A talk given at The Celebration Sunday Service Sunday, October 21, 2007
Today I am speaking to you on the topic of “Honoring the Shadow by Speaking the Truth”
I have actually told a lie in this title because I really came to talk about Honoring My Shadow by Speaking My truth.
I have already before I have begun my talk, revealed a shadow of mine. In other words, I am going to let you all off the hook!
What I will be speaking about are my own opinions formulated from a number of different sources including my New Warrior Training weekend a month ago.
These opinions may or may not resonate with you. If they do resonate, that’s great and if they don’t then you have every right to chuck them into your own file thirteen. You have total free choice here and I am certainly not up here to do anything more than speak MY truth, as I see it.
To begin, in order to “Honor” the shadow I must first define what the shadow is, at least for the sake of this talk. According to the Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, he describes in his book Shadow Aspect of the Self, that the shadow is “that which we think we are not.”
The shadow is simply that part of me that I have hidden from myself, that part of me that I deny and therefore disown, again “that which I think I am not.”
On the level of infinite self, I believe that I am all that there is. Being all that is means I am not only the angels, I am the demons. Not only am I Gandhi and the Dalai Lama but I am George W. Bush. I’ll get to that in a little bit. I may be telling myself “I’m not the sort of person who would do something like that person has, especially if I consider it bad or wrong.” Guess what? I did, and I am that sort of person! These are the parts of me that I continue to disown. So how can I find my shadows or even be sure I have one.
I am going to read an except from an interview called Honoring the Shadow with William Booth and Robert Bly which will help to illustrate what the shadow is more clearly.
Booth asks the question: The shadow by definition is that part of ourselves that is hidden from us. How do you answer a person who is not aware of having a shadow and asks you where to look for it?
Bly responds: I asked that question myself of an experienced Jungian analyst at a public talk, passing on a question asked of me. I said, "Suppose that a woman about thirty-five years old living in a small town in Minnesota knows no psychology. How would that woman begin the process of absorbing her shadow?"
His answer was this: unless she meets a teacher who understands the concept of the shadow, she doesn't have a chance. "That's a harsh answer!" I said. "Well," he added, "there might be another way." He observed that our psyche in daily life tries to give us a hint of where our shadow lies by picking out people to hate in an irrational way. Suppose there is a woman in the town who seems to her too loose and too sexually active, and she finds herself thinking of this other woman a lot. In that case, the psyche is suggesting that part of her shadow, at least, lies in the sexual area. She has to notice precisely whom she hates. That is the path of attention.
Suppose that she hates the current president of the PTA; and if you ask her, she'll say that the woman is flakey, can't be trusted, is too successful, and so forth. The psyche might be telling her that part of her shadow lies in the power area. She has unused and unrecognized power impulses, which she has put into the bag. Otherwise there wouldn't be such heavily emotional contact with that other person. So, following the path of attention, one notices where the anger goes, and precisely whom we become obsessed with. We become entangled with people who are virtually strangers. That's odd. The metaphor is this: if we maintain eye contact with that person, we can damage him or her by our anger and hatred. If we break off eye contact and look down quickly to the right, we will see our own shadow. (end reading)
So here Bly is telling us that my shadow can be seen in other people or things that I have a charge with, positive or negative. He further points out that when I recognize that I have a charge with something, I can get a clue in what area of concern that the shadow lies. Let’s take for example, George W. Bush. How many of you have an opinion about George W. Bush? (hold up my hand) Actually I should have asked, who doesn’t have an opinion about George Bush? My opinion or “charge” is that George W. Bush is a righteous son-of-a-bitch who has gotten us entrenched in war in the Middle East and I can’t wait until January 20, 2009 when a new president is inaugurated. How many of you have seen the tee shirt that says only 1-20-09?
So where does my shadow lie? PAUSE
My shadow lies in the area of righteousness. So if I have my shadow in the area of righteousness what am I likely to do or say or think about George W. Bush? Well, let me first of all ask what do righteous people think about what they are doing? Do not righteous believe about what they are doing is THAT THEY CAN DO NO WRONG! Given the chance, how would I handle the situation if you were in George W. Bush’s shoes? Would I handle it the same, differently, send more troops in, pull troops out, what would I do? When
I decided on a course of action and went ahead and did it, would I think that I was doing it the right way because I also thought that since it is my way that it must be the right way and that I might also possibly think that I could do no wrong?
Let’s try another example. This example came to me quite recently as I have watched the news on TV which I don’t usually watch because of all of the murder and mayhem. Besides the usual murder and mayhem (my Shadow) there are frequent stories related to the public schools. In many of the stories, the way I saw it, there were examples of the school administration blaming teachers, teachers blaming students, parents blaming ‘the system’ or the teachers, everyone blaming the government and everyone else for why the education system sucks.
Does this absence of accountability create an atmosphere of trust in the educational system.
So what is my shadow here. PAUSE
My shadow lies in the area of accountability. Can I MAKE other people accountable? (shake head no) Can I be accountable? (smile and shake head yes) I don’t want to think that I am accountable for something like a poor educational system. When I forget that I am accountable for the way the educational system is I am living in my shadow, and I am not honoring that shadow. I am instead projecting my shadow as something “out there”. And when I put it “out there” I am not telling the truth.
One last example...
This time lets talk about a hero or someone with a virtue we admire. I am going to use in this example the Dalai Lama, the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion. I have admired and loved this man for years and have included him in my short list of heroes in my life. This man eats, sleeps, walks and talks compassion for all, FOR EVERYBODY. How can I not admire him and put him up on a pedestal.
Now can anyone tell me, what is my shadow here. Where does it lie. PAUSE ( if someone speaks up thank them and move on)
My shadow lies in the area of worthiness, by making someone else a hero to admire. Is this a bad thing? Who does it harm if I don’t honor it. For one thing, I harm myself because my shadow is telling me that I am unworthy and I am incapable of being that which I have put up above myself. When I live in that shadow I may not make the effort to be like that which I worship thus I will do damage to others around me that would otherwise benefit from my own self worthiness. By speaking my truth about my shadow I no longer have to live in the shadow of others for my worthiness, I can generate my own light into the world.
So, given that I have shadows and I can learn how to find them, how then do I begin to honor my shadows.
To honor my shadow I must first acknowledge that I have one and I can them proceed to identify in what area of my life that my shadow lies. I need to name it. Once I have named my shadow I can begin to honor it by telling the truth about it. Telling the truth means first of all owning my shadow as my own. If I continue to put my shadow outside of my self, I am not owning it as mine and I will continue to hide it and disown it. I will also continue to think that the shadow can not hurt me or anyone else either. Does hiding my shadow make me trust-worthy. Does it make me loving and open? I doubt it. Does hiding my shadow make me a safe person to be around or does it actually make me dangerous? Dangerous being that my shadow can get loose at anytime without anyone expecting it and run amok, trashing you and everyone and everything.
I want to lead you in a short meditation:
Close your eyes, take a few deep cleansing breaths and bring your attention inward. Now imagine yourself in a deep dark forest at the base of a very large ancient tree. There is a very thick door, tightly wedged, heavy upon it's hinges, and extremely difficult to pry open. But with determination set your will upon the door until it is opened.
Now with a lighted torch in your hand, begin to imagine yourself descending down a long winding stairway. Imagine that you know the way, like you have been there many times before but yet still can’t remember when.
As you reach the bottom as you have done many times before, this time there is nothing there, just an very large empty room, so large that your torch can illuminate all of it.
Out of the corner of your eye you see a shadowy figure. Take a moment recognize it. You know this figure.
Cast your torch on this figure. Does the figure appear to you as a person from your past? A parent, teacher, a childhood friend. Does this figure appear as someone you see frequently in you life, a co-worker, a close friend or a loved one? Does this figure trigger an emotion, like Hatred, Anger, Fear, Shame, Jealousy, or Joy, Happiness, Love. Just let the first thought or feeling be the right one.
This figure is your shadow. You have many more of them and the ones you have met again today are just the ones willing to be seen at this time. You may come back anytime to visit them again or see different ones. Now before you leave these shadows behind to return to the light , take a moment to thank each one for being here deep inside of you, whether you have looked at them or not. Tell them that you are grateful to them for being here. You begin to head back up the stairs and back into the light of day. When you are ready, open your eyes and come back into the room.
I want to finish this talk by speaking a little more on speaking my truth and it can be about speaking your truth or speaking the truth just as well, if you let it be so. Speaking the truth takes a lot of courage! Remember I said that if I accept the fact that I am all that there is then I am a courageous person. If you accept the fact that you are all that there is, then you are a courageous person as well. Speaking the truth requires that I acknowledge that there is nothing out there, that it is simply all a reflection of myself. And if that reflection is constantly changing it follows that I am always changing. If I believe that I am the Dalai Lama just as much as I am George W. Bush then I can have compassion for myself and I can also be righteous and believe I can do no wrong. If I am courageous and willing I will speak the truth and as it has been said somewhere “the truth will set me free.” I invite you to consider that what I have said today is possibly the truth and that it could possibly change your thinking!
Even about George W. Bush.
A quick demonstration…
Everyone raise your right or left hand and fold your fingers like this, pointing your first finger up in the air.
Now turn your hand so that you are pointing at your neighbor or at me. What do you notice when you are looking at your hand pointing? Do you notice the three other fingers pointing right back at you?
One last thing…
I have a mission in life and that mission is “I create a world of beauty, order and trust by facing my fears and speaking my truth. I also have a shadow mission, a mission that operates from within my shadow. That shadow mission is “I create a world of ugliness, chaos and mistrust by not facing my fears and not speaking my truth. Notice how my mission and shadow mission will negate each other out when I don’t honor the shadow. I must constantly scrutinize myself, honoring my shadow by speaking my truth.
If you can acknowledge that you just might possibly have shadows, perhaps you can meditate on it or you can try the process in the Bly reading by recognizing that your shadow lies in some area where you have a charge with someone or something. Take some time to listen for the truth, then if you find your truth, ask yourself.
Has keeping my shadow hidden from myself or from someone else caused harm to myself or to someone else?
Remember that recognizing the shadow, naming it and speaking the truth about it takes courage, which I have and you have as well, just because you said so!
Thanks for listening.