‘Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is‘ ~ Carl Jung
This month’s theme is the Shadow –our dark places, our inner saboteur, our imperfections and well-hidden aspects-, as it manifests in the context of spirituality. We’ll be exploring, through words and, of course, through movement, the contrast between light and darkness, and, more specifically how we can embrace, embody and integrate both, through the practice of JourneyDance.
Being part of this community, I assume that most of you are involved in spiritual practice, in one form or another. I have been a yoga and meditation practitioner myself for more than twelve years now and constantly reap the benefits of having these practices in my life, as a way to take care of myself, stay healthy and support my self-growth.
Early on in my journey, however, I realised that there was something important missing in the way we approached and interpreted those Eastern-born spiritual traditions in the West. I noticed there was often an overemphasis of the positive, the light and bright, transcendence and ascension -the so-called ‘upward current’. Hardly anybody talked about or admitted the less pretty, darker aspects of life itself, of the human condition and of the yoga community, in particular -the so-called ‘downward current’. These issues were almost a taboo, especially in those days over a decade back, and you could expect to feel less of a spiritual person, or that you hadn’t yet evolved in your practice enough, if you indeed brought them up.
This realization became even stronger, when I trained to become a Jungian psychotherapist and started to gain a deeper understanding of the psychological mechanisms underlying human behavior. What I found out, through studies and personal analysis, was that this approach could easily reinforce the perfectionism and purist tendencies many of us, spiritual seekers, already have as traits in our personalities, thus creating more imbalance instead of wholeness.
And then I came across JourneyDance. When I had my first JD experience, I was literally shaken to the core, as I found myself immersing in a spiritual practice that was inviting the totality of myself, that was open to and affirming of the darker, more imperfect parts of my being and actually created the container, through ritual, movement and community, for me to embody, transform and befriend them, in the most grounded, complete way I had ever experienced.
Carl Jung said that the more we identify exclusively with the light in our psyche, the greater, more dissociated and hence more frightening our shadow becomes. The shadow is that part of ourselves that we do not know, or do not want to know about; the deepest, most undesired, unacceptable aspects of our personality that we tend to repress and neglect. Nevertheless, our shadow also hides in it our greatest potential -it is our brightest gold, in disguise, containing the highest, most refined qualities of our psyche that we cannot yet own and recognize as ours.
We also all have our demons coming up at least occasionally. They are the judgemental voices in our heads, criticising, restricting and holding us back from realising our truest potential. They are the limiting beliefs, undeserving thoughts, self-abusing and sabotaging parts of ourselves, otherwise known as the ‘victimizer’ or inner critic. And still those harsh inner aspects, at their deepest core, are but unmet and unsupported needs and emotions, awaiting for authentic connection and loving embrace..
The ultimate goal of every spiritual practice, path and tradition is the attainment of wholeness, through all-around consciousness. Enlightenment cannot be reached by denying the shadow -only by reaching down, travelling into the depths and shedding light onto our unconscious, unknown elements, wounds and inner personalities. We need to first bravely dive into the underworld of our psyche, to be able to rise into the light; we have to descend in our deepest core, before we become capable of ascending to the heights of spirit, without losing our ground, realness and humanity.
Jungian psychology taught me the importance of confronting and embracing our darkness. Somatic practices showed me the significance and power of bringing the body into the process and using it as the container that will allow us to embody, move and transform our personal demons. Journeydance offers me the space to bring the both of them together and create real, whole-body rituals that allow for the transformation to become grounded, crystallised and supported by community.
At this Saturday’s JourneyDance, we will invite our shadow side and our demons, as they manifest through the different chakras, to the dance floor and will make space for them to move, be heard and acknowledged. We will then ‘feed’ and support them, until they reveal their secret teachings -the gold in the shadow- and become our Allies, Friends and greatest Teachers. You can find out all about the event and RSVP on the event’s page on Facebook and on Meetup.
Come and join the Dance! Be prepared to look your shadows straight in the eye, embody and transform your inner critic into a trusted friend and discover your brightest light where you least expected!