The Shadow Knows

The Shadow Knows

In the opening of Within Bliss, I joked about the ‘spiritually positive’. Some New Age and New Thought communities are rife with ‘Think Positivists’, the idea that if you think happy you’ll be happy.

Now, there is some truth to the idea. What you put your attention on grows stronger. Gratitude is a powerful tool as well. But if that positivity is a resistance or denial of how you really feel, then it is simply another illusion. Another mask. It is working against being OK, being present to what is, as it is.

Until we wake up to our true natures, all of us carry what I call the shadow story. A sub-conscious background agenda about what’s wrong. What’s not OK. It’s like a big, dark shadow that follows us around, like a boogey man under the bed. As long as we are unwilling to see it, we are caught in it’s drama, throttling our happiness.

It’s not just to love the good but to love the dark as well.

This may sound like a gross caricature and not how you experience life. But are you experiencing joy right now? If your life is not flowing on a background of ever-present happiness, you have a shadow or mask. A covering over your light. It’s that simple.

Most of the teachers on the spiritual talk circuit don’t talk too much about this. It’s considered a “downer” and people want peppy stuff to be inspired. But as long as we’re unwilling to see ourselves fully, that inspiration will fast fade. The shadow will rise again.

“Hello darkness my old friend, I come to talk to you again…”
(Yep, Simon And Garfunkel, Sound of Silence)

Today I got an email about a new film being released now by Debbie Ford called The Shadow Effect. Judging by the trailer it goes right into it, complete with black and white imagery and effects. They address the Shadow head on.

“A journey to your Dark Side” (shades of Star Wars).

It features Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Mark Victor Hansen, and more. They also have a 2 DVD version that includes 8 exercises. And it looks like there’s an on-line viewing option and a “Starter Kit”, workshops, and more.

I’ve not seen the film so can’t speak to it’s excellence. The trailer looks great but it’s hard to say what the approach is. If you are familiar with her earlier books (I’m not) like “Why Good People Do Bad Things” and “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers“, one would expect the film to be built on that.

Opening up to the story is an important part of the spiritual journey. But you need slightly different tools for it. Otherwise, you can be amplifying the drama, making it more real. The idea is NOT to wade into the muck but simply bring innocent attention to it, bring in the light. See it. In the seeing, it is diffused. The repressed feelings are allowed and released. The load is lifted. The mask removed. The vision cleared.

It can take some time and patience. Especially patience. And lots of self kindness. This is not a story of blame. There are no mistakes here, just resistance.

If you explore the journeys of a number of todays popular teachers, some of them speak openly of their own journey through the dark side – Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie come to mind. Those with a long meditation practice are more likely to diffuse the bulk of it over time. But even there, it must be faced.

“You can’t fight darkness with darkness but you can switch on the light.
— all quotes from the film’s trailer

And in that is the key. When all the massive energy you’re using to keep it held down is released, not only do you regain your power, but you open channels that have been blocked. This is the story of kundalini, of both personal and spiritual awakening.

I look forward to seeing the film and seeing how well they did.

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  1. “Some New Age and New Thought communities are rife with ‘Think Positivists’…”

    It’s particularly rife on the web. It’s seems to be an obligatory rite with bloggers and self-help gurus to push “positivity” and “optimism.” I even saw it on a website that has “zen” in its title!

    It’s an easy hit; nobody argues against it and it sounds so wonderful. And it is true that attention expands, so attention on the positive will expand the positive. It is also true that resisting the negative encourages it to fester.

  2. Davidya

    In some ways, it’s commonality and the popularity of stuff like “The Secret” tells us where many people are at. They’re struggling with the “dark side” and migrate to messages of positivity.

    At some points on the path, some attention to the positive can be useful. But it can also become a trap, yet another illusion to overcome.

    In many ways, this is true of pretty much every technique and concept on the journey. Meditators can get stuck on doing it right rather than transcending it, inquirists can get stuck in analyzing every thought, even bliss can be a trap if we become too enamored of it. Some teachers talk of people who retire into the transcendent, not integrating it into the world.

    It’s not uncommon for people to have some sort of transition period when they make a major shift. What had worked may no longer or it has to be rejigged. If you are the transcendent, how do you meditate? That’s when understanding where they are is useful, to avoid the pitfalls of any given step.

    And that’s why understanding the “dark side” – which is of course just a story line itself – can help people get out of this one.

  3. Uzma

    I’ve been doing a lot of inner work. Have begun seeing the dark side. Yet even though I know the limitations or darkness, it doesn’t necessarily fade away. How does one release it? Is awareness enough?

  4. Davidya

    For some people, it is quite a dark side. Debbie Ford I understand struggled with addictions. But for many, it’s just a resistance to feelings we may be unwilling to experience, perhaps anger or shame. Many people carry some things they have been unwilling to forgive or let go of, stories we tell ourselves about what was “done” to us.

    In some ways, these can just be a little sub-conscious, a little hidden. Not really a “dark side”, so it’s not really necessary to make some big story about it. But most do struggle a bit with some things.

    People often use the analogy of peeling an onion. You peel a layer or 2, seem to make some progress, then something more comes up. Other things, or perhaps deeper values of what has already been cleared. So it can seem to go on for awhile.

    Another way to see this is a dismantling of the ego story and then identity. It can go quite deep. But as you make progress it becomes more automatic and then Self takes over and does it for you.

    Awareness is enough, but also a willing awareness. It must be seen fully to let go. Some may fall away here and there, then a deeper aspect when it is seen more deeply. If it’s emotional stuff, seeing may mean a brief experience of it, a wave of feeling. Short but complete, the resistance ends.

    Also, an innocent or detached awareness. If the awareness is seeing it but caught in it, it is not being released. It is a first step but it must be seen a bit more deeply. Not stepping further into it but stepping back from it more.

    Make sense?

  5. @Uzma, if I may jump in, in my own experience, awareness–the gentle, unoccupied, constant, choiceless awareness–is enough, but releasing helps a great deal. Releasing can be my release technique, EFT, Sedona method, EMDR, gratitude, acceptance, forgiveness, metta, service…

  6. Davidya

    Hi Karmarider
    It is interesting. It is the full seeing that does the releasing so it’s not really a separate thing. But some techniques for guiding that seeing can be helpful if the awareness is not yet fully as you describe.

    If you look under the Key Posts link on the right, I have a section on “Clearing” that covers some of the suggestions. Gratitude leading to forgiveness was huge for me. Some of my friends have found EFT potent. Tom Stine writes about Sedona. Service is an interesting one I’ve not covered for awhile.

    I’ll also mention meditation again. Because it is meditation that will help culture that awareness that allows, it is the cornerstone for dissolving the foundation of the story. The techniques themselves are much better as supplements than core process.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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