Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Fifth Step to Inner Peace- Connect to Your Shadow

Saturn's shadow                                      Cassini Probe-NASA
I hope you have had a chance to try out the first four steps to inner peace below. They can provide a loving and strong foundation for the fifth step- connecting with your shadow. Oh dear, I can hear the groans now! This is a step most of us would rather skip, but paradoxically by entering the darkness we can find our brightest treasure; the gift of our shadow.

I remember asking a woman once if she would talk to others the way she talked to herself. "Oh, no", she said, "that would be rude!" We had to laugh, but the truth is most of us spend too much time and energy beating ourselves up, regretting, fretting and making ourselves miserable for falling short of some ideal of who we think we should be. We banish our little, orphaned "unacceptable" parts to the basement, where they lurk as our shadow.

Everybody does this. We all suffer the pain of self-rejection, but we also have a choice. We do not have to feel guilty for our "bad" feelings, or for pretending we never have them. We can begin instead with forgiving ourselves for our humanness. We can declare a truce with ourselves and to begin seeing ourselves with kinder and more compassionate eyes. When we befriend all of who we are, we are able to experience the joy of being our authentic, whole, joyful and lovable selves. Repressing or denying parts of ourselves only cuts us off from that wholeness. The way out is in!

Saturn Back Lit by the Sun                                     Cassini Probe
Astrologically, it is said you cannot enter the more advanced levels of consciousness represented by Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, until you have gone through the rings of Saturn- the limitations, fears and obstacles of this life. Saturn tests us, but it also gives us an opportunity to confront challenges with awareness instead of blame and with love instead of fear. When we are no longer at war with ourselves life flows with more grace. We can listen to the messages of our shadow instead of being at the mercy of its impulses. And perhaps most importantly, we no longer have to project our hated and denied parts onto others and make them the enemy. When we are healed, our world is healed too.

If you are having trouble pinpointing your rejected parts simply look at who and what triggers you in life. Traits we deplore in ourselves are so much easier to see in someone else! 

Debbie Ford had an exercise in The Dark Side of the Light Chasers for meeting your various selves that I found intriguing. A sense of humor will come in handy for this one! You simply imagine a bus coming and that each of the passengers on it is a part of yourself you may not have acknowledged in awhile, maybe for decades. As you board the bus, you can expect to see a whole cast of characters - all looks, sizes, and temperaments. Sit down with one and start a dialogue. He or she may be a little cranky for having been ignored or unaccepted for so long. Let the part know you are sorry and are really ready to listen to him or her now. Listen without judgment. See how this part of you has been hurt and how past thoughts, feelings and behaviors (no matter how unwise, or ineffective) were chosen to ultimately make this part feel more secure and more loved. Have compassion for this part of yourself. Together find a new role for this part that honors both of you.

I was surprised when I did this exercise recently to find one of the passengers was me, at the age of twelve looking just like my seventh grade photo. Barbie was wearing an orange plaid, wool jumper and bright, pink lipstick (that she had smuggled into school).  Her hair was short, but she had draped part of it over her right eye for dramatic effect. (I remember when I first saw that photo I thought I was the ugliest girl in the world.) So there she was feeling too tall, lonely and totally unlovable. Barbie turned away when I sat down. Slowly, she opened up and told me she felt like she was from a different planet and would never fit in. I felt her pain and it made me feel tender and protective of her. It felt good to invite this vulnerable and rejected part of myself back into my heart and I knew it would have an impact on how I viewed insecurities in my life today. Before I left the bus she was smiling and I was feeling more whole and content.

This may seem a little strange, but if exercises like this (or finding a good therapist, or confiding in a trusted friend) can help us on our journey to greater self-acceptance and self-love, it is worth it. In fact, I think confronting our "unloved" parts is one of the noblest, most courageous and worthy projects we can take on in this life. 

If you are still having a hard time imagining connecting with your shadow- maybe you can think of it as the ultimate service to humanity. World peace evolves from inner peace. It begins with each of us bringing light and love to our wounded selves. Then we can receive the gift of our shadow - the remembrance of who we really are- undamaged, whole, compassionate and loving souls -  here to make a difference.

The Waking Planet Flag                                                              Barbara Upton


Unknown said...

I agree that one has to forgive the parts of his or her nature that are in some way abhorrent. This is different than uncritically accepting the darker sides of our selves. As we examine who we, find those disturbing aspects and forgive ourselves for them, we can then work on being a better person,

Barbara Upton said...

Thanks for your thoughts Linda!
Oooh, the abhorrent parts- we have to bring the most love to them!

Monika Kretschmar said...

Thanks for this post, Barbara, and for sharing your personal experience. It makes it so much more vivid. I love your expression "flowing with grace", which is another good term for "inner peace". If we flow through life with grace, what is there to worry about?! I'll strive to gracefully flow through the day and kindly greet my shadows :)

Paul Lichtenberg said...

Beautifully stated, Barbara. I just posted a comment to Monika that I'll repeat here if it's okay:

As I think i mentioned a few weeks back, the critical factor in connecting to one's shadow is relationship. The truth and heart of the matter is not only that mind is habitual, but we also can't see into our own eyes: we often can't identify nor understand this shadow self. The shadow self is that aspect of our personalities formed around afflictive emotions and distorted beliefs regarding our self-concept. And so, forgiving the "parts of our nature that are in some way abhorrent" means to me responsibly and compassionately confronting, exploring, and ultimately understanding them. It's a process of deep self-inquiry, with a little lot of help from a friend

Barbara Upton said...

Thank you Monika and Paul! (It's nice to know I'm not talking to the wind)
Monika your natural way is to flow with grace! And Paul when you say a critical factor in connecting to our shadow is relationship- are you referring to the fact that it helps to work another who can see our flaws perhaps more clearly than we can see them ourselves? Appreciate both your comments.

Paul Lichtenberg said...

Barbara, there's a powerful maxim that goes: "We can't look into our own eyes." This perhaps seems obvious but taking it deeper, it points to the fact that we need relationship to mirror back to us that which we ourselves cannot see. It also reflects a fundamental metaphysical principle regarding ultimate reality: we do not merely have relationships, we are relationship! And, further, we are relationship in process, moving-- (e)motion-ing!-- and changing through time. The independent, permanent entities we perceive and call "selves" exist only in our limited perceptions. And this is where the shadow resides, in this illusion of lack or separateness, this constant persistent feeling that we are missing something vital, and suffering because of it. And so, it makes perfect sense! that relationship is the vehicle of healing, (in)sight, reflection, and love.

Barbara Upton said...

Thanks for clarifying Paul. Yes, healing the illusion of separateness and gaining insight through relationship is key. I used to hold new moon circles and suggest that the women be "believing mirrors" for one another- so when they looked at one another they would see their own potential and inner beauty reflected back.

Anonymous said...

Lord (God, Heaven) helps those (them) who help themselves.