Have you ever wondered what your shadow is? How to find your shadow? What it means to even be aware of it? This has been a recurring conversation within myself lately. As I look out into the world and experience what seems like extreme polarization, I have been wondering how to find the balance within myself. That which I definitely perceive as being NOT ME and that which I am willing to own as MINE. How do I reconcile this in my exploration of the ONE?
As always, I bring this to my body and find a way to dance it out. Here is what I have to come to. Feel free to play with your version of it, in fact, please do. The more each person owns their stuff, the less it gets warped out into the Uni-verse (the ONE song). My shadow, as far as I can tell, is comprised of parts of me I cannot see, parts of me I am not willing to see, and parts of me I project onto others. The first one, the parts I cannot see, I will leave for last. Clearly, what is not shadow is who I think I am, who I aspire to be, and all those parts of me I feel cool with. My ego likes these. The easiest of the shadow for me to see, and often the most infuriating and humbling, is the parts I project onto others. The stronger I feel about these, the more I know it is my shadow appearing to me as the other. When I get triggered, when I really hate or really love, I know I am looking at another myself. The ones I am not willing to see are not as easy to identify, this requires some self-inquiry and yet, I know I meet these when I vehemently assert that I am NOT those things. The parts I cannot see are the ones I offer to God/dess and pray for willingness to embrace the mystery. The wholeness of the unknown.
Here is a simple story of a shadow interaction I have almost every day walking my dogs. We have two dogs, Duke and Flash. (As I talk about my dogs, imagine I am actually telling you about myself). Duke is super sweet and will roll over for a belly rub in a second. He is a world class hunting dog most days and is also a little bit of a scardy cat. He is scared of thunder and rain. He is also a coffee addict and sometimes forgoes a belly rub to run to the nearest half empty coffee cup on the table and get some licks in before we shout him down. Flash is a force of nature. He is a dog’s dog and is bonded to my husband only. Only has eyes for him. He pulls on the leash as if the leash was an inconvenience, he’s got places to go and things to eat. He still gets so excited about a dish of dog food, even though it is the same thing we fed him last night and yesterday morning. These two dogs love each other as only dogs can. I am often the one who gets to walk them in the morning. As I let them out of the kennel that they sleep in (in our kitchen), they pour out of it like Niagara Falls. Duke runs to see if we dropped any food under the counters. Flash checks the food bowl. I am frantically trying to get leashes on them. Finally the leashes are on and the tug of war begins. Back door open and Flash begins the pull, Duke hangs back… he does not like me upset. However he is also really controlling the urge to bolt. I can feel it. This happens every day, and yet every day, I have this idea that today I will control them. Every day, I am deeply disappointed. Somehow I get the back door closed and am propelled onto the back lawn where they get to have their first pee. This requires a lot of adjusting and readjusting that usually ends up with Duke peeing on Flash’s head to make sure he is marking right in the same place. And somehow the leashes are wrapped around my legs in a way that leave me doing gymnastics in order to get free before they are done peeing and bolting down the driveway. Okay, enough! Suffice to say that by the time I get back from the walk and am feeding them I am feeling not so much love for them and really frustrated at my inability to keep them under control, remorse for the mean thoughts I am having, and the way the walk has exposed my inner peace for the raging volcano that it actually is . And yet, all I am doing is walking the dogs.
That there is my shadow, full blown for me to explore. Are the dogs doing all that to me or am I doing it to myself? Humbling. Illuminating.
I have been developing a practice around these morning walks where, instead of imagining that I will not feel what I feel, I imagine the dog walk as my time to be of service to the dogs and to my inner dogs as well. I allow all that emerges, all that I feel to bubble up and I meet is as if I were meeting disavowed parts of myself. All the things I feel on this morning dog walk are things I feel all the time. Sometimes I get to laughing out loud about this. The hubris that I can actually control my animal nature, the frustration when things pull me in ways I do not want to go, my impatience with the parts of me that want to stop and smell the moment, the way I feel other’s needs infringe on my time… I am showing you parts of me I am more than a little ashamed of.
The shadow is not all bad… or rather, stuff I would rather hide away. What I also find on these walks is a deep admiration for the boundless energy each of the dogs expresses. The way they are so excited to smell things and eat things and meet the wind. I love the way Flash can make a poop and then turn towards the house wherever we are on the walk as if to say… okay, I am done, now lets go eat. He knows what he wants and he goes for it. I admire that. It falls to me to redirect him until we get a poop out of Duke too. That does not keep Flash from repeating his reorienting over and over. Imagine me walking down the road and doing a 360 as I bring the leash over my head pulling back in the direction I want to go. (Tell me you have never done this with a mental loop.) I admire that in him. Duke will lift his nose sometimes in the graceful way only and English Setter can and grab something out of the air that makes me wish I had his nose! What is it? Turkeys? Woodcock? Turtles? Deer? Bacon? I don’t know, I don’t smell it. And with that momentary gesture, he becomes part of my senses, an extension of me, showing me things my humanl body cannot perceive.
Next week (Full Moon), I will share how I explore my shadow through dancing. But now, I need to go walk the dogs.