I first heard about shadow work while rooming with Jade at the Monroe Institute. It sounded scary, though I'm sure she didn't mean for it to. At the time I was still sorting out the feelings of wanting to be this person who was a pure beacon of shining light, so phrases like"shadow self" were a little frightening. Wasn't this the part of ourselves we were trying to "get rid of" ? It wasn't until years later after lots of literal soul searching did I come to accept new information when I stumbled across the concept of Spiritual Bypassing. Spiritual Bypassing is a phrase coined by Psychologist John Welwood derived from his experience with his Buddhist Community at the time, he said "I noticed a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks." Basically, he noticed people were using spirituality as a shield focusing only on love and light and "discarding" all things we find displeasing about ourselves as they don't "mesh" with us being that perfect Spiritual person we think we should be. But what happens to those parts of ourselves? Charlie Morley would tell you, they become our "shadow."
I'd only met Charlie the one time, but months later I had a dream about him that I found a little embarrassing. After reading his book, it's easy to know why. It was mid-quarantine, and being out of work I found myself with lots of time to focus on my spiritual work. After an online chat I attended with Jade Shaw, discussing astral entities and mediumship, I asked a question about the entities; how could I trust that they are who they say they are and not some element of my own subconscious mind? Jade proposed that some of the entities we meet could in fact be aspects of our shadow selves, presenting themselves to us in a way we can meet them, and thus accept them. She said in her experience she found these aspects to be a little "clingy" and needy. Immediately I recalled my astral experiences and it made perfect sense to me. Those experiences that made me feel deeply sad and uncomfortable, the ones that needed a response from me so intimately, were my subconscious trying to help me sort out those feelings by manifesting them in the astral. I knew then I was finally ready to look at shadow work.
I went to bed a few nights later and before sleep I recalled that Charlie Morley, whom I had met briefly in London at the film premier for Jade's Out of Body Documentary, Insight Out, had written a few books, some on Shadow Work. My last thoughts before falling asleep that night were "I really need to read one of Charlie's books."
I found myself in a dream, I was in a big hotel at a sort of Spiritual convention, in the lobby of the hotel I find myself on the phone with Jade, she was telling me she'd be right along but I was welcome to have some cake while I waited for her. (We were celebrating an accomplishment of hers.) As I'm wandering around the lobby I stumble into Charlie, I of course, exclaim to him, "Oh Charlie, I've been meaning to read your book!" He tells me he actually had a copy I was welcome to take a look at so we make our way to a quiet room. I sit down in a chair at a table and he places the book in front of me. He stands behind me reaching over me to point to elements of the book, I start to think, does he really need to be this close? The sensations of the dream became more visceral, he had his hands on my shoulders now, it was comforting but I still found myself thinking, is this appropriate? By this time the dream feels very real, though I'm not lucid. After a bit of deliberation I decided to relax and lean into the comfort of his touch, accepting it, and allowing myself to be soothed by it instead of nervous or off-put, and as I did, he leaned in and blew air into my left ear. It was a loud whooshing sound that felt realer than real, and the air coursed through my entire being. I immediately became aware and recognized it as spiritual knowledge, as common Reiki practice spiritual information is often passed on through breath, so I easily accepted this. As I became lucid and relaxed further I found myself phasing into the astral plane, I continued to relax and materialized into what would be one of my favorite astral experiences to date. I won't go into all of it now, but I will mention that toward the end of my astral experience I was greeted by an entity I recognized, the one that had sprung to mind when talking with Jade. Unfortunately I was not able to recall this at the time, at present the entity made me just as deeply sad as it always had and my awareness did not cue me in to this being an aspect I could deal with or handle, and my strong emotions sprung me back into my body. I told my mom about the dream, mentioning how strange it was that a man who I'd barely met touched me in such a comforting way, and she said "You'd better keep that to yourself." Ah, shame. I see you, my shadow.
A few weeks later on Instagram I noticed Charlie had mentioned one of his books available on Amazon, so I purchased it immediately. It's called Dreaming Through Darkness: Shine Light Into The Shadows to Live the Life of Your Dreams. Charlie's book is more than a good read, it's kind of like a full-on home retreat. It's packed with practical exercises you can use to explore Shadow Work on your own time. I personally love a good read while crawling into bed, so the setup of this book was initially challenging for me as it requires a lot of active participation and is less of a novel and more of a guided workshop. I found myself poking through it at night and making notes of activities I wanted to try in the morning or during the day, some journalistic, some requiring additional materials. It gives you the opportunity to create a sort of lesson plan for yourself, choosing which activities feel right for you and when. He presents them to you in a way that builds and flows. Some of the exercises are intense and very powerful and it feels right to break them up a bit giving yourself some time to process, so it may not be a read you can just chug through.
I'm just scratching the surface of acknowledging some of my deepest shadow elements, but I'm looking forward to the journey of re-integrating my shadow self. In Charlie's book he talks about parts of ourselves we hide that become our shadow; shame, fear, and judgement. He quotes colleague Rob Nairn, an accomplished lecturer of both criminology and Buddhism. Rob told him "Whenever we suppress a feeling or deny a part of ourselves, we create shadow, and as we go through life, we are doing this constantly. We unconsciously push away what we don't want to feel and what we think will harm us... Luckily for us, though, through shadow integration practice, denial can become acknowledgement, suppression can become friendliness, and repression can become remembering."
Following through with the exercises in his book takes a little bit of a self-starter attitude, you have to dedicate time for yourself to do them, and if you're disciplined I know you'll see great results. If you have trouble with this sort of thing and need to be prodded a bit, Charlie hosts tons of workshops each year, most of them in UK area or somewhere in Europe, but I'd venture a guess it would be worth the pilgrimage.
See until reading Charlie's book I wouldn't have felt comfortable speaking about the dream, as my mom suggested, I should probably be ashamed of those feelings. But Charlie has some things to say about shame. He references a book by Brené Brown, PhD, called Daring Greatly, offering three main perspectives on shame: everyone has it, we're all afraid to talk about it, and the less we talk about it the more power it has over us. So by simply talking about my dream now, even though I initially felt embarrassed, I'm beginning the process of integrating my shadow. But shadows aren't all just the dark part of ourselves that we reject, they're the positive traits as well.
Charlie also talks about integrating the "Golden Shadow." He says "Just as we may fear the dark parts of our shadow, so we may be in awe of the golden, as the talents, potential and unseen capacity within us are projected onto those whose capacities we admire." He reminds us of the times we've dimmed our golden shadow to "fit in," and suddenly I am reminded of my childhood. How I groomed myself to make sure I didn't look smarter than others for fear of being made fun of, how I downplayed my artistic talents because I saw it made others feel inadequate, how I buried my writing ability, my sexuality, and so many other potentially brilliant aspects of myself for fear of how others might feel or what they would think. Charlie invites us to see golden aspects of ourselves in the people around us. What is it about the heroes we admire that we value so, and do we have any of these qualities? Re-discovering the Golden Shadow and reintegrating it is just as important as reintegrating the darkness.
I believe there is pressure in the Metaphysical Community at times to be this "perfect" person, to embody the archetype of the "spiritual" person. But we are actually human beings, occupying a physical body, and we're here to accomplish some growth, as well as spiritual connection. Charlie says "Without harnessing the power and life-force stored in the shadow, we can only go so far on the spiritual path, but if we learn to transmute the energy of the shadow into the gold of awakening, there are no limits to how far we can go." Through these new (to me) ideas and concepts, finally my spirituality is starting to "click." It ties into the things I've learned via human design regarding who we are inherently. Denying my humanity and constantly striving for perfection never really felt like the whole truth, and I no longer subscribe to the theory that "enlightenment" is the only goal.
I am now beginning to feel like the true, all encompassing, spiritual being that I am. I'm carving a practical path for living and interacting with our every day world while also integrating with divine energy. We are not JUST "beings of light" we are humans occupying a physical body AND beings of light, we are the pinnacle of consciousness holding space between unlimited source energy, and the physical plane.