.  Reality is a reflection of the individual lives of its inhabitants.  It’s not a separate thing.  It’s not outside of our sphere of influence.  Many among us have forgotten just how powerful we are.  That’s why integrating the shadow side of humanity is so crucial as the world shifts to a new and kinder paradigm.

The birthing process of that paradigm is not going to be kind.  It is going to be brutal.  But that’s OK.  We can do it.  I know we can.

“I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow.” ~ Sylvia Plath

I initially got interested in shadow work when I was reading Debbie Ford’s first book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers.  At the time, I was living in Los Angeles, working a job I hated, and scrambling to finish graduate school.  Overwhelmed, sad, tired — I desperately wanted to understand the profound sense of hopelessness I felt.  All the light seemed to seep out of the world.  As I read that book, something in me stirred.  Something sad and angry and beautiful and repressed.  I not only sat on the things that I judged as “bad” or “beneath me.”  I also blocked my own light.  I couldn’t acknowledge many of my gifts.

The shadow is not just the negative aspects of ourselves that we want to gloss over.  It is also, often, the aspects of our lives that we most need to nurture.  Many of us suffer from incorrigible disbelief in our own inherent potential.  We think we’ve been singled out as the only person at the party who forgot to wear clothes.  No.  We are all naked.  And we are all vessels of light and dark stars.  It is never just one or the other.  It’s an all inclusive deal.

Right now, the world is in chaos because it must be.  

We’ve been sick for a long time and we must drain the wounds we’ve sustained.  We must lance and clean them.  We must nourish ourselves and acknowledge the rights of all beings on this planet to survive.

Rapacious greed is born out of hunger that wasn’t sated by a healthy sort of sustenance.  It is the result of great swaths of the populace truly believing that money and power are more important than compassion and mercy.  It comes from the idea that taking and taking and taking will fill the emptiness you feel.  It won’t.

Only giving will do that.  Giving to others.  Giving to yourself.

Giving time and attention.  Giving tenderness.  Giving righteous anger to stop slaughter and stop the repression of women and girls. Giving acknowledgement to the rage over bride burnings and rapes.

We must stop the murder of dozens of school children by the criminally insane and their minions in the gun lobby. We must prevent sexual abuse and stop genital mutilation. We must curtail animal experimentation and the killing of shelter animals. We must stop rendering those dead animals into pet food (!), and prevent the poaching of elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns.

All these things are the result of a repressed and volatile shadow side.  A side that believes it has never gotten ‘enough’ so it takes more than it needs. It takes more food than it can eat, and more things than its house can hold.  A side that blows things up because it has no healthy outlet for the rage and darkness and spite it feels.  (Like chopping wood, digging ditches, kneading bread, or scrubbing floors until they shine.)  We need solace and prayer and play and rest.  Yet our lives are compressed and flattened into a pervasive sense that we must push all the time.  Make more money.  Go more places. See more things.

There is no silence.  There is no recognition that life must be both ebb and flow.

As a Buddhist for the past twenty-eight years, personal responsibility is at the heart of my faith. You cannot embrace your power if you believe that others are to blame for your situation.  You cannot change your life if you think that others are victimizing you.  Life is full of both shadow and light. Society mirrors the way we think and feel about ourselves.  The shadow does not exist separate from the body that casts it.  It cannot.

“Let go or be dragged.” ~ Zen proverb

So, think about it.  What are the areas of your life that you need to do some internal work on?  What garbage needs to be bagged up and thrown out?  Unless and until we eagerly embrace the work of healing our woundedness and acknowledging both our greatness and our flaws, we will continue to experience explosive hatred, war, strife, hunger and pain.  Violence erupts anywhere there are secrets and unacknowledged wounds.

It’s time to scrub ourselves clean.


To help, consider joining forces with some of the organizations who are working on these problems world wide:

For issues affecting women and girls:

To save the elephants and rhinos:

To enhance public safety for our children:

To stop the slaughter of shelter animals:

To work for the establishment of peace on this planet and in this country:

To explore Buddhism and its tenets:

© 2013  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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