Yesterday I participated in a newly conceptualized version of Tent Shaking.  Joe Hiscott was the facilitator. Often, Aboriginal people criticize the non-aboriginal population for taking over their ceremonies and spiritual practices and bastardizing them (often replicating practices without the spiritual elements of the practice).  Many are offended by white people who study and practice as shamans.  At one level, I think it is valuable to consider the intent in following such a practice.  On the other hand, I have been embraced and invited into practice by many Aboriginal healers.  The Dalai Lama promotes the principles and practices of Buddhism regardless of race and creed. Joe was very good about integrating the experiences he had with bushmen into an experience for Westerners.  Was it a pure and traditional tent shake? No, but it was a powerful and intense opportunity to be with the Divine, with the wisdom of our bodies and to experience spiritual Oneness with the divine spirit of love in each other.

The Shake looks like a group hug, from the outside.  It is people becoming aware of the flow of Spirit in their bodies and letting themselves be moved to heal and be healed through touch.  For a Westerner, it requires breaking through a lot of ego defenses.  But that is what healing is anyway.

Like most experiences of energy work and ritual, my unfolding often comes after the event.  At times in the shake, I was aware of my shadow emotions emerging.  I felt rejection, aloneness, abandonment, jealousy, rage and of course, anxiety. 


William Lee Rand, a noted leader in Reiki, says "It is not just the conscious mind that is creating our reality, but our unconscious mind as well. The unconscious mind has a powerful influence on our decisions, our communication with others and especially on our body language. It also expresses directly through our energy field and by working in combination with the previously mentioned influences has a major effect on our total life experience. The unconscious mind can have both healthy and unhealthy aspects and it is the unhealthy aspects that are often called the Shadow Self. By working through the power of the unconscious mind, the Shadow Self is responsible for creating our unwanted experiences. Therefore, the only meaningful way to prevent unwanted experiences from taking place is by getting to know the Shadow Self and then to help it heal." 

In conflict resolution, we often draw on the work of Carl Jung, who is credited with developing the idea of the Shadow Self.  We know that it is usually the person who seems most opposite to us that triggers our conflict issues.  Rand also says "If we want to get to know our Shadow Self, all we need to do is look at the condition of our life.  Unwanted experiences are actually a reflection of our own Shadow Self.  This means that if there is someone in your personal life that you have strong negative feelings about and wish would go away, it is your Shadow Self that has attracted them to you and caused you to feel the way you do toward them.  And in fact, it is likely that the characteristics of this unwanted person that you dislike the most are characteristics of your Shadow Self. In other words, you have these same or similar traits within you."

Jung wrote, “To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light.  Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self.  Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle” (Jung, 1959, p. 872).

There is a saying among energy workers: That which I resist, persists.  On one hand, it speaks to the energy we put into resisting something, which in effect feeds it and attracts it to us.  On the other hand, when it is our Shadow Self, it means we are deliberately suppressing a part of our ego, a part of us that can be a sign post to where we need to go next to live more fully in our spiritual magnificence.  Deborah Eidson says "The shadow self is what sabotages our relationships, jobs, it denies our spirit, keeps us from realizing our destiny and dreams. It is what we sweep under the rug. It gets buried and repressed into our deep unconscious self. The shadow is what we don't want to be. It seems so horrible and grotesque feeding into our greatest fear that someone might discover our dark shameful secret --- further repressing it. Hiding what's inside gives it power, because we don't have the power to choose --- we just react. It is the voice that says we are unloved, undeserving, unworthy, keeping us from what we want or desire. It shows itself through our projection of judgements on others. What we don't own about ourselves we project onto other people. It is the only way to get our attention. terrified of discover the ego disowns it and uses the tool of judgement to protect itself --- but only prevents self-realization. When you don't own an aspect of your life --- it runs your life."

So, now what? I am crawling out of my skin from these aspects of myself, and want to rage and yell and run from them.  But the part of me that is wise, and aware, and loving, is staying resolute in the need to move into the Shadow.

In “The Mindfulness Solution,” Siegel provides a simple exercise to begin to identify your shadow self:

  • Make a list of 5 positive qualities that you see yourself as having (e.g., compassionate, generous, witty, etc.)
  • Look at each positive quality that you wrote down – describe its opposite (e.g., unfeeling, stingy, dull, etc.)
  • Picture a person who embodies these negative qualities vividly in your mind.  Roughly, this is your shadow.

And then what? Sit with it.  Love it.  Accept it.  The soul and the ego are not the same thing.  The soul has the capacity to see this aspect of ego as a story.  The same way we are attracted to the struggle of the hero who has a fatal flaw looking for redemption in books and movies (e.g. vampires, Seven Years in Tibet, even James Bond!), we have that capacity to look at the Shadow Self as a sign post for where the healing has to go next.  It was always there.  Just now you are ready to gaze into its eyes.

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