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  • Writer's pictureIlin Shieh

Shadow and Light Work

Lately I had been called to do a lot of “Plutonian work,” or shadow work in metaphysical terms, the “if you find yourself in hell, keep walking” work. It draws on the idea that spiritual work is incomplete without psychological work, and that early-life experience inevitably becomes the invisible hand that rocks our adulthood cradle. We can walk towards the light all we want, but it would be counterproductive without releasing the energy drains of the past. There is tremendous power in recognizing the origin story and tremendous opportunity in raking the muck as a way to explore meaning and purpose.

Juxtapose that with spirituality, the transcendence beyond ego. There is solace there as if looking at clouds from above. Participation takes the form of light flooding the corners of darkness. On this track, we have spirituality itself and ending suffering as the end goal. The suggestion is that ego is the origin of suffering, and even beyond dropping the ego, we don’t need to figure out its content and have a relationship with it. We can actually choose not to have a conversation with the mechanism itself. So spiritual work points to the awareness of the sub-personalities and not needing to engage in their stories. There is tremendous lightness in that.

Both psychological and spiritual work ring true to me, both resonate deeply within me. For me to integrate both, I approach them through the lessons of neuroplasticity and negativity bias. The middle path is then recognizing shadow work, but not submerged in it so much that we become trapped in hopelessness, or become more and more entangled in developing a complexed relationship with the contents that we defeat our journey’s original purpose. Submerge in darkness as necessary for depth and meaning, but as suggested by negativity bias that says our brain is wired like teflon for positivity and velcro for negativity, we must go towards the light five-to-one for healthy balance and replenishment.

So in meditation today, sitting with my sub-personalities, seeing them one by one and recognizing them was a heart-warming experience. There was the choice to see them in the unabridged Plutonian spirit, and there was a knowing to interact with them from warmth and compassion without dissecting the content or needing to engage in discourse with projections. The experience then feels like a fruitful one of mirroring and witness.

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