During meditation, I am sitting and watching my thoughts. Getting to know myself and my shadow. Hopefully with kindness. I want to see the darkness of my thoughts and try not to shy away. And I return to my breathing; again, and again. On my pillow and in the world, return to breath.
This past week, my teacher talked about cultivating curiosity on the mat and in our lives. We can be very judgmental of ourselves and others; our shadow is what leads us to feeling separate, alone and desperate. Can we be curious about our states of being: our minds, emotions and actions?
Life gets hard sometimes. That difficulty can come from the outside world. It can come from our personal experiences or challenges. When we are in pain, our shadow appears. The darkness comes forth to criticize, blame, alienate and hate. We might not like our emotional responses and try to push them away. Or we might flame the response, so that the fire builds hotter.
Here are some practices where you may get to observe your shadow:
Acceptance (Shadow: Opposition)
Explore what you need to learn as a person from whatever experience you are having. One of the books I’m reading right now is The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Powerful read. One point I have been mulling over is how by facing obstacles we can cultivate great inner strength. What can you learn from your life? From your obstacles and frustrations?
Compassion (Shadow: Hate)
When you are going through a challenge, think about all the other people who have faced similar challenges. Both the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama talked about healing our own pain by paying attention to the pain of others. Compassion, joy, love and generosity can grow out of this attention.
Practice (Shadow: Agitation)
Take time to ask yourselves these questions. I know life can get very busy. Sometimes, as much as we might complain about being busy, being busy is easy. We are very distracted when we are busy. Take the time to nourish your growth as a person. To increase your capacity for compassion to yourself and others.
Patience (Shadow: Intolerance)
Can you be patient and kind with yourself? Facing yourself is not always easy to do. Nor can being patient and kind at the same time. From my experience, breathing and relaxing are powerful tools. If you would like to explore this subject more, I recommend The Untethered Soul.
I encourage you all to join me in these powerful practices. Yoga can be so much more than our time moving in unison on a sticky mat. Don't get me wrong, the poses and physical practice are powerful tools for growth, if we allow ourselves to grow. And our whole lives can become a practice. Look at your shadows and don’t let them rule you.