Shadows go in front of you, leading into your future and trail behind you, leaving a part of you in the past. They are clearest when we are in the light, and disappear when we lose ourselves in darkness.
A shadow does not have a polar opposite; it gently embraces both light and dark at once. While light displays morning and darkness mourning, shadows show us that both of these extremes exist simultaneously and in relation to each other. This is true of all polarities, and yet the shadow has none. The shadow, therefore, hints at the inherent unity in all things, and poetry reflects this with graceful, fearless strokes.
Maybe it’s the Scorpio in me but I have never found shadows to be scary or menacing. As an only child, I was even known to play with my shadow! For shadows can be lively and engaging; interplay of the ethereal qualities of light with the denseness of matter, which thereby produce an image. Often created by nature’s dance— a tree limb bouncing, leaves swaying, a bird flying past the sun, our own bodies moving— shadows are naturally captivating!!
As children, we do not question the intimate relationships we have with our shadows. When we move our limbs, our shadow’s limbs move; our awareness of this is pronounced. As we grow older, however, we humans have a tendency to shy away from our ‘shadow selves’. In Jungian psychology one’s shadow self is a metaphorical reference to the unconscious mind: the place in which we store all the ‘dark half of the human totality’. It represents our unlived life; the good and the bad in the necessary cycle of loss and renewal.
Shadow denial is a form of psychological repression, and as anyone with even a passing familiarity with psychoanalysis can tell you, what is repressed seeks
R E V E N G E. We can see this being mirrored in the physical realm every day as each of us must continually surrender to the inevitable pains of being human. Consequently, many of us have come to unconsciously deny our physicality in an effort to avoid pain.
Over time this avoidance has translated into contempt and diminution of the body in our western culture. We have lost the loving connection to the body and become two -dimensional. We swing between extremes like a pendulum, and have lost our intimacy with the unifying shadow energy. Within this disconnection our bodies have unfortunately become places we use to deposit our fear, shame, grief, etc surfacing in struggles like eating disorders, addictions, and other forms of self-harm.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s famous piece “Please call me by my true names”, the poet embodies three selves: an innocent, a sinner and a witness. They each ask us to look within our nature and shed light on the baser parts of the unconscious self (the body is often referred to as the unconscious self)— our own capacity for violence, jealousy, and greed, trusting that the fiery light of consciousness desires to transform and enlighten.
Similarly, we find the same concept in the Hindu goddess Kali, who celebrates the shadow side of humanity by giving it full expression in the belief that within such trial release rests the doorway to the deeper self-awareness, or Christ consciousness if you are a lover of Jesus.
Like goddesses wielding their own weapons to unlock the darkest secrets of their own consciousness, the poet unites voice and shadow. thus the shadow is exposed to the light and ceases to be the destructive force it was when dismissed. Instead of residing in the depths, the shadow gains its rightful place as a function of the creative personality, for some of the greatest artistic masterpieces have been birthed from the shadows.
In doing so, pain is reconciled and redeemed. Such alchemical processes restore our golden inner life, and the phoenix rises from the ashes, as we watch in awe.
Silver moonlight all around
mist floating off the ground
eerie owlets hoot and squeal
as shadows turn to nightfall
Chilling fear within my heart
tell me “From this path depart!”
keeping silence deep within
and darkness of each sin
Deafening screeching far off yonder
distracts my soul enough to ponder
if I ever again see the light
and get through this blackest night.
Golden sunbursts light the heaven
announcing dawn will soon awaken
form her slumber, bringing peace
dancing beams proclaim, “Night, cease!”