It is easy to turn to meditation wanting to escape the pain of our lives. Thinking of meditation as a happiness pill, we come to our cushion ready to feel better. At first, we meet our busy minds. We spend our meditation practice thinking about dinner, or tasks at our desk, or someone who pushed our buttons. With practice, our busy mind settles and we feel relaxed.
Feeling hopeful, we come back for more feel-good meditation. Eventually, our mind settles enough so that deeper layers of our psyche come to light, revealing our shadow and rooted attachments. We are face to face with aspects of ourselves we don’t like, riddled with painful memories and uncomfortable emotions. What happened to the happy place? Reactively, we conclude we no longer like meditation.
This is where meditation begins. When we touch darker aspects of our selves, we see that our mind only knows two ways of thinking: attract (pull), repulse (push). Because our ego thrives in disconnection, we tend to live our lives feeling fundamentally separate. So we habitually pull towards us the things we want because we think happiness is “out there” and push at things we don’t like, because we think they interfere. Yet trying to push and pull at life is like trying to move mountains. Sooner or later we end up exhausted and realize: happiness is not found in the roller coaster ride of expectations and disappointments; there is a force much greater than our limited ego or will; we must go into the dark to find wholeness and lightness of being.
The darker season is a natural time to go within and make friends with our shadow. When we do so, we become lighter, more radiant. That heavy, fatigued feeling we may feel even when waking up supposedly refreshed in the morning, may come from resistance to what is, that is, our efforts to mask our shadow from ourselves and the world. When we allow our resistance to soften, we let go of immense tension that comes from the effort to suppress it. If we aspire to wholeness, we must soften the grip of our ego, release our resistance to the dark to reveal the divine light we truly are. This happens as we embrace our shadow. He is an exercise that may help.
EXERCISE: MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR SHADOW
1. Find a quiet, safe environment away from your busy life.
2. Sit upright, free from the wall or the back of a chair.
3. Close your eyes and go within, focusing on your breath, allowing your body/being to relax. Give yourself permission to feel. Meet whatever arises, to the best of your ability, without judgment. Welcome your whole self into yourself, not resisting who you are.
4. If a painful emotion arises, you may want to cry, scream, shake or holler. That is ok, as long as you don’t get pulled into the drama. Keep witnessing. Feel unattached and open, maintaining your sense of wholeness. This is important. Painful emotions are simply constricted energy. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in them, we give them energy. With space to flow, they loosen and release. Allow them to move through you. Keep breathing.
5. After some time and with an open heart, ask yourself: “How do I feel? How come? What can I do to better love and support myself?” Listen and receive what comes with warmth and gratitude. Breathe in saying “yes” to yourself. Allow yourself to feel lovingly acceptant for whatever arises.
6. Do this as long as you need. Conclude with three breaths, breathing in love and acceptance, exhaling gratitude.
7. Take time to do this every day. As you make friends with your shadow, more energy, freedom and effortless joy will naturally arise.
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current show, “Yoga in the Nightclub”, brings forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.