Learn to love the shadows of light
“Like the sundial, count the beautiful hours only.” I read this saying in my bible book, which smells like community college. Now, as an adult Yogini, I chuckle. Yes, the beautiful hours give us strength, and as a light-craving person, I bounce with joy that bright seasons come after the gray winter.
But in order to perceive the light and lightness in our life more intensely and to value them more than anything, as they should be valued, we need a contrast: the dark, the shade, the heaviness.
The yoga world tends to see the positive rather than the negative, sunshine rather than shadow. We seek the light of truth. We want to be clairvoyants with an illuminating radiance and turn to gurus, scriptures and yoga mats to attain enlightenment, which we want to happen at the speed of light. This isn’t meant as criticism, because I am convinced that it makes sense to strive for the light in life. But as Marianne Williamson says in her poem, which you will find at the beginning of this yoga.ZEIT edition, “It is our light, not our darkness that scares us.” Why is this? I believe it’s because we can really love and understand our light not only by doing yoga exercises, but by rising above our own shadow …
Looking for Shadows – Drama & Dharma
The fear of darkness lies in uncertainty. What we cannot see, we cannot understand. I need only say “cellar stairs” and you’ll get what I mean.
But the hidden is not without its charm. C. G. Jung and Sigmund Freud were true shadow-seekers, pioneers who deliberately penetrated the dark areas of the soul to reveal abysses in deeply buried pain. Anger, rage, grief, jealousy, powerlessness or despair, to name but a few of our dramatic emotions, are important catalysts for a fulfilling life. The meaning of the word “drama” is no different than “action” – it means the ability to act when facing an intense conflict. The similarity to the Sanskrit word “dharma”, which means our tasks or guiding principles in life, cannot be overlooked.
More on drama: In acting, there is a golden rule – never do it with a toddler! Young children are perfect and their light will outshine every adult actor. But when did we forget these rays of innocence? From school age, children are seen as great partners on the stage again. Now they have been socialized, have learned what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. The little person has learned what he is praised or punished for, how society works and … this has dimmed the glow in his eyes.
Every time we perceive something as “undesirable” or “bad”, we have a valid reason to suppress, reject or ignore it. We record these experiences as a shadow in our subconscious that affects us more than we think.
A Trip into the Unknown
Admittedly, dealing with the “dark side of life” is a tough challenge and many are shattered when the dark side of power takes over. They do not act, or do so only on the surface, and every dark spot appears intolerable. In doing so, they lose not only the relation to reality, but also to themselves. This concept translates literally from German as “to be outside yourself” or “outside your skin”, meaning life has become too much for us. If the power of action is missing or lost in these moments, we have a very limited opportunity to grow and develop further, as the Bhagavad Gita (a central spiritual script, also called the “Hindu Bible”) says. If we do not deal with our shadows, we find the cause of all the problems in our environment. Many would rather change their job, husband, girlfriend, home, sport or religion instead of digging a bit deeper and dissolving their shadows. Action needs courage and strength and is a laborious way into the light – but much more lasting and healing than forever stumbling on the surface in a vapid light that does not cast any shadows. And most importantly, you are not alone in this.
“You must dig deep wells if you want clear water,” sing Rammstein in Rosenrot (Rose Red). If we have the courage to dig into the depths of our dramas, we will probably be faced with our abysses, but we will also attain clarity.
Thinking Positive – Really?
In both psychology and spiritual teachings, there is disagreement about the effectiveness of integrating our shadow sides. The law of attraction would say: if your attention is directed to dark subjects, you will develop and discover more shadows.
On the other hand, a purely positive focus of thoughts would result in a perfectly happy person. We would assume that one with wonderful, pure thoughts would be completely happy. However, we see that even people who focus on the light or at least spend most of their time trying to express their positive thoughts and clarity are overwhelmed by the shadows of life. Great light workers of our time have been and are being attacked and threatened even as we speak. Gandhi and Martin Luther King were murdered, Nelson Mandela had to spend 27 years of his life behind bars, Malala was shot to death, and the rage of the Dalai Lama’s opponents drowns out all else in their world.
Of course, dealing with the subconscious elements of Walzlawik’s huge (beneath the surface) iceberg will probably expose you to some interesting “un-welcomeness”. In my experience, however, yoga practice is the same as dishwashing in the sense that you have to look for dirt carefully, it is cumbersome, but worth it when you have your sparkling clean dishes at the end. The dishes stop piling up. Have no fear: when you work on your shadows, they will not multiply, but dissolve.
Practicing light and love and controlling and directing your thoughts are wonderful and highly effective! ATTENTION: It makes a big difference whether you place the thought focus on the positive to direct life positively or prefer to concentrate on the positive just to keep yourself from thinking about unpleasant things. When we suppress issues, they become even worse. They are like little children, who absolutely have to tell you something now. Right now. Right away. Now. The iceberg of our shadows continues to grow beneath the surface of the water, and we move through life without direction or purpose.
With all the radiant, powerful and joyful Yogi posts on Facebook I sometimes ask myself if I am doing something wrong in my yoga practice. This is because my life has become much more intense and stressful since I’ve taken the yoga path. I’d go so far as to say I opened Pandora’s box. In the meantime, I am sure that yoga is a karma accelerator, to allow us to dig deeper into the muck of our existence. But now the positive side: yoga helps to recognize challenges earlier and gives the strength to rise to them.
“Shadow work” has become a common term thanks to Ruediger Dahlke. However, how can I integrate my shadows or, even better, transform them when my coworker is driving me crazy and the mess in the kids’ room is making me livid?
Find your shadow!
Let us use these possibilities to bring light into the dark.
An exercise: Your best friend talks about you behind your back, but doesn’t realize you’re listening. What would she have to say for you to become infuriated?
Congratulations! Shadows found. Now the point is to look for the cause of this pain.
Know your triggers
What triggers this feeling? A word, an action, or feeling misunderstood or not being listened to are often enough to slip into a world, which can be hard to face. It is important to recognize that the “messenger” is not the cause, only the trigger.
Take a step back and watch
Locate the emotion / feeling in your body and give it a name. This is how you start creating a distance between you and the “drama”. Everything must be there and you must have the time to grasp it.
especially with yourself. As soon as you are able to accept the truth and release the resistance, incredible energy is let loose, which previously concealed your so-called “dark” qualities. Only then can authenticity and freedom build outside you.
Who knows: maybe what you perceive as dark and gloomy is a radiant light to others?
Do not run away
You need neither intensive training sessions nor cigarettes. Take a few moments, breathe, watch and go deeper.
- When was the last time you felt something like this?
- When did you feel it for the very first time?
- In what situation? Can you remember the people, the surroundings, the scents?
- What can you learn from this situation? What actions can you take from now on in your life?
Set a new focus for this topic
Just as you change the frequency on the radio to listen to other stations, you can change your personal frequency by shifting your focus in a positive and bright direction with the corresponding belief.
The way you feel will test this belief. If you feel good, affirm the belief! Make it part of you!
Behind every shadow and every trigger is the possibility of converting darkness into power and radiance. Not all challenges will be dealt with during the first attempt! However, you will start feeling more confident in your decisions (viveka) by exercising regularly and find the courage to take responsibility for all those situations that challenge you.
Do not be perfect! Be brilliant
Perfection is the absence of mistakes – that’s what we learn at school, where only mistakes count. The pressure to be perfect consumes a lot of energy and makes us defensive. Perfectionism shines only on the surface. There are no perfect families and children and no permanent, complete job success. Do not be perfect. Instead, utilize the possibilities of learning from mistakes and growing. Authenticity brings the freedom to develop the qualities and skills that make you shine. This is directly linked to the joy and a contagious ease – enlightenment.
We spend our entire lives moving between the two forces of light and shadow, sometimes even feeling trapped. Without light there is no shadow, and no shadow without light! The river between the two poles is our process of transformation. These two opposites create boundaries, structure and ultimately our personal path, our Dharma and sometimes our Drama. They show us how to achieve our “personal best”. For me, yoga is the gas pedal on the way toward light, but we don’t bypass the dark on this way. It leads right in the middle.
Vera Birkenbihl says in one of her lectures that the word “enlightenment” gives us a little hint where the journey will take us. The key is in the component “light”. By accepting big and small shadows alike, we attain LIGHTNESS and come closer to the great goal of ENLIGHTENMENT and freedom. And isn’t lightness in your life already something in itself?
An important, ancient mantra expresses this desire for light and the anticipated liberation.
Om Lead us from the unreal to the real,
from the darkness to the light,
from mortality to immortality.
Om Peace Peace Peace
Further books and reading staff
“The shadow journey into light – How to overcome depression” by Ruediger Dahlke
“Light for life – The yoga vision of a great master” by B.K.S. Iyengar
“In the dark – My life without light” by Anna Lyndsey
“The light in you – How we can use the greatest life strength” by Siglinda Oppelt