What does it mean to Embrace Your Shadow?

ON October 28, 2016

by Sariah Jiwan Shakti 

Kundalini Yoga is an ancient yogic technology that helps us heal, strengthen, and cleanse our body as well as balance our mind and our Ego. It brings together all of the different branches of yoga into one practice that will quickly and powerfully transform your life. The thing about high speed transformation is that it can often feel uncomfortable and messy. As we heal our nervous system from past trauma, the residual emotions come up so they can be cleared. Sounds fun, right? Navigating this kind of mass clearing might feel daunting and even a little scary. Fun isn’t quite the thing that comes to mind! However, on the other side of that is freedom, clarity, more creativity and joy and those things may seem a bit more attractive, and yes, can lead to fun!

I’m excited to speak about these things because I’ve been there and personally experienced the messiness, freedom, and joy in transformation. But it definitely wasn’t always easy. When I was going through my Kundalini Yoga teacher training I experienced a lot of irrational anger. All of my suppressed childhood anger was coming to the surface with a vengeance my target became my teacher. I wrapped up all of that angst and frustration, stuffed it into a ball and lobbed it right at his Ego. It was perfect. One day I flat out told him that I didn’t like him. As I waited with my foot in my mouth for him to ultimately dislike me back, he said, “Sariah, where there is a bright light, there is a dark shadow.” This comment has always stuck with me and I’ve often shared it with friends and students when they are grappling with their shadow self. It helped me realize that in him was darkness and light as well as myself. I also realized that my suppressed shadow was projecting judgements onto my teacher as away to find some relief. Classic stuff.

As humans we have strong polarities or opposite forces within us with the most obvious being left and right hemispheres of the brain, masculine and feminine, and positive and negative charges. We have acidic and alkaline qualities within us, we experience hot and cold, high energy and low energy, we are awake and then we are asleep, and I could go on. Often times we equate our dark side or shadow self to the negative and the light side to the positive. Our brains often go to this place of negative = bad and positive = good. However, I want to invite you to take on a different perspective as you read through this. Because all of the polarities within us make up our whole self and allow us to function and on this earth plane, let’s allow both dark and light, positive and negative to be a perfect part of who we are, not good or bad, just part of our Is-ness. That being said, why does our shadow self often seem so intense, negative, and something that we want to push away, or has consumed such a large part of who we are, there is no room for the light?

Let’s explore what the shadow really is according to Carl Jung. Jungian psychology teaches us that the shadow aspect of who we are refers to an unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself. It’s the least desirable parts of ourself and so our conscious mind tends to push those away and make them largely negative storing them away in the subconscious. Jung says, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”Sariah Jiwan Shakti

So the more we push away this often labeled negative part of ourselves and do not give space for it to express in our conscious life in healthy constructive ways, the more destructive it can become taking up so much space there is not much room for the light to get in. This may manifest as chronic depression, addiction, angry rages, or deep internalized anger that contorts the personality. Ultimately, in it’s most extreme form, if this shadow is not expressed, someone may cause harm themselves or others.

When the shadow aspect of ourselves is causing us to self destruct, we become cut off from our connection to spirit, GOD, soul, and our pure creative playful nature – The Light. The good news is that humans are inherently heliotropic which means we are constantly reorienting towards the light. Even in our darkest times with enough digging we can find an ember within us that if stoked will turn into a bright fire. Why? Because one cannot exist without the other. Dark cannot exist without the light and vice versa. So where there is darkness there will always be light.

How can we embrace our shadow, love it, and transmute it into light? What does a healthy relationship with our shadow self even look like? How can we start to cultivate a loving relationship the perceived negative parts of ourselves so we can become more balanced, have more room for our light, and ultimately shine bright, be big, and connected to our soul’s creativity?

1. Practice Allowing All to BE

When you notice that you are experiencing some uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, images, or sensations in the body, give yourself some space experience this energy. Breathe deep into your body, allow it all to be with you instead of labeling your experience as wrong or bad. Recognize that these darker emotions are here to give you information about what you need to improve your experience. As you allow all to be with you, remain open and notice if new, more constructive thoughts, impulses, and ideas come to you. Notice if your body begins to relax and release. Remain open without attachment to the outcome.

2. Play with Your Shadow

Are there some safe, fun, and inspiring ways for you to express and play with your shadow? Perhaps there is a loud, aggressive rock band you want to go and dance to. Maybe a costume or outfit you want to rock at a party that expresses your shadow self. Maybe you go out to a secluded place in the woods and throw rocks and scream obscenities and all of your dark thoughts to release them and ground them in the earth? Creating art and music is a great way to express your shadow self, channel this aspect of your subconscious self into something dark, beautiful, and inspiring for others. Find a friend, teacher, or coach to help you work more constructively with this energy.

3. Practice Yoga, Meditation and Prayer

Yoga and meditation are the fast train to getting into your subconscious mind, clearing out the old, and changing old pattern behavior that does not serve your highest good and your light-being self. Prayer is a way to connect with the God consciousness within you that trumps all darkness and will instantly bring the light. Surrender the destruction of the shadow to God and your Higher Self. Prayer also provides the energetic support you need to pull yourself out of a funk. Yoga will strengthen your nervous system and when you have a strong nervous system, it is easier to take a pause, a breath and be with the shadow so you can metabolize the bad feeling emotions.

4. Celebrate and Shine Your Light

When you notice that your dark energy has shifted to more lightness, celebrate this! A great way to recognize this is if you notice your system has gone from feeling tight to feeling big and expansive. Make it a point to smile at others and say nice things. Share your experience, your grace, and the brightness that is within you. Know that all good things, dreams, goals, and visions come from within you. External circumstances do not get to dictate how you feel. Allow your inner light to shine outward and create all of the good things in the world your unique self is here to create!

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2 thoughts on “What does it mean to Embrace Your Shadow?

  1. Thanks Sariah for writing this beautiful article. I even began to see the dim hope and light in front of me as soon as I started reading your article.

    The shadow is identifiable in my life. Often when I was stimulated by different forces outside, the shadow pull me back to a tight and saddened place where I naively or habitually thought I could find peace. However, it is just one ignorance leading to another illusion. I wish I could find peace and openness by boosting my ego so that the vulnerable self can hide behind formidable walls. Nevertheless, the shadow is restrained within the walls as well, close to my heart without the reach of light.

    I hope by yoga practice I could somehow open up the wall, letting go of the ego and beginning to shine light from outside to my deep inside.

  2. I have gone by the name of Shadow for over twenty years now. Every single hit on a google search brings up negative things for the Shadow self. I am not a dark person, depressed or suffereing; Im not morbid or in denial, or extra fluffy either. Im just me. Happy and laid back, accepting of all my good and not so good.
    The name Shadow sounded quite nice at first; but over time I realised it may have been having a powerful effect on my growth spiritually. Everything ‘shadow’ is always seen as negative… so for this reason Im finding a new name. Nothing has appealed to me yet and it has been years of searching.
    Everyone I meet seems to like the name, no one sees it as weird or dark… just me. Am I looking at this all wrong? Could I keep this name and be just fine? I’d love to know your thoughts. Im sick of everyone saying how ‘cool’ it is.!! 🙁

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