“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
We all have a hero buried somewhere within us. For most of us this hero lies dormant, expressionless and cut off from the world. To connect with it is to begin the difficult path toward individuation and self-actualization.
We, the hero initiates, discover our hidden hero through an inward journey broken up into four stages. This article covers the fourth stage: the encounter with the Inner Shadow.
As we grow into full initiation with our heroic self, we become more vigilant with our inner power. The further we grow into individuation, the more profound our soul becomes; the more profound our soul, the mightier our light; but the mightier our light, the more vast our shadow.
“One of the least discussed issues of individuation,” writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “is that as one shines light into the dark of the psyche as strongly as one can, the shadows, where the light is not, grow even darker.”
As such, it is very important that we embrace, rather than suppress, these shadows. Indeed, we should cultivate, rather than conquer, our darker sides. The herald taught us courage, the mentor taught us wisdom, the trickster taught us humor, but the shadow teaches us how to be fierce with all three.
The shadow is a major part of our inner state, typically dwelling in our subconscious. It is a culmination of our deepest fears, shames, regrets, and judgments, as well as our greatest power, our hidden beauty, and our sacred self.
Those who are always tenderly wrestling and negotiating with their own shadow are the ones who are able to bring these hidden dimensions to light. They wrestle with their deepest fear in order to transform it into higher courage.
They struggle with their shame and regret in order to transform them into prestige and serenity. They negotiate with their anger in order to transform it into strength. Most important of all, those who daily grapple with their innermost darkness become the brightest beacons of hope for other people. Like mighty lighthouses of soul, they shine brightest in the dark.
“Angry people want you to see how powerful they are,” said Chief Red Eagle. “Loving people want you to see how powerful you are.”
When we bottle up our emotions, suppress our anger, repress our pain, or avoid our shame, we become unbalanced and angry. But by simply being present with our anger, pain, and shame, and by meditating on the Root, Sacral, and Solar Plexus chakras, we transform ourselves. One of the most powerful actions we can take to intervene in a stormy world is to face our own storm.
That way we are able to stand up and bare our soul for others. Cultivating our shadow teaches us how to become a shining light despite an almost overwhelming darkness. Surfaced Souls shine like diamonds in dark times.
Their light throws off mighty sparks, causing other souls to become lit. This is the result of embodying our inner darkness. This is the power of the self-actualized shadow.
We live in a time of frightening separation and terrifying dissociation. The disenchanted cosmos is the shadow of the modern egocentric mind, which has culminated in unsustainable economic systems that create massive islands of waste and refuse, and the destruction of entire ecosystems.
As Victor Hugo said, “Sacrificing the earth for paradise is giving up the substance for the shadow.” Let’s not give up our substance for the shadow.
Let’s transform the shadow into substance. We need heroes now more than ever. We need beacons of hope to shine their light through the darkness. We need mighty bonfires to flare up and connect the disconnected.
We, the hero initiates, have become those heroes. Through our encounter with our inner herald, our inner mentor, our inner trickster, and now our inner shadow, we have now become spiritual warriors of the first order.
Like Hattori Hanzo said in the movie Kill Bill: “If on your journey, you should encounter God, God will be cut.”
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