What If You Look Directly Into Your Shadow Self And Love It Anyway?

We spend a lot of time running away from our darkness. Hiding from it. Denying it. Numbing the truth of it with whatever we can get our hands on. Trying desperately to be good and right and perfect, when our shadow selves are never actually going to disappear. No matter what we do in order to maintain the illusion, there is no getting rid of what lies underneath.

We have to move away from the idea that our darkness is ugly, toxic, and inherently bad. We tell ourselves that we cannot let anyone see the parts of us that aren’t as positive or uplifting, when all we do by hiding pieces of ourselves is drag everything else down. After all, how can we be in one part of our truth when we are denying another? It doesn’t work that way. We either embody the entirety of who we are or we are living a lie.

I had an experience yesterday and both my light and darkness showed themselves in the most frightening of moments. It was the first time in my life that I truly believed I might die. The thought crossed my mind, “Is this it? Is this really how I go out?” What’s hard to admit to myself is that I didn’t feel any certain way about that possibility. My body was fighting to survive and keep me alive, but my mind … was passively curious at best.

Does admitting that feel great? No, it doesn’t. I wish I had some epiphany about how much I want to live and fight and stay on this earth until I’m ninety years old. I wish my mind had cried out, “No! Not yet! You have so much to live for!” or something equally as dramatic. But it wasn’t like that, not at all. It was a desperation and an engulfing fear, and, at the same time, a strangely calm sense of acceptance, if that was indeed meant to be my fate. Just a glimmer of it, but it was there. The desire to fight and also the fleeting thought that I could go, if it was my time.

All parts of me are showing themselves in the aftermath of this trauma. Processing it is an uncomfortable experience. I feel scared, small, weak, and vulnerable. I feel strangely ashamed and embarrassed, though I don’t know why. I also feel quite keenly the fragility of this life, and a renewed desire to spend my limited time exactly how I want to be living. My emotions are heightened, just below the surface of my numbing, waiting patiently for the right moment when I can release them in a way that feels appropriate for me.

I’m restless and yet I can’t focus, but those few minutes of reckoning are ever present in my mind. All the pieces of myself that I don’t love came up in that experience, challenging me to see them and accept them and love them in all of their truth, humanity and vulnerability. It’s impossible to hold down the fountain of rising totality that comes to you in a near-death situation. Now I feel tired, like there is a part of me that I’ve lost. I’ll never again know what it’s like not to have felt all of my shadow and all of my light rise up inside me at once.

Here is the work. How do we see all these different parts of ourselves and lift them out into the open without any shame or fear? How do we gaze into what we want to turn away from and say, “yes, you are welcome here, and I love you just as much as the parts of me that the world thinks are admirable?” What if we lean in to all the wounds and the trauma and the pain and the so-called ugliness and embrace them with the deepest sweetness and nurturing affection?

I invite you to create a mantra for yourself, personalized to your own relationship and struggle with your darkness. Remember that everything is duality. The light cannot exist without the shadow. Both sides are equally important. My current mantra is, “I embrace all parts of myself. I love you and you belong. All of you belongs.”

Nothing that is not real can exist. You can spend a lifetime running from what you don’t like, or you can run straight into it with open arms and wrap it up and bathe it in the light. You have the choice.

I love you, and all of you belongs.

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