shadow workI recently read an article on shadow work in which the author endorsed embracing ‘the monster.’ No doubt we all have the capacity for both good and bad in us. The shadow is a reference to the darker side of us, the ego-based, lower-vibration emotions like anger, envy, jealousy, distrust, sadness, hatefulness, and, of course, the actions or words they can lead us to. I think there is merit in knowing and accepting that we have the capacity for all these things within us. But, to just embrace the monster side as an unavoidable, inextricable part of us, is lazy and not good if you are reaching for an optimal life experience.

Mindfulness vs. Stuffing things Down

I talk a lot about mindfulness and not interacting with my thoughts. And, it is important to discuss the differences in this and in stuffing down emotions. There’s a fine line between an issue that needs to be addressed and healed and just thoughts that keep reoccurring out of habit. I would never condone pushing down ones feelings. If it is there and it is hurting, it needs to be looked at, addressed. For instance, whenever I have grief over the loss of a lover, death of loved one, or even grief over a missed life opportunity, I feel the sorrow and sit with it – give it its due time to be with me, move inside and pass, often times to come back and visit again and again. Grief is love – love of life, love for a person, love for a particular experience. Sadness isn’t my favorite emotion, but in the case of grief, it’s an important part of the healing process.

Where mindfulness comes in handy is in watching the thoughts coming up objectively, you can get to know what needs healing or forgiveness, and what mind activity is just purely negative subconscious habit. For instance, if in the grieving process the mind jumps to self-flagellation, (thoughts like “Why didn’t I do this,” “I could have said that,” “If I had only,” “I could have been there more,” “ I could have done more,” etc) that is a red flag that something needs to be healed or forgiven within you. Recognize the thought patterns for what they are – grief about your part in things. Know you are only human and that humans make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes. Say, to yourself, I know better now so I’ll do better in the future and forgive yourself. And, live up to your promise to yourself to do better in the future. We all only do the best we know at the time and from each experience we learn and refine. Once you’ve forgiven yourself and fully embrace that you are only human, don’t engage with those thoughts in the future. They just want to drag you into the past. And, there’s no need to beat yourself up again and again. Decide at some point to love yourself enough to move on from those type thoughts.

Where Mindfulness Works for You Over Time

The beauty of mindfulness is that it prunes away neural networks. The more particular thoughts are visited, the more those neural pathways are reinforced. They become hardwired, like entrenched super highways. Conversely, when you do not interact with thoughts of a certain type, those pathways get pruned away. And, the goal of a clear mind and pure heart is one that pays dividends for you in a constant blissful life experience. The thoughts that spawn the lower-vibration emotions like envy, jealousy, anger and hate are ones I have come to recognize from a mile away and can disperse like the sun breaks up a rain cloud, the minute they appear in my mind. Any thoughts of comparison of yourself to others are the type thoughts that can lead to these lower-level emotions. Any thoughts of judgement of others is only your ego trying to prove you are superior. Any thoughts that separate you from the world, that don’t promote oneness, also lead to these lower-level emotions. Watching the mind will increasingly help you in knowing which thoughts are worth saying ‘pass’ to and which need tending to in order to heal a part of you that is wounded.

We’ll talk more about this in the future, but for now I have to go pack for a ski trip!! If you have a mindfulness practice, please chime in with your comments and feedback. Your words are always very much appreciated. Blessings!

Sandra M Bell
Author of “Lunchtime Joy Magnet”