We all have a ‘shadow’ side. Our personal ‘shadow’ is made up of the parts of ourselves that we do not accept and do not want to see. Our shadow is rooted in shame, by our sense of being basically unworthy or deficient as we are.
When we run from our shadow, it then becomes an unhelpful force in our psyche because the more we try to hide from certain parts of ourselves the more it ramps up the feeling that we are unworthy and deficient.
And it is these rejected and unseen parts of ourselves that are the source of much of our neurosis and personal suffering.
So by running from our shadow it prolongs our suffering, keeps us stuck in unhelpful conditioning and stops us from attending to the parts of ourselves that most need our attention and healing.
It’s a downward spiral.
There is an old Buddhist story about this that serves as both a warning and a wake up.
The man who never stopped running
Long ago, there was a man who was afraid of his own shadow that he tried to run away from it. But of course, no matter how fast he ran or how far he went, his shadow always kept pace.
He thought he could never be happy unless he got rid of his shadow, so he ran faster and faster until finally he was so exhausted that he dropped dead.
He didn’t understand that if he had only relaxed and sat down to rest in the shade, his shadow would have naturally disappeared and he could have been at ease.
This story offers us a metaphor for how to work with our own personal shadow side.
Bringing the light of awareness into the dark places
Through meeting our shadow material with mindfulness and compassion we can learn to stop running from it and rest in self acceptance, wisdom, and inner strength.
In this way we awaken to greater self awareness and we respond to our life with more authenticity, intention, compassion and courage.
For instance, it is only through seeing our own unconscious biases and prejudices that we can overcome them.
It is only through seeing the ways that we shut down that we can learn to open our hearts again, and it is only when we shine light into the dark places within and see where we are stuck in fear, defensiveness, hate or ignorance that we can finally have a choice to rise above them and embrace true freedom and peace of mind.
As the old saying goes “the seeing is freeing”.
This week’s invitation: Don’t run, rest in love
So my invitation for this week is to not let shame or fear keep you running from your shadow. Bring mindfulness, compassion and unconditional acceptance to it instead.
Know that it’s safe to stop and to acknowledge and embrace ALL of your humanity. All the crazy, all the flaws, all the beauty, all the weird stuff and the wounded parts. See if you can embrace it all in an unconditional loving awareness.
It’s not always comfortable or easy looking at the parts of ourselves that we’d rather not see but it’s well worth the effort because in doing so we stop the battle with ourselves, let go of so much unnecessary suffering and finally find a place of mental strength, balance, calm and ease.