For as long as there have been humans, people have been questing to better themselves. On a spiritual level this has taken many different forms. Sometimes meditation, sometimes vision questing, shamanic journeys. The actual term "shadow work" is a new addition to a millenniums old practice. No matter what it has been labeled, the goal has always been the same; wholeness, healing and self-acceptance and realization.
Shadow Work could be defined as working with your unconscious mind and Spirit to uncover the parts of yourself that you have repressed. Our shadows encompass things like our unhealed traumas; gifts we are hiding because we fear being laughed at; Divine callings that we may be trying to avoid. Really any part of ourselves that for whatever reason, we are trying to ignore.
So why would we want to dig all this stuff up? Wholeness.
When we confront our shadows, we can begin the work that allows those hidden things to become part of ourselves. This enables us to see the unconscious patterns those traumas have been causing us to play out over and over again as a reaction to events that happen around us. When we interrupt that pattern, we are able to watch our reactions, see where they are coming from and adjust accordingly.
Are there benefits to shadow work?
Absolutely! Imagine you carried a fifty-pound suitcase around with you every day. The sheer weight of it would limit what you could do. Then there would be practical considerations about if events might cause damage or endanger it in some way. What if someone saw the contents of that suitcase? It is stuff we want to keep hidden after all.
Shadow work is the act of sitting down, opening that suitcase, lovingly and thoughtfully looking at each item within it and sorting it into one of three (or more) piles. Stuff I am working on healing. Stuff I want to keep. Stuff it is time to release with thanks. By the time we are done our suitcase is much lighter, and we have opened many new doors and avenues of exploration simply because we have been able to remove the fear of someone seeing within our suitcase.
So why now?
Traditionally, winter was the time for indoor work. Mending, sewing, knitting, all those lovely quiet chores that could be done in front of a cozy fire. On a more personal level, the slower days of winter are perfect for the introspective work that the active days of Spring, Summer and Autumn have us too busy to look at. Meditation, reading, journaling, healing … all the elements that enable us to make that Divine connection.