I first started out with a longer post on the shadow, but it didn’t feel right so I will post it in shorter sections instead.
First, what is the shadow?
To put it simply, any belief creates it’s own shadow.
I take a story as true. Overlook what doesn’t fit that belief. What I overlook includes the truth in the reversals of that story and that I don’t know. And that becomes the shadow of that belief.
Why is it called a shadow? The light of awareness shines on the story itself, so whatever doesn’t fit falls in its shadow. It is in the dark for us, until we shine the light of awareness there too.
This way of looking at the shadow is simpler than the traditional one, and perhaps also more inclusive.
Whatever beliefs I have about myself creates a shadow. And whatever beliefs I have about others, life and God also creates a shadow.
I believe I shouldn’t be stupid, so exclude that from my conscious self-image, and that becomes a shadow for me. I believe another person is only noble and good, so whatever doesn’t fit that belief becomes a shadow for me in how I relate to that person. I believe life should be fair, and whatever doesn’t fit that idea becomes a shadow for me in how I relate to life.
In the next parts of this series of posts, I’ll explore how the shadow includes both what’s “too bad” and “too good” to fit my beliefs about myself, others and life. How the shadow appears through beliefs about myself, others, life and God. A few different ways of relating to the shadow. And how shadow explorations can help me heal, mature, and even invite awakening.
A few things about the shadow.
What is the shadow?
To put it simply, any belief creates it’s own shadow. I take a story as true, overlook what doesn’t fit that belief, and that becomes it’s shadow.
More precisely, I overlook the validity in the reversals of the story, and that I really don’t know. And that’s what makes up the shadow of the belief.
Widening circles of the shadow.
Since any belief has a shadow, and I can have a belief about anything, anything in my world can have a shadow.
I have beliefs about myself, so not knowing and the limited validity in the reversals of those beliefs become my personal shadow. Often, what’s “too bad” or “too good” to fit my view of myself becomes my shadow. It’s here, but I don’t fully recognize it or admit to it. Stupidity, anger, greed, laziness, lying, cheating and similar qualities are typically found in a current western shadow, along with whatever else does not fit our cultural and personal ideas of a “good” person.
I have beliefs about others, and it’s the same here. Not knowing and the validity of the reversals of those beliefs becomes a shadow for me when I relate to that person.
I have beliefs about life, God and Existence, and again it’s the same. Not knowing and the validity in those reversals becomes the shadow of life, God and Existence in my mind. Some of these qualities may include disasters, war, illness, death, suffering, confusion and so on – whatever my culture and my personal ideals tells me is not “right” with the world.
Ways of relating to shadows
The obvious way of relating to a shadow is to get caught up in the belief creating it. I cling to a story – about myself, others or the world – as true, and deny the validity in its reversals and that I really don’t know. Someone says I am lazy, and I deny it and defend my identity as “not lazy”. I find laziness in others, but not so much in myself.
With some receptivity and curiosity, I can find where being caught up in the shadow is a good thing for me. Excluding laziness from my conscious identity may help me achieve, anger gives me a push to do what I want, and sadness is a pointer to what I want. I may also find that clarifying the belief behind the shadow helps me be, do and get what I want. I find some value in what I previously dismissed as undesirable, while still retaining my basic views and values. I take the first step into exploring the shadow.
After a while, I find that exploring the shadow opens up a new terrain for me. I may find a genuine appreciation for what I previously saw as undesirable, and new and different directions and aims for my life. There is a wider embrace of who I am and how the world is. I may find a genuine value in stupidity, laziness and anger as they are, and in the ways they change in their expression as there is a shift into genuine appreciation. And I may find genuine appreciation for death, illness and catastrophes.
I may also find an appreciation for it all – shadow, resistance, clarification, embrace – as the play of life, existence or the divine. It’s how life unfolds. Each of these have value in an evolutionary perspective. Each support the life of individuals and the species. Each is another way for life, existence and the divine to express, experience and explore itself. One way I can find this appreciation is through a oneness state, where all is revealed as God (divine mind, awake no-thing) and yet appears to happen to a separate “I”.
Finally, I can be it. Whatever happens, I recognize I am it. I can do this in a limited and conventional sense: as this human self, I am anger, stupidity, laziness etc. when those qualities come up. And when the “I” is recognized as temporary identification with a sense and image of an “I”, everything is revealed as inherently free of any “I” and Other. That was just another temporary filter.
Befriending, embracing, owning and being the shadow – or simply clarifying the story behind a shadow – helps me find a wholeness as who I am, and when taken further, invites what I am to notice itself.
First an example of a shadow in my personal identity – stream of thought and mostly unedited:
I have a belief, adopted from culture, that is it not good to be stupid. I exclude stupidity from my conscious identity, as much as I can. If someone says I am stupid, I make that person wrong. (I may get offended. Complain about the person. Try to convince myself it is wrong by finding examples of the contrary.) At the same time, I may see stupidity in others. And if I find I must admit to it in myself, it is uncomfortable and I experience distress.
When I start open up and explore this more, I may find that trying to avoid stupidity (denying it fits, prove to myself and others I am not) has its benefits. It helps me with my drive and ambition. It gets me ahead in the world. And admitting I am stupid, sometimes and to some extent, is OK. We all are. It shows I am human. It creates connection with others. All of these fits my conventional aims and goals.
Going further, I start finding genuine value in stupidity and in including stupidity in my conscious image of myself. I find that by embracing my own stupidity, I not only am in the same boat as anyone else, but there is more freedom to say and do what comes up for me. There is less self-censorship and I am less self-conscious. I may say and do something stupid, and that’s fine. Trying to live up to an image of myself as not stupid is stressful and takes a lot of energy and effort. When I free myself from this, I am more free to be as I am – comfortable and OK with myself as I am. And the people who like me and want to spend time with me when I am more like this, are the people I want to be around, so there are benefits all around here.
Also, stupidity has its own value. By being more free to follow what comes up for me, perhaps intuitions and impulses I am not sure where are going, I may discover something new to me. It opens up the landscape for me. I am more free from not only expectations, but also conventions.
And there is more. I recognize that for many or all of the things I do in life, I don’t have to be very smart. It is enough to be just as I am. I can – and do – find my own niche. And if someone dislikes me for not trying to live up to an image of being smart, and don’t want to spend time with me, then what a relief. I don’t have to spend time with that person either!
Here, my view of myself and the world changes more profoundly, and I find new terrains, values and aims for my life.
It is part of the play of life. What may appear to us as smart or stupid are both the play of life. They are both products of evolution, and we are just as smart and stupid as we need to be. Smart and stupid is also the play of the divine, awake no-thing appearing to itself as smart and stupid.
And this is what I am. As a human being, I am stupidity sometimes, and that’s fine. And beyond that, what I am appears as stupidity too. It is one of the ways what I am, and what everything is, appears.
Then an example of a shadow in my view of the world.
Death and catastrophes are bad. When I believe that, I am upset whenever death and catastrophes happen. If I believe in evil, demons or the devil, I may tell myself that these are the cause of death and catastrophes. My views are at odds with the world, and it is unpleasant and uncomfortable.
Exploring this further, I may find the validity in the reversals of that story. I find that death of individuals allows for new individuals, death of species allows for new species, and the death of stars in the past allows for this solar system and a living earth. And the same is the case with (what appears to us as) catastrophes. A huge object smashed into our planet when it was young, throwing off what became the moon, which in turn has played an important role in the evolution of life (tides). Through earth quakes and volcanoes, minerals essential for life are made available on the surface. The meteorite that was a disaster for the dinosaurs was a pretty good thing for us mammals. And so on – the examples are endless. What appears as a disaster from one set of perspectives is a great gift from another and equally valid set of perspectives.
And as I recognize that any ideas of good and bad, desirable and undesirable, are my own ideas, I recognize that I don’t really know.
At the end, I can mention what’s a very basic shadow for most of us: the shadow of taking the story of “I” as true. When I believe the story of “I” and there is an identification as this story, what’s the validity in the reversals? What I am is an “I” —> What I am is not an “I”. How is that equally or more true? What happens when I recognize that too as an image and a story temporarily taken as true?
Note: I haven’t heard others talk about the shadow in exactly this way – as the shadow of a belief – but it’s what makes most sense to me. And it is the simplest way of talking about it I have found so far.
- what is the shadow – shadow of belief – validity in reversals + don’t know
- two facets of the shadow – desirable and undesirable, too good and too bad to fit my self-image
- widening circles of the shadow – personal, others, life, god etc. – all shadow of beliefs
- ways of relating to the shadow – caught up in, crack the door, embrace, play of life/divine
– can go all the way with shadows, from wholeness as human being to oneness to selflessness
I started writing a post on the shadow and it quickly got too large and unwieldy, so I am breaking it up into a few short posts instead.
- ways of relating to the shadow
- turn into something conventionally desirable – drive, anger helps me do/get things, sadness is a pointer to what i want etc. – human, open the door slightly, dip the toes in
- shift my ideas of what’s desirable – opens up a new terrain, laziness/anger/illness etc. is fine too, part of being human, part of the whole, and brings other gifts, ones i hadn’t recognized before – human, wider and fuller embrace
- play of the divine – still identified as an i – oneness
- be it – release ident. as an i – selflessness
- ways of relating to the shadow
I notice four ways I relate to the shadow. To that which doesn’t fit my own narrow identity of myself (personal shadow), and that which doesn’t fit my shoulds about life, existence and God (God’s shadow).
To that which doesn’t fit my shoulds about myself and life or God, the reversals of my beliefs.
First, what is the shadow? The conventional definition is that which doesn’t fit my narrow identity for myself. I am lazy, but don’t want to see myself as lazy, so laziness becomes excluded from what I can accept about myself and I see it only or mostly in others. The same goes for characteristics such as anger, stupidity, greed and whatever else my culture tells me is “bad”, and also qualities I see as good but too good for me, such as the capacity for all-embracing love. Whatever characteristics I tell myself are “too bad” or “too good” for me becomes my shadow.
That’s the personal shadow, but it keeps going. My image of life, God and Existence also has a shadow. I have shoulds about these too, and place an identity on life, God and Existence. Life should be fair. God is good in a limited, narrow, conventional sense. And so on. Whatever I exclude from how life, God and Existence should be or is becomes it’s shadow – in my world.
And more precisely, any belief has a shadow. I take a story as true and overlook the validity in its reversals, and that I don’t really know. The validity in the reversals, and not knowing, becomes the shadow of any belief, and it shows up as the two forms of shadow above.
So what are the ways I relate to these shadows?
The obvious one is to be caught up in the belief and the shadow. I cling to a story – about myself or the world – as true, and deny the validity in its reversals and that I really don’t know.
- the gold in the shadow
- shadow & mirror
- excluded from what we see as good, god, desirable
- and makes sense – don’t quite know how to relate to it, work with it, so an easy first response is to exclude it, disown it, put it at arm’s length distance
- the world as a mirror – whatever see out there in others, the past, the future – find here now, see, feel, even find appreciation for
- find that it is gold, brings a sense of wholeness, closer alignment with reality, less to protect in terms of self-identity and beliefs/stories about oneself, others and the world, more inclusive, find the limited validity in any story
- two x two aspects of the shadow
- personal shadow – dark or light
- not included in conscious identity, excluded, disowned
- what’s too bad or too good to fit our limited self-image, identities, roles
- stupid, angry, lazy etc. + empathy, diligence, skills etc.
- find the gold in it, befriend, see how it supports
- god’s shadow, the shadow of life, existence, the universe – dark or light
- what appears dark – not included in our view of god, the divine, the good, god’s shadow
- disasters, setbacks, catastrophes + love, wisdom, power, timeless
- find the gold in it, befriend, see how it supports life
- personal shadow – dark or light
- three facets/phases of relating to the shadow
- see how can turn into something (conventionally) good and desirable, transmuted etc. – identified as a me
- see how is the play of the divine as is, w/out having to change – oneness, identified as an I
- be it, recognize am it already – selflessness, release of identifying with identities
- shadow & mirror