In Jungian psychology, the shadow is defined as “everything of which a person is not fully conscious;” in other words, that which we cannot see in ourselves. It is also prone to projection: turning a personal inferiority into a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. I’ve recently traversed the full territory of my own biggest shadow, the one that’s been running my life since childhood, the one that I’ve been grappling with for years without full resolution. Until now.
I’m in a period of deep integration now, having just this week made a huge connection of the dots after having a complete and total meltdown which, much to my dismay, was quite public and impacted many people. I am humbled and have experienced a fair amount of shame, and yet I am also quite compassionate with myself, knowing that I’m having one of the most transformative kinds of human experiences short of extreme illness or the death of a loved one.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who have supported me, held space for me, and trusted me to do what needed to be done to come out the other side. I know that I was on the verge of losing one or two dear friends, and almost certainly have lost another. I’ve paid dearly for my experience of transformation, and the consequences are still reverberating. I am grieving and celebrating at the same time, and slowly, my tender and vulnerable heart is peeking out into the light.
So many of us have witnessed the intensity of this year of 2012, the structures collapsing, that which does not serve us being violently torn away at times. My year has been no exception. I began to work in true earnestness on this particular shadow piece, which I refer to as “rigid control,” in June of 2011 in a Shadow Work® process facilitated by the founder of Shadow Work®, Cliff Barry, along his wife Vicki Woodard and Joe & Julie Mandarino in Fairfield, Iowa. What emerged was “Get Shit Done Girl (GSD Girl),” a very old aspect of me that had been protecting me since childhood from an unsafe and traumatic environment by working really hard, proving herself to be “good” to the point of perfection, and needing to be acknowledged and approved of at every turn. It was a very big first step, and the beginning of what is culminating now.
With GSD Girl now in my conscious mind, I could feel what it felt like when she was running the show. I could recognize her, but she was still in charge. Then December came, and a very stressful situation presented itself in that the Director of Divine Feminine Institute stepped down very suddenly, and I took over her job along with my own Director of Education position. GSD Girl came roaring to the surface under great duress, and she drove me with one-pointed focus to single-handedly grab the responsibility of taking on two full-time jobs. I was driven non-stop, pulling a huge load of baggage behind me, not very happy or peaceful, but by goddess getting the job done at all costs.
Back in Fairfield, Iowa again this past May, I had the opportunity to take a Shadow Work® weekend with Joe & Julie Mandarino, Certified Shadow Work Instructors, and do another full SW process (a different one this time). It was the next layer, one where the following words emerged (in the altered state of the process) from me to my youngest self:
You are so precious. You deserve everything. There is nothing I would rather do than take care of you now. I will always be here. I adore you. I love you. You deserve a life of beauty and enjoyment and balance. You can trust the support that is all around you. You don’t have to do it all. You are just as loveable at rest as you are when you are productive-maybe more so. You can trust yourself-trust that part that wants to relax and be guided towards beauty and enjoyment. Allow that part to guide you.
Shortly after that trip, I had a week-long training to facilitate in Calistoga. This was the last push before I could finally take a break… and ultimately, it became the last push, period. Hopefully ever. I was in the midst of it… my shadow playing out full on, and I could see it to some degree, but could not do a darn thing about it. It was riding me, and playing me hard. I was doing my best to rigidly control everything and everyone around me, even though I was supposed to be the one holding the space for the participants. I was horrible to be around most of the time. I was able to do my job reasonably well, but it was not a very happy or satisfying undertaking.
Afterward, my commitment to myself was to clean up the loose ends from the workshop, then finally take a break after 6 months of full output. I was ready to really implement a new way of being for the first time. I used an astrological marker on my chart as a jumping off point… on July 19th, my North Node and Sagittarius moon were conjunct, marking a soul retrieval of my Sag moon, my vision quest Amazon truth seeker. My promise to myself was to not push into anything, but to allow inspiration to motivate me (or not). I had played with this a little previously, and was starting to get a feel of it in my body. On that day, I set all the work aside, and rested. I ended up on the couch for a week reading a book. I could barely move. One morning, after 9 hours of sleep, I went back to bed at 9am for 2 hours.
The full aftermath was yet to come. I was agitated about one of my projections that I had fabricated in the depths of the shadow journey. I requested a clearing with someone that I thought had broken an agreement during the workshop, and agreement that was important to me. That busted open the first round of the consequences, and luckily, my dear friends were able to walk through that fire with me. We did clear it all out, and it had been building for more than a year anyway… it was long overdue. I was starting to get my shadow mirrored to me so I could begin to see it more clearly; a little at a time, but with great intensity.
As I got clear of that, I was starting to witness big changes in myself. Already I had delegated significant portions of the work to be done for the next workshop in November, a huge step for me, but one that came quite easily. What a relief. As inspiration moved me, I began to feel an internal expansion of my own frequency of my passion and my soul’s work coming forth in full bloom. It began to explode out of me. I revamped my entire website, every page. I did a major edit on my book and created a second edition, adding a story about finding my beloved; updating the content, infusing it with new photos and energy, publishing both the printed version and formatting it for Kindle. None of this was planned, it just happened. It feels joyful, and easy, and very congruent. I feel another book gestating inside me.
Then the next wave hit just this last week. Again, my agitation and projections provoked a challenging conversation with someone dear to me who had received the big dose of my shadow self at the last workshop. It was the impetus to finally connect the dots. This was not about anyone but me and my stuff. What emerged from that, within 48 hours, is what feels like a final piece falling into place.
As I reflected on the conversation mentioned in the last paragraph, I felt shame, and lots of it. That was a big clue. I felt ashamed of how I had acted at the workshop, but there was more there… it was much deeper. There was something significant here for me. What kept coming up was I did my very best and received only criticism for it. Something was wrong with that picture.
I had an opportunity this week to have my dearest girlfriend hold space for me on the phone, as we trade phone sessions each week. I wanted to explore this: the shame, the “did my best” story, and whatever else I could extract. I gave her the backstory and as I felt into the shame, things started to pop. We took a look at GSD Girl. Yeah, she served a purpose, but it was not serving me any longer. What to do with her? Could she be reassigned? What about this flimsy “did my best” story? Ahhhhh, a need for approval that was insatiable! All connected. I asked for Lisa’s hit on what GSD Girl might be able to do next that would be in service to both GSD Girl and me. She had an intuition about providing some kind of safety. That was all I needed, and the imagery started to flow. What emerged was a being, taller than me, who stood behind me with her arms encircling me but not all the way, leaving the front of my body open and exposed. She is strong, powerful, protective, but in a soft but fierce maternal sort of way. She has my back, but is not leading me. She is not closing off my heart with a death grip, but instead, loosely offering the circle of her arms in support without actually touching me. I suddenly remembered an Akashic Records reading I had with a friend over a year ago. There was a name that came through, a name that was just right for the former GSD Girl. I dug it up quick from a pile of papers. It was Radiant Ease.
As I continued to feel into this new energy, I realized that this is nothing short of my queen emerging. The Queen of Radiant Ease. Powerful but poised, she has no need for anyone’s approval or to be in control of anything. She is so viscerally with me now, that as soon as I hung up the phone, I made her in clay. In my mind, she is terra cotta in color, like a Southwestern painting of an Native woman in outline. I feel her behind me all the time now and can call on her anytime.
After the call, like instant karma, my husband Apollo immediately came forth with a shadow piece of his own that he had projected on me. We worked it through quickly. As I returned to my computer, the aftermath continued. Two emails from one of my dearest friends, raking me over the coals. On some level, totally deserved. On another, accusations of many things that were not true, and I chose not to take them on. I apologized for what was mine, handed back what was not. I surrender to whatever consequences there will be. This is the grieving part.
Overlaid on all of this, a third and final round of the HGC weight loss protocol. My body has morphed again, not from the loss of weight (less than 10 lbs), but from the shedding of a gigantic layer of over-responsibility, workaholism, and the weight of heavy baggage dragged through the decades. I know I will be tested, over and over. And, I know that I am free. I know in part because my jaw, with its lifelong clench and tension, has started to ease for the first time in my life. It’s been clamped down as long as I can remember, and I’ve been baffled about what was causing it. Now I fully understand that it was not about speaking my truth, or opening my 5th chakra, or whatever other psychobabble, it was about rigid control and clenching down on myself. It will provide me with a physical indicator, an immediate feedback loop, and I will heed it.
Jung also believed that “in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.” I can believe it.
I have offered my most sincere apologies to those who experienced the last gasp of GSD Girl’s ugly side at close hand, as she must have known it was her final opportunity to act out before losing her lifelong job. She did it up good, as only a strong, powerful Scorpio/Pele woman can. It was a testament to thier love for me that they stood by me with compassion and tolerance as I thrashed around so unconsciously.
In a little over two month’s time, I will step into the portal of my 50th birthday. I remember back to turning 40, and it being another very transformative time, as I left my marriage of 14 years to continue on my path of healing and recovery on my own. Within 3 years of that, I found my way to Divine Feminine Institute. And the rest, as they say, is history. Cycles begin and end, rise and fall, peak and subside… as in all of this human life.
With profound love and deepest gratitude and blessings, Amrita