Sunday, June 9, 2013

Shadow Work III: Timing

Part 3 in the Shadow Work series: Timing and Shadow Work.

{Note there is where we're getting into the nitty gritty opinions section, so disclaimer: This is my opinion and my version of shadow work and you are allowed/encouraged to disagree and change this to suit yourself and your needs! Shadow Work is not a monolith, and neither is Paganism}

(Note in this post I am talking mostly about Emergency work/Complex Work, as I have the most experience with that type. The Timing for self work can be entirely different, though much of this applies to both)

You might wonder why I'm dragging out the nuts and bolts decision making process for shadow work, as opposed to methods, and Woo, and the Juicy Parts

Partly it's because many don't think there IS a decision making process that goes into highly emotional work (as if those two things can't coexist), and it's partly because many haven't experimented with, or examined, their limits, and the decision making process involves you looking at, and accepting, those limits and their validity. So--onward, to Timing!

Life is largely a huge game of timing. You can apply for hundreds of jobs, but timing is what often gets you the one. Right place, right time. Sales at the store are limited. Most people plan their families around other events in their lives/their stiaution. Timing is half luck and half planning, if you ask me. It's how you 'randomly felt like going to the grocery store at 8 AM on a Saturday, and you ran your cart into that random person because you were super freaking tired and they ended up being your spouse and what a weird story, right?' Seriously.

Timing is an undercurrent in everything. It's more acceptable to ask someone to date you as a stranger than to marry you. It's more expected to wear shorts in the heat than in negative temperatures. It's more appropriate to say "I'm sorry" than "Congratulations" at a funeral. It requires some situational-reading, y'see, and the same for the Work.

To say this another way, there is a such thing as taking Shadow Work upon yourself at the wrong time, and the wrong place, because you are at your limits emotionally and physically at that time. There is a situation that involves trying to take the Work on to get around the natural emotional grieving process or speed it up, when in reality your needs dictate you need to let that part happen first. There IS an order to this vague thing we call Shadow Work, and it's important to consider not just "when", but "IF" you should do it for yourself at this current time.

Basically, you need to not be at your breaking point to attempt shadow work in a safe environment. It's not meant to force you into a breakdown when you're on the verge of completely losing it. It's meant to help you bury things that are ready to go. In my experience, if you try and speed the grieving process this way or force yourself into a breakdown, the shadow work often "fails" in some way or another. You can't get through it or it doesn't "take". I say this because MANY TIMES I have thought my grieving was over and I was set to process the tail end, and only in the middle of working when I broke down sobbing and clawing my face (in the negative sense--there is a positive release like this too, in terms of reaction) and breaking in half I realized I wasn't actually over it, and I needed to process fresh things first, then try again later.

I have since learned the timing better, and know to wait until my body tells me it's time.

In short, Shadow Work isn't a tourniquet to stop the blood from a fresh wound. It's the cast or the bandage you put on the wound after it's bled itself out and most of it has been stymied. 

We all know everyone processes life altering events differently. For some, the grieving process is a lot longer than others. I know that I take a very very long time to process and get over huge events, and you can thank my earth-sign moon for that, because we have a hard time with drastic and sudden change, him and I.

When I was just starting out I thought I had to do shadow work consistently, like on a monthly basis, but it turns out that was far too soon for what I was working on. I was almost trying to do shadow work while the trauma (in this case abuse) was still happening, so what occured? I would do the work, and walk right the fuck back into the situation I was shadow-working on and revert immediately. It was honestly not a good idea. It took a solid 2 years after getting out of that situation for me to do the PROPER shadow work for it, and bury it/move on.

You don't bury somebody in the process of dying, you wait respectfully for them to take their time to pass, and then you start the rites. In this way you could say shadow work is very linked to death working. You take the time for yourself to heal enough to do basic life functions, and then you can begin to think about the work.

Let me rephrase that--

Directly after a traumatic event, seriously, don't even think about the work. It shouldn't be a priority. Surviving is your priority. Kick and scream and cry and handle the immediate fallout however you, as a human, like to do those things. Don't think about the work for a while. Let the event simmer and stew for a solid few weeks, at least. After the immediate shock period ends, you can test your limits. Shadow Work involves calling up events in gory detail and reliving them, then dealing with that final fallout, but if you're stuck in a period of crying 4 times a day because you can't HELP reliving them already--don't even think about the Work. Shelve it for another few weeks. Do not feel ashamed about doing this: As I said shadow work is a decision. It is your decision when and IF you take it on. You don't have somebody to please here; this is purely for your own well being. Forcing yourself to relive things you can't think about without breaking down completely at the current time isn't shadow work, it's mental torture. (PLEASE don't do that, seriously.)

The ideal time to do Emergency-type shadow work for an event is on average for me a few months to a year after the event. By that time everything is good and simmered for me and most of my depressive anger has gone out of me; rationalizations in their place. At this point I have analyzed and analyzed the situation multiple times, and it has largely exited my consciousness, because I did those mental work-throughs. This is very important. I often say shadow work is successful when you forget that you did it. The ideal time for it is when the trauma just comes back to bite you at random times, but you can handle those times without much emotion or upheaval in your day, and you want some help to handle the last bits of that thing, because you recognize it has no real positive impact anymore on your life. You have to be in a strong enough and safe enough place to survive reliving those events and letting them go, and that takes no small amount of courage and preparedness.

It's not a forgetting process; more of an accepting and cutting one.


This brings me to my final, more practical, point about timing.

Assuming you recognize you have an issue to work on and want to begin the work, I suggest choosing a time when you can be alone in your house or find somewhere you won't be interrupted. If that's when you go to bed because it's all you have, that can work out.

I prefer an empty house in case I get really deep into the work, because it does create almost a trance state or an ecstatic state, and in that state you might thrash or cry or vocalize and not necessary be worrying about someone else coming to ask if you're okay.

Note you can have somebody with you if you prefer, and you trust that person. The thing is, they have to be prepared to see you go into what might look like from the outside a semi-violent fit of emotion, and NOT step in unless asked. The expressive, ugly part that makes us uncomfortable is supremely important, and it's not good to quell it. Part of the shadow work is giving yourself the safe space to ugly cry and claw the carpet and chant profanities and not be composed and perfect and Okay.

Make sure you're in a safe spot, whatever that means to you, and feel free to call deities or guides to aid you. Make it a ritual, if you prefer. Make it something to celebrate, if that works for you. The Work is positive, even if it is difficult and painful, and you have the right to celebrate having the courage to begin.


Shadow Work II: Types

Shadow Work is the monolithic term that I and other uses for this kind of thing, but what it is and what are the types of work?

To define the term, to me Shadow Work means facing the dark parts of my life on purpose, instead of burying and sweeping them under the rug. It is a conscious and necessary process in which I choose to face these things on a regular basis. This process in turn keeps me healthier, more stable, and more prepared to handle trauma and emotional times.

(For the hows and practical applications, you'll have to wait until part IV)

Within this idea of Shadow Work, there are many approaches, and this often depends on WHY you're doing the Work.

I have divided it into:

  • Immediate or Emergency Shadow Work
This is what I consider shadow work in direct result of a traumatic or otherwise life-changing event. Doing Work to assist or aid with a recent death, a break-up, past abuse, assault, disease, divorce, and things of that nature. This is the most common type that I will do.

Additionally in my experience, this type of traumatic experience has the most likelihood of leaving the individual with fall-out that shadow work alone won't fix. This includes the obvious psychological trauma (which counseling can aid) but also the metaphysical fall out of soul-piece loss and cords and connections. It is common to have a single event cause a series of issues that need to be approached from several angles.

             + Assisted Shadow Work

             I put this under the first heading because it is possible to have aid from the Spirit worlds for your work, and indeed it might constitute a LARGE part of the work you do with a particular spirit. Granted you can be assisted in any case of Work, not just a trauma.

            Note the roles can be reversed. If a SPIRIT needs help with ITS traumas or its work, the individual can be brought on to bear witness and act as a support or aid system to the spirit. This sometimes occurs in people who work with spirits that need to cross; shadow work is often the last leg of the journey.

  • Self-Focused Shadow Work
         This is work that is undertaken as a direct result of a desire to change or focus on a particular quality of your own personality that you personally do not like. If you have deep seated anger issues, or anxiety, or problems trusting others, that's what this is for. It is usually long-term and can have many facets and layers, as issues rarely develop in a vacuum.

         For instance, my work on my self has been mainly in the area of my anxiety. So I sat down semi-regularly with myself to work on that. Additionally, I find this type of shadow work, the process of changing old habits and patterns, needs to be attempted on the fly to combat things often and repeatedly, versus emergency shadow work, which is in some ways FEELINGS ALL AT ONCE and becomes vastly better after.

            +Preventative and regular Shadow Work

         You can, in fact, do preventative shadow work. This is more like a check-in you do every so often to see how things are. You might not think there's anything bothering you anymore, but it's worth it to sit down, be silent, and really look very deeply into the well just to see. It's not a bad thing to clear the crap before it becomes bad.

  • Complex Shadow Work {Multi-Type}
         This is my name for work that encompasses emergency and self-focused at once, because let's face it, a lot of the time they are inseparable  So this just means yes, you can be working on SEVERAL issues at once, in the same work.

  • Multi-Lifetime Work
        This type is specifically referencing old, OLD issues you have left over from past astral lives or what-have-you. In many situations issues build and stay with us and they may not surface until several lifetimes later. In this life I did a ton of shadow work that centered in a life hundreds of years ago, in a different time, because it became apparent it was still bothering me. When you begin digging into your issues on purpose, you uncover a lot of shit. Some of it is ooooollllddd. Don't be surprised when this happens.

Note these are my definitions after doing this for a while, and you may have more, or less.

The reason I mention types is because in the next installment, which is on timing, I will be covering the fact that your timing largely depends on your issue, and it's very important to be mindful of why.

In the process of Shadow Work, often once you pull the plug on the bathtub of feelings, it doesn't stop. You will work with one issue, and solve it, and in solving that issue you unlock another you completely repressed, and another, and so on. This is why any type of Work should not be undertaken lightly, or at the wrong time.

More on this in part III!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Shadow Work, I: A Series of Little Deaths

I know I have talked about shadow work before (here) but I have done so much of it and learned so much FROM it in recent months, I feel a series has become necessary, and needed. Shadow work, in my sight, also remains misunderstood in the greater woo-woo community.

So I give you part 1 of the Shadow Work posts: A Series of Little Deaths.

This post is about the philosophy of shadow work.

What I have learned in the past few years of my life, which is when I began paying attention and I "woke up" to the astral, is Life seems to be nothing but a series of little Deaths.

They are little as in small, so many of us don't notice. You keep on chugging through the worst of everything, and there are ups and downs, but rarely do you look backwards and contemplate the series of graves you're leaving behind on your path of chugging forward.

It happens when you love and lose and it really affected you and you can't eat for a month. It happens when you lose someone to death that you really cared about. It happens when you lose a pet, or a family member to something other than death. It might happen when you have a health scare, and nothing actually happens. It might happen when you missed hitting that kid at the intersection by millimeters, because you weren't paying attention. It may even happen when you wake up and somehow you can't remember where you end and someone else begins, and it's terrifying.

We are dying all the time, and the deaths are not the same, nor the same intensity, for everybody. It's pretty much always painful, even when it's sorely needed. You KNEW you had to end that relationship, but it hurt anyway. You KNEW your family member was losing a fight with their health, but it hurt to let go all the same. It's easier to buck up and keep moving forward and get over it than it is to sit with the self you're in the process of burying and hug it and let it cry.

We're told it's bad to wallow for a long time in feelings or depression or normal human reactions to loss. 

This is worse in situations that are considered 'commonplace' or like 'regular life things'. We're told to get over it, it's not a big deal, it was just a break-up, it was just a move, it was just a job loss, just a best friend that hurt you deeply, not like it was a REAL event. Not like somebody died, or something.

Somebody did. YOU did. But maybe it wasn't visible to them.

"Small" things can affect us greatly. And if you acknowledge that you have the right to feel like you're dying because of an "insignificant" life event, because it was significant to YOU, then you are on the right track.

That's what shadow work is for.

It's terrifying to wake up and realize you've lost pieces of yourself. There are stages of grief, they say, but they don't tell you the last stage is dying yourself. Acceptance, they say. Acceptance often means admitting you will never be the person you were before, again. 

You'll be similar, yeah. Still "you" at the core. But something is gone, now, that wasn't gone before, and you will heal and you will come out stronger, but not the same. And that's not a bad thing, but more of an acknowledgement. At the end of your Work you will look back and you will not understand, recognize, "be" that same self anymore. You will wave to each other on opposite ends of the path, and turn and walk away. You will feel like that self is a stranger, because the transformative process of your little death, and your work to go through it, and then eventually build a little headstone and say farewell to that self, has divorced you from it. Put you outside your body, unable to feel, see, and think that way again. 

The Work puts you on the outside the same way having astral awareness does. Shadow work gives you vivid, and sudden, and constant self-awareness. You will know the deepest parts of yourself, and guide those parts by the hand through your inevitable walk into the void and out the other side. And when you are on that other side, you will not look back, and you will know the work is done.

You won't realize you've completed the work until days, months, years later. You'll realize suddenly, as you're drinking some tea and smiling to yourself in Winter, that you haven't thought about Him in 6 weeks. That the things that friend did were really shitty and you will never, ever let someone treat you that way again, because you're worth so much more, and suddenly you actually BELIEVE that you are. 

When you are on the other side, the shadow work will be worth it, because you'll forget why you had to do it to begin with. 

And the You that comes out will be a hundred times better than the you you began with, even if it doesn't feel like that now. It will.


Monday, April 29, 2013

The Danger of Losing Touch: Shadow Work

(No image)

Hello, blog. Today I come to you...different. Not-the-same.

I am here to talk about the danger of losing touch. Not with your blog, or your friends, or your anything, but yourself. Not your practice; this goes deeper than that.

This is the ultimate goal of shadow work: to restore the "self", whatever form that is for you, and in whatever way you feel it needs to be restored. When we talk about soul-shards leaving and soul-shatter, we're talking at the base level about a loss of self. How that happens, and why, is another discussion. You just need to know it happened to me, and I thought I had done the Work, and I was Better, and I Wasn't, and that was the best possible thing to happen to me.

I have talked before about how I am two-minded. One half of me is intellectual, is "airy", spends time reading about heavy topics and likes chilling out with ideas. I like to pretend, sometimes, that that's the only half. And I pretend that's the only half and then I act surprised when I turn around and realize I feel empty and lost and I can't honestly explain what I'm feeling because it feels like "nothing". It feels cold. Because at the heart, I have this tendency to sweep my other half under the rug.

The other half is the messy one. The Witch. The Spirit-Walker. The Half-Animal. The one with all the feelings, the good and the bad, the ANGER, the righteousness. The ecstatic visions and the journey and the death rites and the throwing yourself down in the dirt, the mud, and howling like an animal and ripping flesh from bone with sharp claws. She's all wearing the skulls of animals and losing yourself to the night, losing molecule by molecule until you and Night lose track of what is what and you become each other and that's the true fulfillment.

Today I have been reminded that an intellectual practice is not one I can sustain alone. As much as I like to think of myself as this rational, reserved Spirit-Walker--I'm NOT. And I can't pretend I am. And the worst part is I wasn't even aware I had shut that other part of me off, again, until I did the Work and I lit the sacred incense and I poured my shit out on the ground in front of my Underworld betters and said "I'm sorry. Help me." I didn't understand why my facet, the one who guards my heart space, slapped me across the face and told me "You can't keep doing this." I didn't understand and that hurt her worse than anything; the blindness more than the action.

She meant I can't bury this huge portion of my practice. Half of my practice is airy and purity and intellectual--but the other half is human-and-animal, blood and guts and ruin and strong-eats-weak and all of the laws of nature. It's the crashing waves and the thunder and the lightning and all of that in the breath-the-blood of my human body. And that doesn't make it "bad" or "something I don't want to deal with". And at the core, I want to know WHY I keep doing this, so I can stop.

As much as I do offerings and write about deities and Spirits and whatever, it doesn't Fulfill. It doesn't suffice. It feels like eating a feast in an illusion, and the more you eat the more you're confused because you don't feel any fuller. You don't feel like you've eaten at all.

That messy side, the Underworld Side, the Animal--she is the food. She is the hunger and she is the feast all at once. I can read and write about the Work all I want, I can pretend I'm scientific and hard-nosed and academic and what-have-you, but I'm sitting at an empty banquet table wondering why I'm so hungry. I NEED that side of my practice like I need breath and water and food. And it's really sad that I keep realizing and forgetting this.

So this post is about the ultimate goal of shadow work: acceptance.

It's easier to accept things that happen to you and outsider things. It's really fucking hard to accept you are not who you say/think/believe you are. You might realize it, but it takes a while to set in. For me, I think it's finally setting in. I can't promise I'll never lose touch again, just that when I do, I will remember this working, and this moment, and I will hold it tight to me like a flame, and I will stop jumping off the cliff and killing half my soul for the sake of an idea.

This is a promise.

Monday, April 15, 2013

For Boston

In lieu of a post, I am posting here the two versions of healing sigil I have created for those victims of the Boston explosions today. I find sometimes you want to help in any way you can, but you're unsure how to proceed. I made these for people who might want a symbol or a directive for their energy.

It's based off the supreme healing capabilities of the nautilus, and the spiral, and the writing is essentially astral speak for "Energy to Boston", "Safety to Boston", etc. Feel free to print my sigil or modify it.

I kept the jps very large sized in case you want to print them.

When sending support energy, I am always sure to include a "If this energy is wanted", clause. It's find to act as a support, but never forget your source has free will and should be allowed to reject the energy if it chooses.

Stay safe, Boston.