While the yoga class I was teaching today enjoyed savasana, I was reflecting on how my shadow was the single most influential force to bring me to yoga and meditation. I often experience my shadow bodily, as physical sensation. Ray (2008) says “the totality of the darkness exists in the body in an enfolded state” until consciousness is ready to become aware (pg. 264). The body contains the wisdom, as well as the wound. My recovery from PTSD stalled at one point when I struggled to access the rage that lived within me. While the many other symptoms had subsided through traditional therapeutic methods, the terrible lifelong unexplained physical pain in my hips and legs remained. I had a sense that this was where my rage lived and turned to yoga from, as Ray (2008) points out, “a compelling need to open and free [myself], whatever may be the cost to [my] ego” (pg. 266).
Yoga gave me access, without which transformation was impossible. My experience of the shadow tends to move then from the body and into a “symbolic metaphor”, where, Preece (2006) writes, it can be “symbolically expressed” the energy is transformed by the symbols polarities, by its ability to “hold the tension between the light of consciousness and Shadow’s darkness” (pg. 183).
I work with the metaphor through bodily movement and creative expression, sometimes imaginal only and other times through writing and art. Through these practices, and the challenging and rewarding experiences of communing with the shadow, my life is enriched and I find myself unable to categorize it as a bad or evil force but the tension between wisdom and ignorance. I’m also unable to live a full life without the information it holds and while I resist it still at times my body always gives me away and sends me to the mat where I can meet my shadow anew.
Preece, R. (2006). The psychology of Buddhist tantra. Ithaca N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications.
Ray, R. A. (2008). Touching enlightenment – finding realization in the body. Sounds True.