I think to many people who know me on the internet, I live some sort of mythical life.
I get to spend a lot of time in nature in beautiful places, I receive amazing spiritual insights from beyond a realm that can be seen, and I also willingly and freely share that love openly with the world.
Yet, this is only a fractured part of my identity: it is this spiritual identity that I’ve chosen to show to the world and is completely missing a huge aspect of myself and my journey that it took to get here.
I remember around 2013 reading a quote “every saint has a past and every criminal has a future” and relating to it so deeply. I had been in the pits of the deepest and darkest addictions and trauma for years, a path that I chose because I was unwilling to take steps to heal my pain. Actually, I did choose: I chose escapism. It’s a popular choice.
Around 2013, I finally took the step to live again. I did yoga and meditated every day. I focused on eating vegan and avoiding things with chemicals, I took a lot of supplements and I took up a regular exercise routine. It seemed to everyone on the outside that things were all working out. Yet, something in me was still deeply unhappy with who I was, and to be honest, until a couple weeks ago – I was still unhappy with many aspects of myself. I chose to do all these things to heal because I was rejecting that aspect of old self and the previous phase of my life. I didn’t really want anyone unnecessary to know that in the past I had been a depressed, manipulative, cruel, sexually abused, and addicted to painkillers type of person. I didn’t want to identify as a former addict or a victim. By identifying with this person I felt that it would go completely against this spiritual image that I had built up, which was the polar opposite of the person I was before.
Yet, little did I know that person was actually completely necessary in order for me to become this different person, and hidden in all of the traumas that I experienced for years was actually the depth of what would make me become a more compassionate, loving, person. This part of my journey gave me a first person perspective on understanding of the complexities of human life. In fact, I have even been shown lately how I chose specifically to experience all these deeply difficult lessons because I knew that it was in my path to go through this, so that I could help people who also experienced these same traumas as a person who has also been through it all myself, in this lifetime.
I have been reading a lot about the shadow lately, and doing work to understand my shadow aspects. The funny thing is that I just started doing this now, and I probably have one of the biggest shadows out of anyone I know. I started doing this because in spite of the unity I see in the world, in spite of the love I feel for my people, I still often sometimes find myself deeply annoyed, frustrated, and disappointed with myself and other people. I feel like a fraud some days, and like I have to ‘pretend’ to be something I am not. It’s fine for me to feel these things but if I can’t really find the reason or meaning behind it, and it’s a repetitive pattern in my life – I get frustrated. I want to see the karmic design behind it all, find the seed within me that is causing it, and do something about it. This begins with embracing these shadow elements of myself and finding the gift that it holds.
For instance, using this as an example, at the beginning of my spiritual journey I banished my extremely judgemental side even deeper into the shadow. I felt like I was so hyper critical and mean for so many years, thinking I was too cool for literally everyone (because I hated myself so therefore I hated everyone around me), that I decided I wanted to focus on being a more accepting, loving and compassionate person intentionally. I would do this by telling myself ‘no judgement’ and literally interrupting every critical thought I had. I did this because I thought that this would help me be kinder to other people, and it did in many ways. I no longer became as scary of a person to approach and received people with more open-mindedness. Yet for myself, I was just really entering deeper into denial, because I did perceive things about people, and I was receiving information about them which I was not using or accepting about them. Not only that, I was rejecting the importance of a critical eye – it could analyze situations and protect me. In many ways during my awakening, I suffered from a complete lack of boundaries. I let a lot of new types of people into my life because I no longer wanted to judge anyone, and this allowed me to expand socially, yet it also got me burnt many times. I let people into my life who clearly shouldn’t have been trusted, who were emotionally, financially, or spiritually immature – and this ended up hurting me and costing me.
And this is where I found the hidden gift out of every shadow element that we carry, it rests between the dark side and the light side of every trait. When I integrated this aspect of discernment, it gave me a superpower to see into people and their intentions clearly, and when I overused it, it isolated me and made everyone around me suffer.
My critical and judgemental side needed to be exercised yet with compassion and acceptance for all people and used as a form of safety and self love for myself.
When I banished this element of myself into the shadow, as I judged it as being unkind, I was being unkind to myself. The things that are elements of our shadow have strong hidden gifts to them, and in this aspect in particular, it gave me extremely perceptive abilities in being able to read people. Now, if I am doing that constantly, I’ll drive myself crazy, but when first meeting people and deciding if I should have a friendship or relationship with them, I need to use this gift in order to make an intelligent decision about the relationship.
So how can we all work with our shadow elements better?
First, we have to be willing to set aside our ego and realize that everything that annoys or bothers us about other people is actually happening inside of us.
We need to pay attention to the feelings we have because they are signals to where our growth lies. This is probably the most difficult step, and you will guaranteed feel bad. I have embraced feeling bad as a shattering of my ego. I have found that feeling bad about myself is actually good, and in the world of superficial spirituality we seem to put too much of a focus on feeling good all the time, and this form of denial stagnates our ability to actually feel truly feel good. As I stated earlier, the most important stage of my spiritual journey was when I felt the worst, because it opened me up to the depth of life that made it possible for me to experience much more love for everyone around me.
Feeling bad is a temporary yet necessary part of the human journey.
It’s like Rumi says:
“What hurts you, blesses you.”
Begin by observing your judgements about other people, and write down qualities about people around you that you don’t like – and then find areas in your own life where you are like this, or have been like this, or could see yourself being like this.
Then ask yourself, how has that trait led you into positive directions? Who would you have been without those experiences? And what is the hidden gift in these trait?
I have also noticed that in myself, I tend to project positive traits on the people around me which I refuse to see in myself. I once confessed to someone I work with that I didn’t want to do something because it would seem egotistical, and they said that I actually have a “baby ego” compared to the rest of the world. This made me realize all the ways in which I sold myself short by idolizing the people around me instead of myself. By seeing the things we admire in other people as untapped aspects of ourselves we can become more in tune with our desires and who we really want to be. Whenever you look at someone with a trait you admire, find ways that you also have that aspect within yourself – and look at ways you can honour that aspect in yourself even more.
Until we embrace the elements of ourselves that we refuse to look at or accept we will always be in a state of negative projection. This will cause the people around us to act in ways which we do not like, because they are merely elements of ourselves that are calling us to examine the hidden aspects of ourselves. What we see in others which bothers us affects us precisely because it is an element within ourselves that we have rejected, which is why we reject it in them. When we begin to embrace ourselves and love ourselves deeply, we begin to draw in people into our lives who will reflect back the same depth of love. The universe is a hologram. This is how tarot cards work – they reflect back to us which that we currently cannot see.
It is how all our human relationships work.
As for me, I have lived a crazy life. I spent a good 8 years deep in the shadow, and out of all the shame I once felt about it, I have found the hidden gift in it. Now I can sit with anyone, no matter if they are currently homeless, drug addicted, a prostitute, and there is something in me that completely understands and can relate the pain they are going through. I can reflect back to them the love that can come out of this journey, and the meaning behind the pain they experienced, because, I have been through it too. And that to me, was the ultimate gift in my shadow. A deep level of compassion for myself, the human experience, and everyone around me. I believe it is the gift behind all elements of our human shadows, and when we stop projecting our problems into the world around us, and ask ourselves – have I ever been like this? Could I ever see myself being like this? Could I see the benefit of going through that experience?
When we allow ourselves to ask these questions, we can begin to see the depth and beauty in the design of human life. This is where the idea of ‘all is love’ comes from, because when we willingly accept these parts of our lives, it turns into love.
In this way, our shadows are in fact made from light.
And the shadow is merely the dark ether, the space and the signal to where our brightest light can truly begin.