Embracing the Shadow & the Power of Self-Knowledge

08b12f677e35630a9b1c3adbd1ff8f1cAs you begin the process of digging deeper and deeper into your family tree, a paradox emerges – you may find out things you didn’t want to know, and may even feel you cannot bear. Not every ancestor or family spirit is light and cheerful; some indeed are dark, and heavy. The rewards of accepting and embracing these can be priceless. Why?

As you accept and acknowledge the ancestral energies into your own spiritual court, the energy of this acceptance through some mysterious alchemy actually seems to travel back in time, to relieve the burdens your own family may have been carrying unacknowledged for centuries, weighing down successive generations as with so many boulders: unacknowledged grief, fear & pain; untold stories, unrequited loves and lives unlived.

Like a flower blossoming or a frozen limb uncurling, you may find that as life is breathed back into your own family tree, the spirits themselves relax, becoming more helpful, reasonable and alert; and you too may begin to embrace your own shadow.

Now, what is the shadow, anyway? As Jung noted, every one of use carries with us a part of ourselves we cannot bear to look at – a hidden repository of fears, dreams, and secrets, potential ways of being that could transform our lives if only we could look at them honestly and accept them for what they are. Most of us of course, never take this step – it’s simply too frightening. So instead we live our lives as though always slightly underwater, or in a trance – each day the same as the one before it, tormented by worry and too nervous to take the risks we need to in order to truly transcend ourselves and become something greater.

Accepting the good, bad and the ugly of our own spiritual court – the ancestors both noble and degraded, the ambiguous spirits of place and nature, and even (or especially!) the black sheep – can help us find a healthy balance between self and world. Because this so-called “dark side” – the side of human nature so few of us willingly examine – in many ways represents our own primal nature as a species – that part of us which fights on by any means necessary when all else fails, and without it, we soon wither and die.

For this reason, I don’t think of it so much as “elevating” your ancestors as expanding them – for our task is not to separate them from the concerns of this world, lifted up into some sort of abstract realm of bloodless perfection – but to empower them (and thus ourselves) to have and enjoy the full, human range of action and emotion – to walk this planet fully alive, integrating into ourselves both light and shadow, selfishness and generosity, ecstasy and bliss.