During my walks, I play a game with myself. I look around me, and see what catches my attention and then I focus and reflect on that one aspect for the entire 30-minute duration of my walk.
One sunny afternoon, walking in the light, my attention was captured by my shadow.
As I walked and observed, insights flooded my mind:
- My shadow was created by my body/physicality blocking the light of the sun, the main source of light on our planet.
- As I moved, my relationship to the light changed, as did the shape and position of my shadow.
- When I walked in the shadow of an object that was larger than myself, my shadow was swallowed up by the larger shadow, and I didn’t see it anymore. When I walked on the shadow of an object smaller than myself, my shadow engulfed it.
- Sometimes I could not see my shadow because it was behind me. Just because I didn’t see it, didn’t mean it wasn’t there! If I looked back I could see that it was still there, faithfully following me.
- In order to see my shadow, I had to be in the light. If we are in total darkness, there are no shadows, and we lose our equilibrium and sense of self.
The simple exercise of focusing on my shadow deepened my understanding of the contrasts and relationship between light and shadow that constantly interacts and coexists side by side. It also opened up a whole new awareness of the light and shadow aspects that co-exist side by side within me, and in my relationships.
For example, in my relationships and interactions with others, if their shadow issues were greater than mine, I often get sucked in by their dramas and tend to lose my sense of self and perspective. At other times, my issues might consume others around me and suck them in.
My shadows are usually the parts of myself that I don’t particularly want to acknowledge. This shadow side includes my fears and insecurities and all the aspects of myself that I don’t see and don’t want others to see. But life does not allow us to exclude and ignore the truth about ourselves. It makes certain that we are given opportunities to see and acknowledge these shadow parts of ourselves.
That’s where other people in our lives come in. They act as mirrors through which we can see the shadow parts of ourselves. Like shadows, mirrors are only effective if you are in light. No light...no reflection!
Take a moment to reflect on the people in your life – your spouse, your children, your siblings, your parents, your friends and your enemies. They are the mirrors through which you are given the opportunity to see the truth about yourself – to see the shadows within you. What do you like about them? What you don’t like about them. What are their qualities that attract or repel you? What do they do that makes you feel good? What do they do that makes you feel bad? What about them annoys you? What endears them to you?
Now reflect on yourself ... honestly. (If you are not honest, you will totally miss the point of this exercise.) You may discover that the things you like about them are also the things you like about yourself or things that reflect your own potential. The qualities that you don’t like in them may well be the qualities that are your shadow qualities that lurk in the dark places within you. The others around you holding up a mirror to you, so that you are able to see what you need to see and change what you need to change within yourself.
For example, if there is someone that you admire greatly, this person is reflecting the possibilities that are hidden within you. If there is someone in your life who is unable to be present to you, s/he may be reflecting your inability to be present to yourself.
If there is someone who makes promises or creates expectations that they don’t fulfill, they may be reflecting your own inability to keep your promises to yourself and others.If there is someone who is a control freak, and is constantly tells others what to do, they may be exhibiting a lack of control over their life and in turn reflecting your need to be in control of your own life.
The fact that they draw your attention means that something in you is resonating with them, and calling your attention to similar qualities or vibes within yourself. Both shadows and reflections affirm the light surrounding you that makes it possible for you to see something about yourself that you need to see, that you may not see without the help of others, who are mirrors that reflect our light and shadow aspects.