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A participant in the “Befriending Our Shadow” e-course described a dilemma she was facing in choosing a theme for her doll. She said, “I have some ideas but nothing feels right.” I asked her to describe one of the ideas that didn’t feel “right,” and she said, “one aspect of my shadow is ‘feeling like a couch potato’.” But she thought that idea was too superficial and on one level, maybe this was true. She didn’t want to settle for the “easy” thing, she wanted to get to something more real and meaty.
You may be facing something like this in your day-to-day life….you have a big project that you want to attempt, but every time you start, something keeps you from taking the first steps. You just can’t figure out the “right” way to approach it. After careful consideration, you have enough self-insight to realize that your search for the right thing may be a way to avoid getting started. But then it occurs to you that the very most important next step is to take a very long nap. Most likely this means you are dealing with some aspect of the shadow. Nothing wrong with naps of course.
First thought, best thought?
There is a saying, ‘first thought, best thought,” and in the example above, the participant and I discussed how even though “couch potato” could in one way be seen as a superficial theme, there may be something deeper, if she became willing to delve below the surface. We are dealing with shadows here and they can be notoriously trickster characters. They can hide in plain sight or they can morph into the opposite of what you think they are. We can spend endless time searching for the “right” way to do things, yet sometimes we do just need to jump in. Sometimes the first thought is the best thought. Sometimes you have to be willing to do the dance with the shadow, to hold it lightly.
Are you a planner, comfortable with detail, or are you a jump-in-feet-first kind of person?
Another challenge for this participant, a gifted and highly skilled artist, who is especially good at carefully planning out her artworks, might have been that her planning skills were getting in the way. Because we are in the realm of the shadow, a place where planning can go out the window, where our highly skilled and experienced left brain mind has absolutely no idea how to proceed. What to do then? People who are more comfortable jumping in head first and without a plan may have a slight advantage here, but maybe not.
The shape-shifting shadow has a way to get at the non-planners as well, leading them into a path of confusion, with idea after idea piling in on top of each other, higgelty-piggelty. Someone who “usually” approaches problems without a plan, when facing their shadow, may most need to learn to set up parameters, structures and boundaries. Take a moment and consider which is your habitual way of approaching problems? Neither way is better than the other-they’re just different. Side note, what I have noticed in myself is that there are areas of my life where I tend to be the feet first jumping in kind of person, ie with art-making, especially doll making. But out in the real world I tend to be more of a planner.
Maybe this idea is the start of something bigger but you just need to chip at a small piece of it to start?
I don’t know yet what the end of this story was for this participant. Was the couch potato idea the way to go? Maybe this idea was a non-starter and yet maybe it was instead a doorway to something more profound. The idea here is that we have developed strategies for dealing with the usual problems in our life, the things and tasks that occur with regularity. But when confronted with something completely new, we have to start from scratch. And at first it can look like just one big huge couch potato weighing down on us. How to get started? Maybe we just have to start with one tiny bite out of the potato.
Starting where you are
What would that look like? In the class we did an exercise where we looked at the layers of the shadow. You may have tried something like this yourself, a dialogue with your ideas.
1. Use your dominant hand to ask questions and respond to the question with your non-dominant hand.
2. Write down one layer of your "shadow"-a part of you that you are wanting to ignore and ask, "why does this bother me?"
3. Keep going with "why" questions to see what is underneath the shadow.
4. Eventually you may get to some sort of "gold" some insight into what your shadow might be hiding from you.
This is best done in a spirit of lightness and without any expectation of definite answers. Eventually you may get to a place with new information and even possibly a place where you feel a sense of connection and ease.
“What is meant for you cannot miss you…what is not meant for you cannot hit you”
I am participating in a program that is led by a Sufi healer, Mark Silver and he recently shared with us an idea from his Sufi lineage. The idea was profound and yet simple, “what is meant for you cannot miss you, and what is not meant for you cannot hit you.” This idea resonated with me deeply and I have been thinking of it ever since. We spend so much time trying to figure out what the right actions might be, to take this path or the other path. To focus on one area of a problem or another? To work with this person or someone else? ad infinitum. But instead, what if we can just rest into opening the door right in front of us? What if we just trust that we will be guided as we take the steps along the path?
This doesn’t mean throwing away our thinking mind, or planning mind. This part of our brain is extremely useful. But it does mean using our thinking mind in conjunction with a pretty good relationship with the mysterious and the unknown. My highly visual mind sees an image of someone walking hand in hand into the sunset with a very large but strongly grounded on two feet, potato. I wish them well.
Goal is wholeness
Because ultimately the goal is wholeness. That’s what we really want. What a gift it ultimately is to be faced with new paths and new problems, because if we didn’t have that, how would we grow? I have a couple new ideas for e-courses in the works but I’m not ready to talk about them yet. The Befriending Our Shadow class that I talked about above, will be offered again in the spring. I have had several people ask me about in-person classes but those aren’t happening any time soon, with the levels of infection going up across the country. Sending love to all of you and hoping you are able to stay safe and comfortable but that you are also finding ways to challenge yourself with new experiences. Lots of love.
Transformative Healing Dolls
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!