Shadow Work: A Study of the Dark

I have been noticing an overall trend in new age and pagan literature to focus only on light work, on raising your energies to this so called higher plane of light. There seems to be this lingering trend left over from other religions where all things not love, peace, and charity are considered to be “evil”. As we know, the world is not so black and white. As pagans, we should know better than to think that there are such things as good and evil. Any study of nature will reveal that our universe is simply shades of grey.

What I fear, is that people doing all this love and light work will one day be left with an inability to handle situations where they have to deal with things like anger, hate, and violence. Have you ever truly felt hate or been on the receiving end of it? It’s a nasty feeling and actually hurts you physically as well as emotionally. Sure, you can try to deny it by going to your so called happy place but that won’t stop it from existing and being dealt with.

I have been reading a book on shamanism and in it, they authors are trying to show you ways to deal with what they consider to be negative feelings, emotions, and thoughts by transforming them into positive feelings, emotions, and thoughts. The core problem with this transformative process is first of all is assuming that any feeling, emotion, or thought is bad or negative. They are only bad because our society believes them to be bad but inherently they are neither good nor bad, they just are. In all honestly, we shouldn’t be trying to transform these feelings, emotions, and thoughts, we should be trying to learn to sit and deal with them.

I am a huge advocate for meditation and I have only recently been learning to journey. I believe that my foundation in meditation taught in my yoga teacher training has helped me to journey on more of a level playing field. In my journey work, I am rarely met with any negative experiences, nor and I met with anything that would be considered to be positive either, they are just experiences. It’s likely that because I don’t adhere to the concept of “sins” that I don’t carry that with me into journeys into my unconsciousness.

I know that I could receive backlash for my beliefs but I don’t believe that anything we do in this life will actually effect what happens to us when we die. Do I believe in an afterlife? I sure do. Do I believe that our afterlife will be a reflection of this world? No, I don’t. I have no idea what’s waiting for my atoms once the electrical impulses of my body stop flowing. I know biologically what will happen to me and I know that due to the conservation of energy, I as I currently am in this form, will simply cease to be. What I will become, I have no idea. I am okay with that, I have no fear of it. Death and I have become friends but it’s not like I am in a huge rush to join her.

What I do fear, is not enjoying this life while I have it. I am about to turn thirty five and I still feel like I have so much more to experience while I am still young enough to enjoy it. I have spent the last five years focusing on getting my life in order. I have leveled out my finances, become more healthy, and affirmed my beliefs. I have reached a point where all I want to do is just experience life and enjoy what it has to offer.

As some who has one foot in the realm of rationality and the other in the realm of imagination, I find that if you look at the world through both lenses, you see that there’s more to experience than just what your senses can tell you. I have tried to be the most rational, objective, scientific person but I found that there are some questions that might never have answers that science can answer for us in our lifetime and when it comes to seeking answers to those questions, I find that being subjective and imaginative is better. We can paint a picture of what it might be and dream of the day when we might have the scientific answers for it. I don’t mind using mythology and story as methods of viewing our universe and our place in it.

I love journey work and getting to spend some focused time in my subconscious to learn what it has to reveal to me. To anyone who has decided to explore journey work in their pagan practice, I will be the first to tell you that any experience that you have there, is just as legitimate any you will have with your senses. While some in the realm of rationality will tell you that it isn’t real, what you experience in your subconscious is as real as any dream that you have while you sleep. Dreams have always been an important part of my practice, it’s why my second name is “Dreamweaver”. Dreams don’t have to make sense and neither does journey work but there’s no denying that when you do journey work there is something happening inside of you and changes are taking place.

Doing soul retrievals and other parts of shadow work can be as therapeutic as going to see an actual therapist but the trouble is you need to know your own mindscape before you can begin to do the real transformative work. Many people rush into witchcraft and meditation thinking that it’s going to be some kind of magical cure that will fix you by casting spells and concentrating. There’s a saying that I like – energy goes where energy flows. This means, what you put your energy into is where your energy ends up. This means, if you want to make interest changes, you need to make both an internal and external effort to make the change, you can’t just rely on the “magic” to do the work for you. This means, that you will need to face the darkness of past events and not hide from them or ignore them. If you do that, they will just keep following you around until you do face them.

Ignoring traumas and pain can sometimes lead to large mental illness such as nervous breakdowns, depression, and anxiety. No one gets through life unscathed by events and we all have some trauma to work through. How we choose to face that trauma will dictate what happens to our minds, bodies, and souls. I am a full advocate of going to therapy for seeking assistance for any trauma you have experienced, even trauma caused by chemical imbalances in your own body. I am also a firm believer in anyone’s ability to overcome these traumas with help and courage.

Face your shadows and you will come through the other-side a stronger person able to handle whatever life throws at you. Know that there is always support out there for you, sometimes that support is your social network and sometimes it’s your spiritual network. I like to think of my spirit guides as my spiritual network, there to help me when I have internal work to do.