As Autumn fades to Winter, we enter the time for shadow work. In this blog, I will explain what shadow work means, the forgotten traditions around shadow time and how to turn it into something positive. For many people, this is the time of year they dread the most because they’ve lost touch with the natural rhythms of life. I will open your eyes and mind to what shadow work can be and how to use it to boost your holistic wellbeing.
The nights are drawing in, nature is going into her rest and recover phase and inviting us to do the same. But modern life encourages artificial avoidance of this important phase of wellbeing in the forms of bright lights, sugar and alcohol. Anything to stave off the darkness and necessary descent into our shadow realm because of the misconception that it is scary, lonely and dangerous.
Yes, we have the daylight-saving hour but we don’t really adjust our life styles to suit the seasons do we? We expect to be able to apply the same timetables across the whole year, no matter what the season, and this lack of adjustment and perception is costing us dearly in terms of our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Shadow time is the part of the year where we take our lead from nature and retreat into ourselves, gently withdrawing after the final harvest of Samhain to spend some personal reflection time.
We need this rest and recovery phase on every level if we are to benefit from personal growth and ensure our lives are delivering against our expectations and hopes. This is the time to review everything that has happened in the past 12 months, the good, the bad, the brilliant, the ugly. Ideally, to ourselves or with someone/people we trust, depending on whether you’re an extrovert or introvert.
It’s a time of truth, facing facts, your shadows and seeing things for what they really were. You can tell when you are doing this because it feels or sounds right, if you still feel uncomfortable then you haven’t reached the truth. The truth really does set you free! And no, this isn’t permission to beat yourself up on any level, it’s about owning your part in anything that didn’t work out the way you’d hoped and seeing as an opportunity for growth not self-harm.
This is also a time for evaluating what you’ve sown and harvested this year, did you get out what you put in? If, there is any part of your life which doesn’t bring you joy and connection then this part requires change. You don’t have to tear down your life and rebuild it immediately but use this time to accept what you don’t like, honour your feelings and make plans.
For this is also dream time, the time for divining what you really want out of life, what makes your heart sing. For a singing heart, brings a happy balanced soul which will attract everything it needs to realise more dreams. Dreams spring from your well of creativity, they’re not just unattainable fantasies but your higher-self giving you powerful messages for your life’s direction.
Traditionally, this was the time for heart-warming, nourishing foods, longer sleeps, staying at home. The pace of life had to slow to match the waning Sun, people socialised less, which in terms of spreading diseases in colder climes is a very good idea! With more time on their hands, more time could be taken to undertake life reviews, dream up creative solutions to problems, rest and recover.
Before you can determine where you go next, you always need to review where you’ve been and what you’ve learnt to far to carry on building and growing. I like to journal my shadow work, which can’t be a surprise, I find it a useful and cathartic release. I don’t share these private thoughts with anyone, they’re my shadows and for me alone to understand and gain wisdom from. Sometimes, I burn them afterwards to release them and clear them. I rarely ever reread them.
I know a lot of spiritual practices promote a letting go of your shadows, trying to release them, unfortunately they don’t really go anywhere unless you’ve faced them, learnt from them and truly forgiven yourself. I am not one for throwing parts of myself away either, I believe integration is more helpful, holistic and powerful.
For instance, knowing and appreciating that when I’m feeling unwell I can be a totally unreasonable bitch is really helpful to knowing that when loved ones complain of my behaviour it’s more than likely because I’m not feeling too well but haven’t noticed. I then have to own this, not quickly slip and stay in martyr letting it develop into a forest fire and do a lot of apologising! I can’t stop myself behaving like this easily but I can see when it happens, own it and make amends.
Trying to throw away personality traits just doesn’t work, understanding yourself and owning them is far more effective. And, by spending time doing shadow work you can really learn who you are and what it takes for you to be a happy human. Striving for perfection equally doesn’t work, we are humans and we need to model both the light and the dark for others to learn from.
I recommend meditation for shadow work. What I mean by this is quiet time allowing your thoughts the time and space to talk or shout out in your mind or heart or be felt in your body. No, I don’t mean sitting still for great lengths of time with a blank mind, though some people can and love doing this. My mind doesn’t shut up, so for me meditation is more about surrendering to the voices and listening to myself. I prefer to do it to music, with my eyes closed and lying down. Sometimes, I meditate standing up in the shower, I am a water sign to water is very spiritual to me. It’s really down to being comfortable and treating it as something enjoyable not something to be painfully endured.
This time of the year is the time of the Crone, Autumn, who is associated with wisdom and shadow time invites you to develop yours. It’s an invitation to retreat into fluffy pyjamas, slippers and blankets, to say no to the artificial bright lights and properly rest. If you don’t take this time and instead choose to spend this time doing everything to avoid personal introspection, I can promise your arrival in January feeling totally worn out, toxed up and possibly overweight. Frazzled before you even started the year. If, you choose to use this time wisely, I can promise you will notice all the beauty in nature and the darkness and see in the new year full of vigour, promise and excitement for life.
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