The Shadow

August 25, 2013

I ran into Shadow quite unexpectedly the other day….and you know the rest of the story: I got to thinking.

Carl Jung came up with the idea of archetypes years ago. In college it was considered cool to know about Jungian psychology and try to piece together the puzzle of our personal archetypes.

First things first: I am not trained in any of this. I just think about it, and write my thoughts down.

Jungian Archetypes explained courtesy of Wikipedia:

” Carl Gustav Jung was a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who developed an understanding of archetypes as universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct. They are autonomous and hidden forms which are transformed once they enter consciousness and are given particular expression by individuals and their cultures. Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams. They are inherited potentials which are actualized when they enter consciousness as images or manifest in behavior on interaction with the outside world.”

Jung defined twelve primary types that symbolize basic human motivations. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits. The twelve types are found in four basic groups: The Shadow, The Anima, The Animus, and The Self.

Today I’m bringing Shadow out into the light.

The Shadow refers to the whole of unconscious—everything that we are unaware of, the aspect of our personality that does not recognize itself. All those parts of ourselves that we feel are negative, undesirable and that we try to ignore or reject, are wrapped up in Shadow’s cloak. Almost overlooked however, are the good qualities hiding there too. They become weakened by low self esteem, self doubt. They too are lost in the folds of Shadow.

The Jungian shadow often refers to all that lies outside the light of consciousness, and may be positive or negative. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” It may be (in part) one’s link to more primitive instincts.”

(*What are our primitive instincts? To survive?…how do we protect ourselves by empowering one aspect while perhaps closing off or ignoring another? What other of these primitive instincts can you identify with?)

Shadow likes to project. Shadow is instinctive and irrational. “Shadow uses projection to turn a personal inferiority into a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. If we allow Shadow to project these thoughts unrecognized and unchecked, then Shadow has a free hand to possibly bring about a “realization of its object” and give this situation character power… creates a thick fog of illusion between the EGO and the real world…” You/we give power to something that is a projection and is not real.  (Wikipedia)

As a Jungian Archetype, Shadow is made up of life instincts. “The shadow exists as part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts and shortcomings. This archetype is often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos and the unknown. These latent dispositions are present in all of us, Jung believed, although people sometimes deny this element of their own psyche and instead project it onto others.”

Sometimes Shadow makes itself known in our dreams. Shadow may appear as a snake, a monster, or other dark or wild figure.

From Robert Augustus Masters, PhD:

Shadow is whatever in us we are disconnected from or out of touch with, whatever we have disowned in ourselves, whatever we have not illuminated or will not illuminate in ourselves, whatever in us we are keeping out of sight.

So our shadow is that zone of us which houses what we have not faced or can’t/ won’t face about ourselves. To the extent that our conditioning (especially that originating in our childhood) is allowed to run us, it is our shadow. Or put another way, to the extent that our conditioning is kept in the dark, it is our shadow.

If we are to truly evolve, we need to know our shadow, and know it very well; if we don’t, our shadow will direct our lives on every level.

So what can we do to bring Shadow out from the dark? How do we get to know Shadow?

First you have to recognize Shadow, and this hard. What is it in others you dislike? Is that Shadow projecting something about you onto another? What are your self doubts, fears?

How can you identify core wounds and heal them?

Are you able to work effectively with your feelings of anger, shame, fear, and guilt?

Are you able to step back and pause in order to see how your Shadow affects those around you.

Are you able to “be one with your pain” and ease your hurt and suffering by doing so?

Can you effectively stop the mind chatter that is the loudest critic of you?

Do you have a spiritual base? Anything? Organized religion or not?

For some meditation or guided practices may help.

Shadow, the part of us we cannot “see” is often the part of us that makes the decisions. And sometimes within those decisions, Shadow makes the same mistakes over and over again. We have to reclaim Shadow and understand Shadow.

Obviously, if this speaks to you, it is not a quick fix. Shadow holds the reigns on a large reservoir of energy. Somehow we have to tap into this.

Curious? The link below has some interesting thoughts. I’m not endorsing him, just introducing an idea to you. I have not read or listened to this person’s work other than this podcast.

“The big step is to turn towards what we are running away from” Robert Masters



“Contentment is the greatest treasure.”― Lao Tzu


Ease of mind. Comfort of mind. The opposite of dis-ease: without ease.


When we experience dis-ease, it is difficult to live up to our potential. We become burdened with wants and desires that diminish the parts of our lives that are of the highest value.

Contentment is sometimes used interchangeably with happiness. They are two subtly different things.

When you’re happy, it’s really a state of being, influenced by a number of factors, including contentedness.
Contentedness, on the other hand, is a matter of being satisfied with what you have. It focuses on what you have and don’t have instead of just being a state of being. It influences happiness. However, you can choose to be content, just as you can choose to be happy, and if you choose to be content, you will be happy.

I don’t ever mean to sound like there is a magic button called “choose” that you just push and make everything better. I know it is harder than that. However, I do believe that by making one different choice in one circumstance you can begin to develop the strength and power to choose differently.

I believe contentment is an example of this. You can choose to be satisfied with what you have instead of filling up the pintrest  board with things you want and feeling sad that you can’t have them all at once. Of course it is great to work towards something, but will the attainment of that  “thing” make you happier”? Every time you want or need something it is a pinch from the world of disappointment: saying, hey remember, ” I can not be happy and content if I don’t have a new red car.” Why not take the first step in altering your perception and as you climb into your worn, but functional car, and say to yourself, “I am grateful to have a car.” Find contentment in what you have.

As with everything in life we need to find a healthy balance. In this case the balance between contentment and desire and longing. We all struggle with this.

When we get so caught up with “working at” being happy/content are we forfeiting the opportunity to be happy and/or content? Do we become lost and unable to see  the potential for happiness and contentment that is all around us.

Looking for “ease-of-mind”? Contentment? Begin where you are and be grateful. Know why you are saving for something, why you “have to have” something….keep desire for “having more” or something “else”, at an arms length, and see where those things fit into your choice of working towards being content/happy. Keep it real.


“Take more time, cover less ground.”
Thomas Merton

My life isn’t even that busy or compartmentalized, but I often feel rushed. I was at a conference last year and the speaker asked the audience: “How many of you feel like your life is out of control in terms of responsibilities and things you have to do?”. I think I was one of two or three people who didn’t raise their hand. So, why do we do this to ourselves? What is so important that we have to feel “out of control”?

What would happen to you, your day, your life, your job, your family if you took more time to do some things, but overall, covered less ground. Would everything fall apart? Would you fall apart? Would you fail at something? Do we have to get everything done all the time, every day?

For so many of us there is a pressure, an expectation to hurry, hurry, hurry. There always seems to be a list of things to get done…that never seems to get done. Something is always hanging over our head, on the back burner, nagging at us when we do try to relax…The list in our mind is always being modified, but never seems to go away.

One thing that seems to ensure our list is always long is that we find it difficult to say “no”. At some point we each have to understand we just cannot say “yes” to everything.

I love my computer and the internet. It keeps me connected and informed. It provides information and entertainment. But it amps me up.  And I also “loose” time, sometimes hours, by just “tootling around” for no reason or purpose.  I have a personal agreement to turn my computer off by 8 pm in order to focus on winding down.

I am lucky to work at a place with a wonderful circle of maple trees in the yard. When weather permits, I grab a blanket from my car and spread it out under the trees and sit or lay down and do nothing. I stop. No errands. No phone or laptop. No “catching” up or getting one more thing done. I just stop. And when I get up after a little bit, I am a better person all around. Take a break….a real break. With nothing to do.

If trying to slow down is something important to you….you have to change the way you think. Often I hear friends say: “Oh, I can’t sit down, that just wastes time and I have so much to do”. Taking time is not wasting time. Unscheduled time, quiet time opens doors both to yourself and life.

By making  conscious choices you provide the potential for rich and meaningful things to happen in your life. When life becomes more dictated by lists and the chaos of frenetic energy and activity we don’t even have the time to see the potential as we zip right on past it.

Take more time. Cover less ground.

There is a car I seem to follow through town quite a bit.  There is a bumper sticker on it that says “Progress Not Perfection”.  I really like that.

I think we spend a lot of time and energy on PERFECTION. And, I think it bogs us down and sometimes puts us in a quagmire that we struggle to get out of.

I feel like “perfection” is s bad word.

My husband went to a Cognitive Behavioral therapist for awhile. He came home one day with a big grin on his face and announced with great certainty and obvious sense of relief: “I don’t have to bat 1000. 300  is okay!”

Here was a moment of awakening for me too. We are bombarded by so many things that tell us very clearly, if we are not perfect we are not good enough. Look at TV and magazine ads. Reality TV shows. Look around you…dress like this and you’ll be beautiful. Get hair cut like so and so and people will like your hair cut (not you). Get a big gas wasting car so people will think you are important. Do this so you can be better than them.  Appear this way and people will think you are powerful.  Bat 1000 and the world will be yours. And if you don’t, you are failing.

Well, for me, batting 300 is pretty great. And I am much happier and more confident in believing I don’t have to bat 1000 to be a good, kind, valuable, contributing, caring person. I can take pride in batting 300 and work towards batting 302, or 305.

I think progress can lead to a different type of “perfection”.  The kind of perfection that isn’t absolute. Rather, something more about being able to change and grow, something that is fluid and dynamic, not static and with an end point.

We are all thrown a variety of pitches every day. Some could be called:

CATASTROPHIZING  CURVE  BALL – Making mountains out of molehills.

RUMINATION  SLIDER- Thoughts going around and around in your head.

PROCRASTINATION SINKER  – Can’t make final decisions.





RIGIDITY  TO  CHANGE  FORKBALL- Usually  when we keep looking for excuses or reasons why things can’t change – or when we need to get out of our ‘comfort zone’

For each one of these we need to learn how to stand to face it with authority. We need to know how to place our hands on the “bat” so we can send the “Catastrophizing curve ball” flying. We need to learn not to flinch when a “Regret and Blame splitter” is thrown at us. We need to learn to see a “Procrastination sinker” coming. We need to learn the mechanics of how “Rumination slider” moves. And we need to adjust accordingly. We need to make progress through practice and experience, with the help of mentors and team mates. Then we can keep our eye on whatever pitch  is coming our way, make commanding contact with it and send it out of the park and out of play in our lives.

And when we begin to understand that with all of the above, 300 is really good, we can begin to believe in ourselves and work on making progress on learning, practicing, trying new things, paying attention, and seeing. We can be unflinching and live fully on the premise: Progress not perfection. Some days we’ll bat 250, or 300. Maybe we’ll get to 375 or as low at 200. But whatever our average, we know it is all about Progress and not Perfection.

Batter UP!!

The Welcoming Prayer

May 25, 2012


The Welcoming Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.

(by Father Thomas Keating)

What would our days be like, if when we opened our eyes every morning, we took a deep cleansing breath and said:

“Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything

that comes to me today

because I know it is for my healing.”

Those are life altering words: to see every thing that comes to us every day as a means of our own “healing”. Okay, sure: the good things, the joyful happy things….but, what about the pain, the sorrow, the disappointment, loss, failure…..healing?

 “I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.” 

If we can let go of our desire for power and control, let go of our desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.  Let go of our desire for survival and security…..what are we left with? 

We are left with the moment. The here and now. The experience.  As Bodhidarma (coming soon in a new blog post) taught:  keep a steady mind, one that is not swayed by circumstances. A mind open to God, or Spirit or Buddha-Mind, whatever name you give it, whatever belief you have.  

By greeting each and every new day with “welcome, welcome, welcome…”, we are telling our own Potential to open every door today and welcome everything that comes to us through those doors because those things are for our healing, our strengthening.  Without opening the doors we miss possibilities. And possibilities strengthen our potential. Open the morning door wide and shout, “WELCOME , WELCOME, WELCOME!”

A little background information on Father Thomas Keating:

Father Keating is aTrappist monk (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) and priest, known as one of architects of the Centering Prayer, a contemporary method of contemplative prayer, that emerged from St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, in 1975. He was born in New York City, and attended Deerfield Academy, Yale University, and Fordham University, graduating in December 1943. He is a founder of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. (Wikipedia)

Familiar with The Society Of Friends? The Quakers? They have in their history a beautiful “dance” song called Simple Gifts. You may know it from Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, or from Obama’s inauguration when YoYo Ma and others played Aire and Simple Gifts. The music is breath-taking. The words speak of ideals few us might ever even consider: “to bow and to bend”, “tis a gift to be simple”, “to come down where we ought to be”. Words of humility.

How do these words have the power to influence our potentiality? The words remind us of what is important, no matter the time we live in, our social status or anything else. If we remember we are a part of something bigger, or that there is something bigger than us as an individual, we can be at ease with humility (to bow) , to turn and be able to compromise, to be grateful, to bend and seek simplicity rather than complexity. We can be free from self-importance, wanting, desiring, wishing for…..and find satisfaction with the moment.  We can “come down to where we’re meant to be”, and realize that for most of us, especially if you are reading this, our lives are OK.  “And when you find yourself in a place just right, you will be in the valley of love and delight”: when you look around and start saying “thank-you”, “I am thankful for ….”, “I love you”, “I forgive you”, “I am sorry”, you will be in a place of gratitude. “When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed”: Tagore said,

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

We don’t always have to be strong, right, domineering, forceful, insistent, in control….

“To turn and to turn will be our delight till by turning and turning we come round right”. Dance. In gratitude, in peace and with peace, with others, by yourself. Dance because you are a part of Something that will work with you to discover your potential. Turn to face the light, the possibilities…when True Simplicity is gained life can change.

Ethic of Reciprocity

April 15, 2012

Definition of “ethic”:

1:  the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

2a : a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values
b:  plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group
c : a guiding philosophy
d : a consciousness of moral importance

Definition of “reciprocity”:

1: the quality or state of being reciprocal : mutual dependence, action, or influence

2: a mutual exchange of privileges; specifically : a recognition by one of two countries or institutions of the validity of licenses or privileges granted by the other

You may know the Ethic of Reciprocity as The Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

This concept can be found many disciplines: psychology, philosophy, sociology, religion, and more.  Psychologically it means empathizing with others. Philosophically it requires a person perceiving their neighbor as also “an I” or “self.”  Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and between individuals and groups. And of course, it is an integral part of religion.

While the religious connection is important and unavoidable, I really am more concerned with how we can live on a daily basis with the basic concept of the Golden Rule in order to live up to our potential.

The Golden Rule requires us to practice empathy:

Definition of EMPATHY: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

It is a proactive directive: As Dr. Frank Crane put it, “The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatsoever unless you realize that it’s your move!”

And for me, that goes hand in hand with Gandhi’s famous quote:

The Golden Rule is beautifully simple. By following the Golden Rule I find there is a tendency to make the people I have interactions with, happier. There is a noticeable side effect in that I feel happier too: treat others as you want to be treated. So simple.

You may find more satisfaction in yourself, a greater belief in yourself, a knowledge that you are a good person and a new trust in yourself. These are huge benefits! And the results are felt immediately!

Start today, even if it is one step at a time.

My father used to always say:”Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” We call it empathy. Try it with any person: someone you love, someone you are angry at, the person on the street corner, the tired waitress. Really try to understand what it is like to be them, what they are going through, and why they do what they do.
Practice compassion. Feel what they’re going through, learn to want to end their suffering. And when you can, take even a small action to somehow ease their suffering in some way.  So when you put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself how you think they want to be treated. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation.
Be friendly. We are so conditioned these days to be wary of strangers; “Stranger Danger”. It’s usually safe to say “hello”, or “Thank you”, or add “Have a nice day.”  Who doesn’t like to feel welcome and wanted?
Be helpful. Is this currently a weaknesses in our society? Seems like it sometimes. In general there is a tendency to keep ourselves. It is easy to turn a blind eye when we are deep in concentration on our cell phone, or have our eyes closed listening to our ipod. ” Don’t be blind to the needs and troubles of others. Look to help even before you’re asked.”
Listen to people. We all want to talk, but very few of us want to listen. And yet, we all want to be listened to. So take the time to actually listen to another person, rather than just wait your turn to talk.
Overcome prejudice. We all have our prejudices. But try to see each person as an individual human being, with different backgrounds and needs and dreams. Discover what is the same between “you” and “them”.
Stop criticizing. We all do it. We do it to people we know, people we don’t know…. learn to interact with others in a positive way, without using criticism as a thread for discussion or gossip.

Rise above retaliation. Often our instinct is to strike back when we’re treated badly. This is natural. Resist that urge.  We are trying to remember to treat others well, despite how they treat you. You do not have to suffer in doing this. You can take action in ways that are not retaliatory.

Let the change Gandhi spoke about begin with you. Practice the Ethic of Reciprocity and see first hand how those changes come to life. Live up to your potential of being a kind, compassionate, empathetic person, and see how others begin to see you differently and treat you with a new respect.


April 7, 2012

po·ten·ti·al·i·ty (p-tnsh-l-t)
n. pl. po·ten·ti·al·i·ties
1. The state of being potential.
a. Inherent capacity for growth, development, or coming into existence.
b. Something possessing such capacity.

Beautiful idea: inherent capacity for growth, development, or coming into existence.

I have been coming into existence for over 50 years.