Shadow Work: Following the Fall Equinox
Sometimes when we think of yoga, our thoughts center around relaxation, feeling at ease, peaceful, grateful. But our practice is not always rainbows and puppy kisses. Our yoga mat can reveal other qualities, such as discomfort, frustration, judgment, or envy; qualities that we may try to deny about ourselves, also known as our shadow. The benefit of our yoga mat is that we can examine these qualities, recognize them, embrace them, without all the complexities of our day to day life. If we continue to deny our shadow, when it emerges, it is difficult to accept, can be too big for the situation, cause damage, or self-sabotage. But, if we can embrace those qualities, acknowledge them, we can more easily integrate them and accept them.
Alan Watts said, "Jung was the sort of a man who could feel anxious and afraid and guilty without being ashamed of feeling this way. In other words, he understood that an integrated person is not a person who has simply eliminated the sense of guilt or the sense of anxiety from his life - who is fearless and wooden and kind of sage and stone. He is a person who feel all these things, but has no recrimination against himself for feeling them."
As our nights lengthen and we retreat, it can be easy to slip down a dark path and hold onto judgments about these qualities. But if we can identify these shadow qualities, we can move from judgment to forgiveness and understanding. And we can also uncover qualities that can have a positive influence on our life. Envy can transform into healthy competition, gratitude for where we are today, this moment. Discomfort and frustration can turn into acceptance and adventurism.
When you step on your mat, allow yourself to observe the emotions that begin to bubble up for you. Acknowledge that without fear, you would not know confidence, without guilt, you would not know satisfaction, and without anxiety you would not know calm. Let go of judgment around these qualities and know that without them, you are not whole.
"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." ~Carl Jung