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Shadow Boxing

In each & everyone of us there is a light & a shadow. There is the side of us that emanates joy and an easefulness of being when things are flowing. This is our natural state. But life presents us with many ebbs in addition to the flows. It’s in those ebbs where the shadow is often revealed.

Seeing our shadow side can be disturbing and outright damaging to our most cherished relationships. It can be triggered unexpectingly and manifest as a previous unrecognized type of behavior. It can cast doubt on the viability of a relationship. In my experience, it can also cause shame as we confront the difference between who we know ourselves to be and the actions we’ve taken.

In these moments it is helpful to remember that we are here in these bodies, here in these relationships, to heal & grow. And while being in the light & simplicity of things should be the rule and not the exception, we must also be willing to embrace the shadow within ourselves and within our loved ones. We are all humans, bringing into our relationships past hurts and coping mechanisms we’ve adopted for dealing with life.

Understanding this gives us the requisite sense of acceptance and compassion required to work with the shadow elements within ourselves and eachother. It can be scary. It can make us want to run. The triggering of one person’s shadow can easily trigger their loved one’s as well, leading to destructive forms of communication. But ultimately, this is about growing together in light. This is about our capacity to find forgiveness and to bring love to any situation. And it is also about our ability to make healthy changes within ourselves.

The paradox is that we are given very specific windows of opportunity to make these changes. And that window is when the shadow has been revealed. It’s then that we can bring it into the light and begin to understand it, feed it with love and release it for good. It’s ironic that it takes the darkness to arise in order to shift our internal relationship with these fear based emotions, but it also makes plenty of sense. Where else do we have the opportunity to stand head on in the face of difficulty, look it in the eye, and honestly confront it?

So while it may feel terrible in the moment, it’s in those very moments that we have the ability to clean out the junk drawers of our lives. In the context of relationship, this can be a fork in the road. It can be a point where what was previously just floating atop the clouds feels tarnished, causing us to recoil.

And yet it can also be a time where our heart expands to love the whole of our beloved- their shadow and their light alike. This is no easy task but I’m beginning to understand that it is the task of authentic love. And love is the power that heals, that forgives, that acknowledges the light even amidst, especially amidst, the darkness.

My first yoga teacher would keep us in postures for a very long time- partially so we could observe what would come up. In the midst of all the triggers: restlessness, judgement, discomfort, wanting to bolt, she would say, “The moment you want to leave the pose is when the pose begins.” I finally understand that she wasn’t just talking about yoga postures.

Our entire life is an invitation to widen our hearts. To expand our capacity to love and be loved. Our shadows are not detriments to our character. They are just the places that haven’t been met with love yet. And while they can bring up pain, they can likewise present to us the new possibility of choosing love & forgiveness and in so doing open to an experience of life that is infinitely more authentic, resilient and enriching than we ever could’ve imagined from afloat atop the clouds. The choice is yours.