We all have a dark side, wether we like it, or not. Most of the time, we don’t like it.
But just because we don’t like it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It doesn’t mean it’s not part of us.
If you really think about it, that’s how the light actually works: while it reveals a part of us, whatever is behind that part is left in the dark. In the process of facing the light, we’re also blocking it. And we realize that by looking at that strange, elongated shape casted on the ground by the light.
We call that part “the shadow”.
Our Connection With The Shadow
There are things happening in the light and there are things happening in the dark. They are both “things”. They are both valid, in the sense that they manifest and they generate consequences. It’s not that one is more prevalent than the other. They’re both part of a dance that propels existence in time.
But when we get too attached to the light, we start loathing the dark. We stop understanding its meaning, and its necessity in our lives, and, slowly, we detach from it.
I’m not talking about something abstract here, I’m talking about day to day situations. For instance, out of an extreme attachment to the light, we lean into vegetarianism because we want to protect animals. It’s a virtuous thing to do, protecting life, don’t get me wrong. But when we do this in excess, like keep being vegetarian even when our body start declining, and our health starts deteriorating, that’s imbalance. That’s an escape from our real nature (that we have a body which works in a certain way) and a leaning towards what we perceive as “higher”, as “cleaner”, as “lighter”. We detached from the shadow.
Keeping the shadow attached would simply mean eating consciously, without intently trying to hurt any other being. Because, sometimes, we simply don’t have a choice, and we will have to eat meat – for instance, in a situation where there’s nothing else to eat and we risk starving to death. And other times, like when someone offers you a meal with an open heart, refusing that meal will create even more problems than the actual ingestion of the meat in it. Refusing that meal will negate all the good feelings of the person offering.
Keeping our shadow attached means we get the message, we know how things works and we try to keep both parts in some sort of balance.
Try picturing a silhouette in the light, detached from its own shadow. The silhouette walks forward, but, because the shadow is not “attached” anymore, it won’t follow. It may remain in the same place on the ground, move in an opposite direction, or, surprisingly, move in the same direction as the silhouette, but faster, outpacing it, taking the lead.
Yeah, funny things happen when we detach from our shadow, but one of the funniest is a subtle process of independence.
Because we lost connection to it, the shadow, with whom we share a lot of common stuff, starts living a life of its own. All that stuff that we still have in common with the shadow will be there: we will share the same people, the same places, the same skills and the same words. But now, because the shadow is detached, those things will be twisted. We may treat the same people differently, without any reason, we may use skills and words to do the opposite of what we’re doing with them before.
The shadow has taken over, and we don’t even realize that.
Owning The Shadow
What we perceive as “dark” is simply something that creates a lot of discomfort.
But sometimes this discomfort is necessary to push life forward. Maybe we got stuck in some fixed patterns and we need to break them – dismantling comfortable patterns is always difficult and painful. And because we feel discomfort and pain, we label those processes as “dark”. Indeed, they are coming from our shadow, all these processes, but they are intended to improve our light side.
Stopping them will stop not only the pain, but our entire evolution process.
That’s why we need to keep our shadow attached, as painful and as annoying as it may be. We have to own it. To accept it and integrate it.
The roots of the lotus are deep down in the mud, hidden in the darkness. Without that mud, outside the water, there won’t be such a beautiful flower, bathing in the sunlight.