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I learned from me experience of stopping smoking that my way is to see what is no longer working, help myself to renounce it without guilt or being driven or shame- it is just time to do this. And since then to ask deeper questions– where did this come from, why is it here, how to do a difficult thing and my process is one where the habitual actions, thoughts, sensations, desires, etc don’t just disappear for me, the seem to dwindle and then every now and again come back. And to say hello to them when they do, watch them come and go.
I had no idea what this was so I needed to look this up:
What is the gift of the shadow?
Most of those references do not refer to the literal definition of the word but use the term as a metaphor for what is known as the dark side of one’s personality that includes those aspects or tendencies that are considered unattractive or even destructive by society.
When I read this I think of the devil, I think about “what would Jesus do” in certain circumstances and I think of what my faith has taught me.
I believe in doing what is “good” and “right”. I also pray and hope that the dark side of life doesn’t cross my path.
I think question is over my head too. I actually find delight in observing the shadows many things make. I think of it as the creative process or art. Look around at the shadows from trees, things in your house, or someone you love and see what you think.
I like your perspective Rabbit:)
Perhaps seeing it as it is, accepting it as it is and being open to understanding what gives it energy and what keeps it quiet.
I am currently reading Start Where You Are – A Guide to Compassionate Living, by Pema Chodron. It is a wonderful introduction to practices of how to ‘identify and integrate the gifts of the shadow’. We have a group of 19 and a skillful teacher who is leading a lively weekly conversation. Curiously, another group in our community are following the daily reflections of Richard Rohr.
I stumbled on Tara Brach’s tonglen meditation, which I find helpful, and / or daily meditation, journalling, drawing, writing … Can’t wait to read A Wrinkle in Time!
I am going to write a response before seeing what other people have said because I am a little unclear on the meaning of “shadow” here. I am taking it to mean, perhaps, the aspects of myself that I don’t acknowledge.
I know that I can be more withdrawn than I’d like to be. I am actually starting to work on changing that, but I have considered that it has benefits. I think of people that I have casual, passing interactions with. I make a point of being courteous with those people, but I am usually perfunctory in my interactions. Part of me believes that they might like it more if I was catty and gregarious. They are full individuals just like I am, and maybe we could really hit it off if we talked about something that interests them. I believe that being interested in others in that way demonstrates respect that can be quite touching.
However, I can recall many times that people had interactions with me that I would prefer they hadn’t. Not everybody wants to talk or share information. I also think that I strike deeper relationships as a result of being more withdrawn. Not everybody needs to be the loudest voice in the room. Listening has value as well.
I think the meaning of life is always about growing in self-awareness. It took many years for me to realize that fact and examine my intentions. My mentor use to say, “We are here to integrate our insides and our outsides.” And so, in all situations, I do my best to analyze both my outer and inner reaction and not resist what it is teaching me. According to the Oxford Dictionary, to integrate is to “combine (one thing) with another so that they become a whole.” Acceptance of one’s self is key. Until I did that, I could only see the negatives and not the gifts of my ‘shadow.’ I often remind myself that ‘willingness’ is my job. I have found that ‘willingness’ keeps my mind and heart open–my insides and my outsides in harmony. I’ve found that Life is trustworthy and so am I.
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I do love this question and it is indeed quite thought provoking. Coincidentally (or not!) Richard Rohr’s daily reflection today was on this very topic of the “shadow self”. Here is his description of this very real part of our very real selves:
“The shadow is that part of the self that we don’t want to see, we don’t want others to see, and of which we are always afraid”
It can also be thought of as our ego. Most assuredly, the things that bug us about other people are the very things that are part of ourselves that we have not fully accepted and made peace with.
Peg Ora’s response is the key to answering this question….but I do agree the question is worded strangely.
Meditation, journaling, prayer have all helped me on my journey towards wholeness…which includes noticing and accepting with compassion my truest self, warts and all! As Peg Ora said so beautifully…..in doing so for ourselves, we may then extend compassion towards the “shadow sides” of others.
Om Shanti friends 🙏
As I notice parts of myself I initially deem “unacceptable,” I strive to embrace them compassionately & patiently, just as I would do for others’ shadow sides.
Peg Ora….I love your response. So succinctly put…I can carry it with me throughout the day. Thank you.
I’m new to the concept of the Shadow.
Having just finished reading “The Tools”
and “Coming Alive”, I’m assuming
this is what the question is referring to.
Thank you for the reminder to dig
deeper into the concept and put it
Good morning and Tuesday greetings to my friend Diane! I hope that all is well with you and your family. We have had every kind of weather here in the midwest over the past couple of months, and I am missing the outdoors. I am always grateful to have a book to read as part of my morning routine.
Many blessings to you and your family!
Good morning Pilgrim:
Here in Colorado we have had every kind of weather as well. It seems to me the whole country is experiencing this!
This morning, I awoke to a deep fog, which I find hauntingly beautiful. Snow is covering our landscape and I just now am greeting a large herd of deer that had bedded down under the pine trees in the open space behind our home. They are now having their breakfast…nibbling on the pine trees and other foliage peeking out from under the blanket of snow..
The fog and the deer both feel like a big morning hug from the Divine.
~Blessings dear friend 🙏
I don’t seem to be able to grasp the meaning of today’s question. I understand what a shadow is…and from the replies of others…it seems that it may be our dark side. As Maeve suggested I may look for the book “A Wrinkle in Time”. If my shadow is my dark side…anger, impatience, judgemental..well I don’t want that to be a part of me. I acknowledge those characters and I TRY very hard to overcome them…but now I realize with this question..that those “shadows” are indeed a part of me…and I part that I want to be better. Not sure I got this question…but it is the best my brain can make this rainy morning.
Nannette…I think your brain did just fine!
I highly recommend “A Wrinkle In Time” and so glad Maeve shared it.
I really like this question. Who has read Madeleine L’Engel’s YA fantasy book “ A Wrinkle in Time” ? This question is addressed in the book in a creative and wonderful way. I always identified with Meg, the protagonist. In the story the angels or messengers give her the “gift of your faults” which in her case are impatience, anger and fierce determination. I loved this book, because those are faults I carry.
To me this means accepting and even embracing my dark side: those aspects of me that I don’t like, that are seen as negative. I and all of us have our shadow side, and when I clearly acknowledge this it makes room for transformation. Not to mention compassion for the faults of others.
Thank you so much for mentioning ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ as addressing this in a ‘creative and wonderful way’. I will pick up a copy at my local library today!
I also appreciate your simple explanation of embracing our shadow as ‘accepting and even embracing my dark side: those aspects of me that I don’t like, that are often seen as negative… when I clearly acknowledge this it makes room for transformation. Not to mention compassion for the faults of others’.
Yes! Simple, but not easy …
Maeve, Thank you, Key word in your response for me is ‘transformation.’ I have come to accept my job as willingness and God’s job as ‘transformation.’ Metaphorically said, Without willingness, without open mind and heart, God’s/Life’s hands are tied!
Thank you for sharing “A Wrinkle In Time” as a means of clarifying this concept. Everyone should read this book in my opinion…it is a timeless classic and personally it holds a special place in my and my daughters hearts.
I love how you so succinctly described the shadow self and the importance of acknowledging and accepting, which “makes room for transformation…not to mention compassion for the faults of others”.
Grateful for all the responses to this question…they are so authentic and courageous.
I have no answer to this specific question, as studying my shadow is not something I’ve spent time deliberating. The question did bring back childhood memories, however, as in the 50s there was a lot of outdoor playing. There were many kids in neighborhoods back then. One of our games was shadow tag. If we could stomp on someone’s shadow, they were “out” for that round of the game. One of our many amusements. Another was Red Rover. Always something going on! (See the movie Now and Then … good examples there.)
As I get older I seem to more easily spot those traits in me that I would rather not have — impatient, eg0-centric, judgmental — yet am quick to criticize in others. I’ve improved at accepting these and other shadows within me. That in turn has made me less critical of others. We’re all a mixed bag of light and dark. But I have not evolved enough to see those shadows as gifts, as Carla put it so well for herself, much less integrate them.
Although, shadows are gifts in the sense that they have helped inch me toward their opposites. In accepting my own impatience, for example, my patience has increased.
The question is a toughie. Worthy of a much longer and deeper response. Maybe I’ll explore this later today in a journal entry.
Laura…it is a toughy! I appreciate your thoughtful response…all you shared really resonated with me…thank you.
I think that this “shadow work” is something that comes with age. Richard Rohr speaks of the “second half of life” as a time when we are more able and ready to do this work. At age 67 I am just beginning to understand and embrace the “mixed bag” that is me!
Thank you, Diane. I believe the Rohr book is “Falling Upward.” I read it a few years ago. Maybe I should reread it, after “Wrinkle in Time.” 😉
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