Comfortable Shadows

Several months ago I was in a sweat lodge, feeling into what I needed to give away. What came up for me was grief.

At the time I was using grief to intentionally release attachment to a relationship I was trying to create. I have had a good deal of practice sitting with my grief over the years, letting it move through me, coming into a relationship with it that approaches being comfortable.

Now, there is truth in the idea that releasing needy attachment to relationships actually opens more space for them to be. Being able to grieve well is not a bad thing either. It’s an important part of being able to let the world flow and change, as it will.

The insight in that sweat was that I was indeed comfortable in my grief. My ego knew the territory and felt satisfied about navigating it. It was clear that beyond releasing it, I could hide out there, feeling like I was doing good “work”, and yet using that space to stay safe in known, if unhappy, territory. Wrapping myself in this grief, I was less present in my life, less able to create what I thought I wanted.

So I set an intention, not to stop grieving when that comes up naturally, but to let it go as a habit, as a relatively safe place to hang out. I challenged myself to be a bit more vulnerable, to step out more fully into my relationships. Vulnerable to joy as well as grief, showing up and trusting events to unfold.

I have also seen in myself how other aspects of personal shadow can be used as familiar refuges from stepping forward to engage the world. Ask people if they would like to give up a limiting fear, and mostly they will say “of course”. In practice, there are often places where we limit ourselves with a fear that is really very “reasonable”.

When I am grieving a relationship that hasn’t ended yet, there is fear in there. Fear that it will end and I might be unhappy. Listening to that fear encourages me to play it safe, rather than creating a possibly with greater joy and happiness. Safety of this sort, is not about being fully alive, but hiding in our shadow while wishing we were in the light.

However, good at processing I am, I need to look closely at when it truly serves me, helping me to be more present with myself and others, and when it is just a place to hang out in, or has become a habit of its own.

Being gentle with yourself, begin to ask, where do you hang out in your shadow because its yours and you know it? Perhaps like me, you are on intimate terms with it even. Where has it gone beyond the remnants of old wounds and become a habit that helps define your life? If you find something, begin to explore how it seems to keep you safe, if a bit contracted, and ask for guidance about how to release it and choose to go for expansion and a richer life.

Choosing to step out of the shadows is edgy, but the light is waiting for you. Waiting to help you create new options and possibilities from a different place in your Self. Give yourself permission to let go the cloaks of grief, fear, or anger, and begin to weave new ones from joy and love.

(© 9/2014)

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