Updated: Jun 3, 2020
In a hologram, even the tiniest piece of the hologram contains a complete picture of the whole. Likewise, everything we see outside ourselves is contained within us. By illuminating those parts of ourselves we have disowned, we become more whole and reflect a higher vibration out into the world.
By Cynthia Gomez, The Gaia Revolution
Police are shooting peaceful protesters in the face with nonlethal rounds that nonetheless cause injury. They are pepper-spraying children and arresting news reporters. White nationalists are instigating a race war by setting buildings on fire and breaking into businesses to incite looting. The National Guard has been activated as curfews go into effect, and martial law seems just around the corner. Anti-fascists have been classified as terrorists, while the Ku Klux Klan remains off that list.
There is so much pain and so much chaos, so much ugliness that may feel like the exact opposite of who we are, or try to be. Yet, we must not look away. For this country and arguably the world, now is a time for collective shadow work, and to use what is happening outside of us to more clearly see inwards. Let's call upon the courage it takes to do this work, for it must be done.
What is Shadow Work?
In Jungian psychology, the “shadow” refers to the unconscious aspects of our personality that the conscious ego does not identify with. It is the side of us that we keep hidden in the shadows, often even from ourselves. We have disowned that part of ourselves because it doesn’t jive with the version of us we’ve chosen to embody. All of us have shadows, and shadow work to do.
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole,” said Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. To cast light on our shadows is to acknowledge more of us, to call in more of our power, and to live from a place of nonduality. On the other hand, to ignore our shadows is to allow ourselves to be susceptible to all that we have disowned, for those traits are always peering out just behind the corner. It is why so often, we are our own worst enemies.
We may have an easy time identifying the things outside of us that we don’t like in others, and more generally, in the world, yet have blinders preventing us from seeing how those things are, in one way or another, a part of us too. What is outside us is within us. As above, so below. This is why shadow work is the most sacred work any human being can undertake. As we change ourselves, we reflect a higher vibration out into the world. We live, after all, in a holographic universe.
Use Your Mirrors
Finding our shadows requires understanding that EVERYTHING outside us is a reflection of something within us. We must be willing to take a hard and humbling look in the mirror. “Wait, wait,” you may say, “that can’t be true. There are things I see in certain others, that are most definitely not a part of who I am.” No, friend. Look deeper. Look longer. Change the angle from which you look into the mirror. Do not let the discomfort of your cognitive dissonance keep you from this sacred work.
This is not some new-agey, hippie poop. A 2,500-year-old collection of books unearthed in Egypt contained, among other things, the original books of the Bible that were left out of the New Testament when Emperor Constantine condensed that part of the Bible in the fourth century. One book, The Book of Thomas, which is thought to consist of the teachings of Jesus as they were dispensed and received by the scribe, talks about the three mirrors. These mirrors are a toolkit for doing shadow work. You see, the shadow self is good at hiding. Sometimes you have to change your angle.
The mirror of the moment is the first mirror discussed in this book. It’s probably the mirror you’ve heard discussed. It says that our environment is a reflection of who we are. In the case of our current environment, the outrage of the protesting masses may mirror your own, or maybe illuminate how other systems unjustly influence your life. What does the unrest going on currently show you about yourself? Maybe you say, “Well, I’m not a racist — I never committed a hate crime, or even used a racial slur — so what does the ugliness of racism have to show me about me?” Maybe you’re not racist. But do you have other inherent, subtle biases? We all do. Poke around and see what you find. Do you claim to not see color without taking time to understand how that discounts the lived experiences of people of color and makes you blind to the America they inhabit? Are you apathetic in the face of injustice, as those cops who did nothing while a colleague murdered a man? Ask the hard questions, and refuse to flinch.
The second mirror shows you the things you judge. Are you judging the protesters as “violent thugs?” Are you condemning the looting happening? Why? Why are you putting property over lives, over the desperate need for reform? Why are condemning what you see without first investigating what those who study inequality say about it — those whose opinions are much more well informed than yours? What does the answer to those questions tell you about yourself? Is it so difficult to imagine a reality that would drive you to revolt? What does that look like — that place or set of conditions where your life and your loved ones’ lives are so under attack that you would be willing to burn everything to the ground for justice? Why would it be OK for you, but not for them? Some questions may apply, while others may not. Keep digging.
The third mirror shows you the parts of you that you compromised or gave away — the things you’re subsequently lacking. This is the most complex of the mirrors. Sometimes, it’s what makes others attractive to us; they have the pieces we are subconsciously missing. We surround ourselves with joyous people, for instance, because we have lost our joy. We surround ourselves with passionate people so we may remember what it’s like to fight for what’s just. This mirror isn’t always so kind though. For instance, some of us have wished to be more forgiving, having known bitterness for some circumstance or another, so we are presented with people who give us the opportunity to forgive, by wronging us.
A Pathway to Unity
Ultimately, mirror work brings us into a state of unity, of seeing our oneness through our diversity. Tonight, I am reminded that we are to love our enemies, and forgive those blinded by hatred and apathy, because ultimately, we are all shards of the same mirror reflecting back to each other. We all have been, in some way and at some time, ignorant. We all have been, in some way and at some time, blind to our true oneness. I stand in solidarity with my black brothers and sisters calling for justice, because although I do not know what it's like to be black, I know what oppression looks like, and I don't want that for any living being.
As the country devolves into further chaos and violence, I see people uniting to create a better, more equitable world, and I see those vibrating at a lower frequency attempting to sow discord and incite violence. It’s beautiful and horrifying all at once. It’s the phoenix diving down, aflame, so that it can be rise from the ashes, a better version of itself. Will you embody the phoenix, casting spotlights on your shadows to create a better reflection? Be relentless in your inquiry until finally, you see your shadows clearly, looking back at you.
Sometimes the shadows are what you expect, and sometimes they surprise you. And then? Then you hold your shadow's hand lovingly and bring it into the full light of day, and you forgive yourself until there is only love where darkness once lurked. Looking in the mirror is rarely pleasant, but it’s necessary if you want to be a part of the solution, of creating a better world.