Recognizing our Shadows

August 16, 2017

Recognizing our Shadows

Spirit flows through everything.

It is light, it is shadow, masculine and feminine, joy and sorrow, good and bad.

It is all of it and more. We are all of it and more.

Last month, Sunflower supported me in being seen—standing up tall and sharing my story. And this month, her smaller, yet just as powerful sister, Black-Eyed Susan is in full bloom, shining her light of recognition onto those aspects of ourselves that we keep hidden, that we keep in shadow, but that unconsciously inform so much of our day to day reality. Our shadow selves.

It is not easy work, but I believe a huge part of our personal and spiritual growth is tied up in shadow work.

After all, how are we to love fully if we can't love ALL of ourselves?

Shining a light onto our shadows, bringing to light what has been hidden, allows it to be recognized and understood and honored as an important part of our individual human experience. 

I have previously shared some of my shadow work supported by Pumbago and Campanula and it was so liberating to finally recognize ingrained behaviours and triggers that were making it harder for me to find the joy in my life. That doesn’t mean that those aspects of myself are gone, rather it means when the same old feelings and behavioural patterns emerge I am able to work through them with ease and self-compassion, for I see them for what they truly are, my shadows.

And so when Black-Eyed Susan came up as the Soulflower pick of the month I knew there was some aspect of myself that needed to be brought into the light, that needed to be recognized and loved. Not surprisingly, what showed up was my need to control, or rather my fear of the reality that I cannot control my life, my children, my experiences and so on. It’s a fine line to walk, but this shadow aspect can show up as graceful and competent leader or control freak, and many iterations in between depending on how I am feeling.

If you follow me on social media you will remember that Oak hinted earlier in the spring about my difficulty in allowing my children to fully lead their own lives. I want to protect and shelter them as the huge oak in my backyard was protecting and sheltering a million oak saplings that were crowding her base.

Life can be painful and challenging and it is so hard to watch your children suffer on any level, to feel the hard stuff. But if I don’t allow them to experience challenges and difficulties, how will they manage when I am not around to shelter them? When I am not micro managing their young lives? I wouldn't call myself a helicopter parent but I certainly have worked very hard to give them a carefree, fully supported childhood experience.

After extensive thought and energy trying to figure out how to transplant all the oak saplings elsewhere failed, I began the heart wrenching work of pulling them all out. I was miserable, but as I worked I heard the Oak mama breath a great sigh of relief, for all the saplings had been suffocating her and there was no way ANY of them could thrive in their current situation. In that instant I understood the parallel in my own life. The pain of allowing my children to feel the hard edges of their lives to allow them to learn how to grow, and thrive, on their own. And the pain of letting them go.

My oldest daughter is 17 and is fledging. She has been struggling to get her driving license, dealing with enormous stress and anxiety each time she takes her test, and painful embarrassment and self-loathing when she has failed. Watching her, supporting her through this process has been equally challenging for me.

I picked a bouquet of Black-Eyed Susans this morning waiting, and worrying, for her to return from her latest test. My thoughts drifting to fears of her failing again, and (surprisingly) fears of her passing too!

The more I thought about it the more I realized that passing her test was actually her first step to leaving the nest...beyond the safety of my control. I do know that my job as parent is brief, but they do truly grow so fast and you can’t hold onto them any more then you can hold onto a handful of water...they will eventually slip away. And this is a good thing...only it doesn’t really feel like it.

I filled a vase with water and added the cut flowers.

This difficulty in letting go, this need to control, is starting to become clearer.

In fact, as I ponder, I can see the same pattern with regard to my oldest daughter over and over. She has a summer birthday, for instance. This year she should technically have been a senior, but as I was transitioning her to school, after homeschooling her through 5th grade, I decided she should be the oldest in the year rather than the youngest...there was no rush after all.

This is how the shadow operates—quietly in the background.

I admit I somewhat selfishly held her back but framed it as a positive thing...it would allow her to be a leader, give her more academic confidence that comes with maturity etc etc….and give her more time at home. All “good” and noble concepts that come from a deep place of love right? Rather than a place of fear?

And if I go back even further I am reminded of how I almost lost her at birth. Our beautiful, gentle home birth to welcome our first child did not go as planned. My biggest fears were realized as well as a medical emergency that resulted in a month of NICU and a very painful introduction to motherhood for me. She was 10 days old before I was even allowed to hold her temporarily paralysed, intubated, plugged in little body—a far cry from the empowering experience I had envisioned.  

That's the thing about life—you really have zero control over what happens.

To think that any amount of planning, organizing or other method of preparation will gain you some measure of control is pure illusion. I am learning, obviously, that the only thing I truly have any control over is my response to life in general. Not an easy lesson, but critical to releasing victimhood and empowering ourselves to lead fulfilling lives whatever comes our way.

Still waiting for her return I take off for the safety of the woods. That place where I feel nothing but love, and freedom and support. And I asked Black-Eyed Susan, Mother Earth and any and all benevolent helpers to help me release my daughter.

Now that I recognized this part of myself that I had buried away and hidden—out of fear, out of self-preservation, out of love—it was time to let go. Out of love and forgiveness for myself as well as love and gratitude for my daughter—it was time to allow her to fly. I sobbed as my heart cracked open to let her out, to let her go.

To release control.

There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.
—Leonard Cohen 

End Note: I’m very happy, and proud, to report, she passed her driving test. 

Black-Eyed Susan can be found in my Soulflower Plant Spirit Oracle Deck and as a meditative coloring page.



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