Shadows are a beautiful thing. They shade us from the sun; add contrast and interest; protect our eyes from the intensity of the light. Our own shadows are beautiful too: they show us where the sun is relative to us. They also show us the direction we’re going.
Those shadows I just talked about are real ones, but the inside shadows we carry are exactly the same: the shadows we create and inherit can protect us (for a while), can show us where the light is, and the direction we’re going.
What if, for example, you were from a strict family, where your father was the authority. That may be a cultural shadow, or one simply held within your own family. Either way, it’s convenient if you don’t want to bear responsibility for making decisions. At least for a while, until you happen upon a situation where you – and only you – have to decide. Then, if you’ve always relied on your father to make the decision for you, you’d be in a tough place, because you wouldn’t really know what to do beyond mimicking him.
That’s an example of an inherited shadow. Here’s one of an inner shadow. Let’s say that you learned to deal with a strict father by keeping your thoughts to yourself, never really showing your feelings. This would certainly keep you out of trouble and out of the spotlight. But then as you mature and get your own life, this ingrained habit of not showing yourself means that others don’t really know you. They don’t connect with you and “see” you in any meaningful way. You end up feeling like an outsider. And lonely.
This seems pretty grim. How could I possibly say they’re beautiful?
Well, first of all, they did keep you safe when you needed it. They served you well, in the past.
And now they are a part of you; they’re an integral part of your character. For the rest of your life. Whether you like it or not. And as such, they can serve as beacons to show you the best way to deal with any situation.
For instance, that person who grew up in an authoritarian home and now keeps her opinions close – she’s probably a fantastic thinker and planner, because that’s how she was able to work around and through the authority she was faced with. She’s possibly learned to hang onto an issue until she finds the solution. And in that way, she’s invaluable to others.
It’s become part of her shining. That doesn’t mean the way she reacts isn’t a problem. The “problem” with what she reacts to is that it’s really an automatic response to what was dangerous a long time ago, but isn’t any longer. It’s automatic. Unconscious.
But it doesn’t have to remain that way. She – all of us – can learn to develop an awareness of when we’re about to react, and use that urge as a way of understanding a situation at a much deeper level, then choosing our response based on that awareness.
In other words, it too becomes a part of our shining.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
Eckhart Tolle’s Way
Quote of the Week
We all must deal with our shadows the best we can. No one can conquer them for us. – Anna Lee Huber
At times we need more – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages. For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .