Falling In; Facing the Shadow

We can’t Namaste the shadow away.

The fall equinox is associated with harvest time and preparing for winter. Spiritually, we in the northern hemisphere can take advantage of this time of shorter days and longer nights as an opportunity to “fall in,” to take a deep dive into ourselves and explore the vast and, for the most part, uncharted territory within.

My friend Michael Lennox, an author and astrologer, points to the time between two eclipses—in this case, the partial solar eclipse on September 13 and the Super Blood Moon eclipse on September 27—as a wormhole. We enter it one way and emerge in another, often dramatically different, space. Eclipses are about shadows. This is a powerful time to shine light on whatever has been eclipsed from awareness.

What has been lurking in the shadow of our subconscious? That stuff we are avoiding—personally and collectively—as we look the other way or attempt to sweep it under the rug because we don’t want to rock the boat or face conflict? Guess what: it’s not going away. And the longer we ignore it, the worse it’s going to get.

We can only numb out or self-medicate for so long, as we try and turn a blind eye to #BlackLivesMatter, the Syrian refugee crisis, or our burgeoning environmental crisis: rising seas, super storms, drought and floods.

At the personal level, falling in and facing the shadow means that we are willing to look at aspects of ourselves that we have rejected because they don’t fit our ideas of how we should be. These ideas usually stem from misunderstandings and conditioning, from faulty conclusions we made about ourselves at a young age when we didn’t know any better. As long as we refuse to look at this stuff, healing and growth cannot happen. Facing the shadow of our wounded pasts does not mean we wallow in pain or get stuck in “poor me.” Often we are afraid that if we allow ourselves to really feel what’s inside, it would be like unleashing an endless, incapacitating avalanche of grief, or a terrifying geyser of rage. Instead, we stuff it.

The problem is that suppressed sadness turns into depression. Stuffed anger morphs into rage. Making matters worse, all that suppressed emotional energy has to come out somewhere, and starts showing up in bodily symptoms: ulcers, cancer, heart attacks.

There is an end to suffering.

I have experienced and witnessed that countless times throughout my 25 years of facilitating transformational work. And I have yet to come across a more effective healing practice than breathwork, which, among other things, intensifies and accelerates the process of clearing the shadow stuff. It works, and it works fast. I have witnessed many people heal a wide variety of past traumas—including sexual abuse and rape—as well as clear impediments to self-worth and happiness.

Being willing to face the shadow is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it is the stuff of heroes. To dive deep and deal with stuff we don’t want to feel and look at stuff that we don’t want to see, requires courage. It’s a lot easier to suppress, ignore, deny, self-medicate, act as if. The prize, however, is freedom, peace of mind, and an improved quality of life. With subconscious blocks removed we have an actual chance at relationships that work and rich, fulfilling lives of meaning and purpose.

In the ultimate sense, everything is “love and light.” But we cannot leap over the unpleasant stuff. We can’t Namaste the shadow away. Many on the spiritual path have a tendency to deny the shadow, by checking out in various ways or by focusing only on the light. Yet, as Adrienne Rich illuminates in her poem “Power,” recently featured in the film “Wild,” our wounds come from the same source as our power.

Going in is the way out.

What gifts and abilities have we been stuffing down into the closet of our subconscious? What old and tired limiting beliefs and self-defeating behavior patterns are we ready to release? It’s time to fall in.

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