Posts Tagged ‘shadow’

Turning Away from Jake and Towards Myself

January 31, 2017

Change was in the air. Like a hot, muggy July night in the Midwest, it had enough weight and substance for me to taste it.

I knew I needed to let go of Jake. I could tick off more than a half dozen reasons for it, but as Lady Gaga had so pointedly said in her song, “Million Reasons,” even when we have plenty of reasons to go, sometimes it only takes one good one to keep us sticking around, whether or not sticking around is a good idea. I had more than one reason to not turn away from Jake: I genuinely liked him; we had fun when we were together and even when we just texted; there was juicy chemistry between us; and we had shared a particular kind of intimacy with a level of abandon and depth that was not easily replicated. I dragged my feet.

When Jake texted me on New Year’s Eve, I thought it a good opportunity to end things. It didn’t take long for the texting to spiral into sexting. I pointed out that the possibility of ever getting together again was slim since I was unwilling to be a last-minute backup plan when what he really wanted to do fell through, and he was unwilling to schedule me in. I expected his reply to admit that it was an untenable situation. Instead, he agreed that scheduling time together was a respectful thing to do.

But it didn’t happen. Texts between us came and went.

Strangely, one night as I was thinking about Jake and reaching for something in my nightstand, a recording my late husband had made many years earlier started to play, spontaneously. The recording accompanied a photo of Howard and me. He had made it before going to Iraq in late 2004 to train cops as an independent contractor. It was his voice reciting a bit of lyrics from the song “You Do Something to Me” in a Transylvanian accent. He knew it made me laugh every time he sounded like Bella Lugosi saying that I had the power to hypnotize him. All these years later, it was tinny but still audible. I kept it in a small cedar box in my nightstand, buried under other things. It was implausible that it could play by itself because it had to be opened and a button had to be pushed for it to play. But play itself it had. I knew that he was sending me a message, but I wasn’t sure what that message was in the moment. It later became clear.

Finally, four months to the day after our first meeting, I sent a text essentially ending the relationship with Jake. In true Jake style, he responded to the message with understanding instead of just blowing me off. That willingness to engage in communication was a part of what I found so endearing about him.

But it was over, and I found myself pensive about it. At the bottom of it, Jake had been unavailable, and that made me think about the many men in my life before him who had been unavailable, beginning with my father.

Does it always come back to a woman’s father? Maybe so. My father’s unavailability was the result of his introverted nature coupled with the psychological and physical detritus from his World War II experiences that nudged him towards alcoholism. I’d been twenty-seven when he died, and I regretted not having his company and his counsel during more of my adult years.

The other unavailable men in my life, from my first husband to those with whom I’d been in relationship before my second marriage, had been unavailable for a handful of reasons. None of them were unavailable by virtue of marriage to someone else. I didn’t like messing with another woman’s man. They had been unavailable because a man cannot be available to you if he is in serious relationship with his own demons, whether psychological or chemical. After breaking up with a man I deeply loved but whose relationship with drugs–primarily marijuana–took precedence over his relationship with me, I had joked that the half-life of my bad relationships was improving because it had been whittled down from more than a decade to a matter of months.

Even my second husband, the man I’d loved for the twenty-five years preceding his death, was seen by his best friend as something of a lone wolf. He had not been the easiest man to live with, but he had opened to me and been available to me more than he had to any other woman in his life, and the marriage worked.

Now, six years after my husband’s death, I was again contemplating my tendency to be with unavailable men. Derek had surely been unavailable. So had Jake. They were examples of something I had discussed many times with apprentices and others with whom I had done shamanic work. As we face, heal, and clear away the remnants of our internal shadow and everything in us that we’ve put in place for purposes of defense (usually subconsciously), we experience something that is not so much like the peeling of an onion as the peeling of an artichoke’s layers. There is nothing left when the onion is fully peeled. In purely esoteric terms, I could argue the validity of that. But in more human terms, what is left when the spikey outer petals of an artichoke are peeled, then the more tender inner petals, and then the hairy choke, which is bitter and inedible? Beneath that is the artichoke heart, which is perfection.

Invariably, before we reach the perfection of the authentic self (which I argued can be approximated but maybe not completely achieved in this life), we undergo many initiations. And usually, when we rather arrogantly think we have it mastered, we reach the mother lode of what must be faced, the internal equivalent of the hairy choke.

But even when we have made it through that initiation, enough energetic remnants of that bitter obstacle remain that we find ourselves cycling around to it again and again, usually at more profound levels each time, and sometimes, if we’re lucky and have done the work, it is just a challenge and test to our mastery.

The issue of unavailable men was up for review one more time.

But this time, I saw it for what it was in Jake–an external representation of something within me that needed facing and working through. And I knew that clearing those energetic remnants was something I was ready to do. Just the acknowledgment of it transformed most of it.

But was I available? My travels with an open heart across the past ten months had tested and refined my availability. I believed I was available.

I was finally ready for a man who not only suited me in many ways, but one who was available. And I was available to meet him and travel openheartedly with him. It had taken my entire life to accomplish, and whether or not that man showed up in this life, I was ready for it.

Note: The names Jake and Derek are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.

Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall

Towards an Evolving Wholeness, Part 1

February 19, 2014

What do I mean when I use the term “evolving wholeness” and refer (as I did in “Shadowland, Part 2”) to seeking a sense of wholeness? Words are slippery things, and nowhere is that more true than when using them in a psycho-spiritual context. Do I mean “authentic”? Yes, authenticity begins to get at it. But if being authentic is being genuine, true, and a real representation of something/someone, then true to what, a real representation of what? And does being genuine encompass enough? For that matter, does “whole” quite get at it?

I want to be clear about this before delving into the issue of how one accomplishes this sense of wholeness. The kind of authenticity or wholeness I am pointing at (and we can only manage the equivalent of pointing at the moon here) is one that represents the person as both fully human and thoroughly divine. It is the self exposed, without layers of persona, with the shadow revealed, with the dysfunctional parts in the process of being healed. We’re human. There will be some persona. There will be some shadow. There will be some dysfunction. But when we are seeking an evolving wholeness, we are seeking to become as true to pure soul in flesh as possible. And it is evolving because we are not fixed, but evolving.

Another way of saying this is that when we are evolving in wholeness, we emanate (not approximate, not give the appearance of, but emanate) more of what I believe is the prima materia of the universe: love.

In my model of the way things work, there is no one route to wholeness, no single right way to become the highest human version of ourselves. The road back to ourselves is the same road we took when we fled ourselves, and that road is unique for everyone. But there are some time-tested methods that may be helpful to the pilgrim on that road. And this will be the subject matter for the next few posts.

Two very simple things can help anyone on that road. They may not meet the test of sufficiency, but they could easily be considered requisite. They are centering/grounding and clearing. I have discussed both of these in earlier posts (centering and grounding in a January 16, 2009 post and hucha clearing in a January 31, 2010 post), but they warrant a repeat discussion. They are that important.

When asked, many people will say that they know how to center and ground. But I have often had the experience of being met with silence when I ask a person who says they know about centering and grounding for the specifics of how they do that. I’m going to provide a very stripped down, simple version of it here.

Centering and Grounding

• Stand in a relaxed posture, spine straight, knees soft. (Once you have learned how to center and ground in a standing position, you will find that it is easy to also center and ground from a seated position. Just be sure your spine is straight and your feet connect with the floor or earth.) Close your eyes if you wish.
• Notice your breathing. Allow it to become relaxed. Allow your belly to expand on the in-breath and contract on the out-breath, but don’t work at it. Just relax into it.
• Turn your attention to that part of your body that is about two inches below your navel and just in front of your spine. This is your center. Just turning your attention to it will center you.
• Now, maintaining the awareness and stability of being centered, imagine that you are a tree. Image your roots going deep into the earth. Feel the solidity of your tree self, stretching upwards to the sky and sinking deep into the earth. Nothing can uproot you easily. You are well anchored. You are grounded.
• Take a moment to feel the power of being centered and grounded before returning your attention to the larger world around you. Bring that sense of being centered and grounded with you.

There are many ways to clear yourself energetically, mentally, emotionally, and/or physically. Here is one simple way to clear yourself energetically.

Clearing

• Stand or sit in a relaxed posture, with your spine straight and feet flat on the floor or earth. Center and ground.
• Feel or imagine your energy body, the bubble of energy that surrounds and is a part of your physical body. Notice anything that is dark, heavy, cloudy, overly hot or cold, or otherwise less than vibrant and healthy.
• Allow your crown chakra (the energy center at the top of your head) to open. Invite pure, divine energy to permeate your energy body, traveling from your head downward, taking anything that is dark, heavy, cloudy, overly hot or cold, or otherwise less than vibrant and healthy with it.
• Let that pure, divine energy carry the energetic debris all the way down your body and out through your feet, traveling past floors or ground, deep into the earth. Know that Mother Earth will gladly take this energetic debris and transform it into clear, pure, usable energy.
• Allow that clear, pure energy to rise up from Mother Earth and permeate your body.
• Continue this process until you feel clear. Express gratitude to the source of the pure, divine light and to Mother Earth.

These two practices will not, by themselves, take you all the way on the road back to yourself, but they can help you make your way back and help you stay on that path, moving along. They are self-validating. You will be able to experience the positive effects of employing them.

If you are already on the path towards evolving wholeness, perhaps you will recognize me on your way. If you are not yet on the path, step onto it and join us.

Copyright 2014 by Melanie Mulhall

Shadowland, Part 2

January 12, 2014

Catching yourself in the act of thinking or behaving in a way that is based on something you have repressed or denied—shadow—is a beginning. But what do you do next? And is awareness enough? 

The first thing to do when you catch yourself in shadowland is to be kind to yourself. Self-recrimination seldom helps. By that, do I mean that you should never feel guilt or remorse? No, that is not what I am saying. Guilt and remorse can alert you to the fact that some thought or behavior does not square with your internal value system, your sense of appropriateness and integrity. But as mechanisms to alert you, they need to be attended to and then put aside. 

If you use an alarm clock to alert you to the fact that it is time to get up, do you let it continue to beep after you wake up? No. You turn it off. It has done its job. Imagine telling yourself that you need to let the beeping continue, just to make sure you don’t oversleep tomorrow.  Or worse yet, imagine deciding that you need to let it keep beeping just to punish yourself for not getting up without it. To do so would be an act of aggression against yourself. And do you really need to be at war with yourself? 

Use that moment of awareness as an opportunity to be kind to yourself. Also use it as an opportunity to look at the choices you have made and consider whether you might want to make new choices. Those choices might be straightforward and simple or they might complex and challenging; they might be easy or difficult to enact. At the very least, appreciate the fact that you have actually caught yourself in the act of thinking or doing something based on old defense mechanisms. Without having done that, you would not be in a position to make new choices. 

This is no small thing because awareness means vulnerability. To be aware is to open yourself to being touched by both the external world and the internal one. There is a quality of defenselessness to that and, therefore, vulnerability. And once you have had that moment of awareness, there is no going back. You cannot become unaware of whatever it is you have just become aware. You may shut that awareness down and try to retreat to the cocoon, but you cannot eradicate that moment of awareness you have just had. 

Further, awareness has a way of expanding. You don’t simply become aware of your own internal state of affairs and your own behavior, you begin to become more aware of the world around you. And you don’t simply become aware of everything painful and problematic, focusing only on that, nor do you simply become aware of what is uplifting and delightful, focusing only on that. You become aware of everything, and you allow yourself to be touched by everything in that awareness. You will find that you are up to the challenge, that you can actually allow yourself to experience life as it is without dying or becoming overwhelmed and retreating. Abandoning the armor, even just at times, frees up an enormous amount of energy, and having freed up energy feels good. 

It is a beginning. As you become aware and make new choices, you become cognizant that you are interacting within two important relationships: the relationship with yourself and the relationship with the world (or more accurately, the relationship with everything other than yourself). Not only do you become aware of these two relationships, you may even become aware that within each of these relationships, you are interacting with what is visible and physical and with what is invisible and nonphysical (or energetic). 

As your awareness expands, it helps to avoid intellectualizing about it and just enter into a state of curiosity. Each of the relationships you are becoming curious about has dimensionality, a kind of dimensionality that transcends the three dimensions we usually think of. Each has depth and breadth. That is, each can be shallow or deep, broad or narrow. But neither a cube nor a sphere describes them. A spiral, expanding in both directions but otherwise in the form of a double helix, might be a better image, though even that does not quite capture it because any kind of spiral we can image is locked into three dimensions. 

What are you seeking, whether or not you realize it, through these relationships? You are seeking a sense of wholeness. But this is not a fixed wholeness, it is an evolving one. And how do you attain that sense of wholeness? You attain that sense of wholeness by healing yourself and your relationship with everything else. This is an interactive affair. As you heal your relationship with yourself, it impacts your relationship with everything else, and as you heal your relationship with everything else, it impacts your relationship with yourself. 

Awareness begins the process; an evolving wholeness is what you are pulled to.

Copyright 2014 by Melanie Mulhall

Shadowland, Part 1

October 6, 2013

When you begin to catch yourself responding to life (yourself, others, events, the world you touch up against) in predictable, defensive ways and it makes you a little uncomfortable, that discomfort means it’s time to explore what you have been repressing and denying within yourself—your shadow. Can you still flee? Of course. But one of three things will give you the courage to avoid fleeing if you’re ready: the weariness you feel about the life you’ve been living, the pull of Spirit forward, or both.

Why do you need to face what you’ve been repressing and denying? Because it points the way to what needs to cleared, healed, integrated, unearthed, and otherwise dealt with so you can live more through your authentic self. And why go to the trouble to do that? Because anything else consumes a lot of energy. Because nothing else produces quite the same feeling of joy, aliveness, and peace—all rolled up together at the same time. Because you cannot really fulfill your mission in this life without doing so.

There are many ways to invite your shadow to sit down and have a talk with you. One is to play an adult version of hide and seek with yourself. Catch yourself in the act of hiding. What form might that take?

It’s often easier to see this in others than it is to see it in ourselves. At work, you may have seen it in the form of an employee or coworker who denies having made a mistake that has just been discovered, one they definitely have made.

“It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it. Jack had it after me.”

“I checked the calculations. They were correct when I turned them in.”

“The order most have gotten screwed up.”

“I told Mary exactly what to do and how to do it. This isn’t my fault.”

When someone is dancing or outright lying, you may be annoyed with them or embarrassed for them. You may wonder why they just don’t own up to the mistake. This behavior may feel particularly egregious when the CEO does it because s/he is supposed to be a model of good behavior, and the blame is often deflected to everyone below the CEO level or to uncontrollable events.

But what about when you are the one who has made the mistake? And let’s say the mistake is nothing that will bring down a company, the US economy, or your family’s budget. Let’s say, for instance, you were asked to personally contact six clients at work to give them the bad news that their orders are not going to be finished in the time your company had estimated. Delivery will be delayed. You make five of the calls, then are distracted by another problem and forget to make the sixth call. The client later calls your boss and rails at her because the order is late. He swears no one called him. When your boss comes to you and asks you about it, you can either tell her the truth or you can tell her something other than the truth.

Let’s say you tell her something other than the truth and you are immediately uncomfortable with what you have done. You’re not a sociopath, after all. Apart from not wanting to be on the receiving end of her wrath, apart from fearing you might lose your job (even though you’re confident you won’t for this relatively small infraction), what might be going on? Why did you lie?

When I was ten or so, I lied to my mother when she asked me to do something. It was rare for my mother to ask for help. She usually behaved as if no one but her could do anything she needed done correctly, so she did things herself. But she must have dropped her guard just a little one day, no doubt because she had plenty to do for my sisters, who were three and four at the time. She asked me to ride my bike to a neighborhood grocery store and buy some simple item in the particular brand and variety she wanted. She gave me the money for it. I set out on the mission, very aware of how unusual it was for her to give me this kind of responsibility.

But once in the little grocery store (these neighborhood grocery stores were not much bigger than your neighborhood coffee shop is these days), I couldn’t quite remember the details of what she wanted. I went home without buying anything. When she asked why I didn’t have the item, I lied and said they were out of it. The look of frustration and disgust on her face were harder to take than being struck by her would have been.

So why had I lied? I certainly didn’t want to disappoint her and I certainly didn’t want to be chastised for failing my mission. But there was more to it than that. I lied because I didn’t want to prove her right. I didn’t want to be the living example that no one but her could do things correctly. I lied because I didn’t want to be shown to be the dreamy ten-year-old I was (often lost in the meanderings of my mind). I lied because I didn’t want to be proven incompetent. I lied because I didn’t want to be a failure.

Did I understand all of this at the time? Well, I know I was extremely uncomfortable. And because I was a terrible liar, the lie was probably written all over my face. I felt shame. But I doubt I could have given words to my discomfort and shame. It was only later, with maturity and insight, that I began to address the fear that I would be discovered to be what I desperately didn’t want to be: incompetent and a failure.

Lying was definitely too uncomfortable for me to make a habit of it, but I spent a lot of years hiding out. The fear of being seen as incompetent and/or a failure became part of my shadow.

Most of us have a shadow self. Most of us have repressed and denied some things. And those things are often our deepest fears about ourselves. Shadowland has a large population.

To be continued.

Copyright 2013 by Melanie Mulhall