In the seven years since an overnight spiritual awakening catapulted me into a surreal peace with a months-long afterglow—followed by years of increasing hyper-synchronicity, mini-miracles and rare but intense episodes of suffering—I have learned two true things:
Nothing is static, especially enlightenment. And awakening to true nature does not mean liberation from the personality (and it’s shadow) but rather a new relationship to it.
In a private message, a new friend asked this about me, today: “But I wonder about the shadow…What do I not see? What does she hide from others? Are there things she rejects about herself? How would that play out?”
Well, in full disclosure, let me answer these questions.
But I Wonder about the Shadow…
Prior to 2011’s awakening shift I saw my shadow most glaringly in the dynamic of romantic union, mainly I suppose because I had been on an eight year serial monogamy jaunt with four lovers, ending with one new husband, now an ex and a dear friend.
In the post awakening zone, I had a whole new crew of dance partners, most notably gurus, prophets and bliss babes. They were the perfect mirror it seems for the parts of my personality that lurked in the shadows until the glaring spot light of you’ve-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me events.
So, let me tell a few hair-raising stories. In some I am the victim, in some I am the hero, in some I am the villain. In all of them, I am none of these.
What I Hide From Others
If I am like you, I hide my greatness most of all. I hide it from myself and then project out into the world in the form of a super hero in whose presence I can bask with gratitude for my great luck and privilege. In exchange, I expect nothing less than perfection.
My first encounter orbiting my own hidden greatness was a year long relationship with a guru-figure. To know how out of character this was for me, especially post awakening, I refused to be pigeon-holed into the label of devotee, student or follower. Instead, I internally referenced myself as his friend and supporter.
Yet, this was no casual guru love affair. As I write in an unpublished memoir, “This was a higher order swoon than the dopamine high of sex or the oxytocin rush of pair bonding. This love was ethereal if not heavenly, and it felt like basking in the afterglow of the best massage you ever had while sipping exquisite champagne and reclining in the arms of a beloved viewing the sunset of a lifetime. You know, insanely blissful.”
When it went south, it did so with the all the drama of a first rate soap opera. In my view he was the villain, the one who morphed from a beloved into into a controlling, autocratic and devotion demanding narcissist. I was hell-bent on defending those in the ‘sangha” that he treated poorly until of course, predictably, my non-compliance and rebellion meant I was next on the hit list.
My shadow? Imagining virtue in being right and believing facts could save the day.
There was a part of me that confused facts for truth, and that by painfully and repeatedly illustrating to him and others that I was being wrongly accused, I would be rightly justified. (I tried to write about this once prematurely here. I was still not seeing the big picture).
I look back now and see the many gifts of this shadow dance The biggest gift was the death of my inner trial lawyer. Because in the way of 20-20 hindsight I can see that while this guru’s facts were wrong, the essence of his attack on me was right. I was a lazy and half-hearted student and I was not committed to him the way he wanted me to be.
Facts are a sledgehammer whereas truth is a feather. If you feel clobbered by someone wielding facts you can pretty well assume they are missing the mark. If you are doing the clobbering, step back, breathe and wait for the feather to appear in your hand. Then, and only then, apply truth gently..
What Do I Reject in Myself?
If you are like me, you reject your most brilliant and blazing gifts. And because these gifts are pushed down below the surface like a beach ball held under water, eventually they surface with a splash. A breaching gift can look wondrous or hellish depending on whether the surfacing is invited or uninvited.
Let me illustrate.
I can be a compelling and charismatic leader. It’s one of my blazing gifts. I can turn it on or off at will. I turn it off (or press it underwater) when I am afraid I will lead people over a cliff or direct them down a treacherous path that I would not myself travel — in other words, that I would lead someone astray. For years, I kept the charm mostly off from a fear of being a reckless pied piper.
Then one day two years ago I met a woman who was a far more charismatic and dangerously careless a leader than I ever imagined or feared I could be. But at first glance she projected the aura of a bliss babe and her brand was unconditional love.
I fell so deeply under her spell that I invited her to live in my home.
In domestic proximity I saw the bliss babe mask fall away. I was confronted with a manipulative and angry woman in its place. The contrast was stark, and in the weeks it took for me to ask her to leave, I began to see how this contrast was my worst fear about myself — that my capacity for magnetic leadership might be matched by a talent for manipulation.
It took seeing my shadow play out before my very eyes as Reviled Other to recognize that while I can and do have the ability to calculate, plot and ploy, that I also have an equal capacity to witness this shadow part and keep it in check.
I am still learning to trust my Charismatic Good Leader self and I am aware that every “bad leader” I intimately encounter is more evidence that I am still dissolving that shadow within me in the light of witnessing Other Behaving Badly.
What Do You Not See in Me?
If you are like me, you can’t even begin to guess what others see or do not see in you. All you know is what they do not see in themselves — because it shows up in what they adore about you and what they despise in you.
I had the recent experience of being around a man who believed himself to be a prophet. His mask was that of humility and earnestness. He promoted a brand of prophecy hitched to the mechanism of synchronicity. Synchronicity is my thing, so I jumped on his bandwagon for a few months happy to play along.
Then one day, things began to shift: He declared that the synchronistic messages he was getting applied to everyone, all the time — and that the synchronistic guidance you were getting on your own was wrong. He was the new “lawgiver” with signs for all. If you didn’t buy in, you were out of the grace field. If you doubted, you were under the influence of a mind parasite. Bottomline message: Don’t trust your own divine uplink, trust mine.
This Moses complex took me by surprise and so I began to balk.
One day, on a You Tube live stream, after I poked and podded this man with my questions, he snapped: The mask of peaceful prophet of God fell away and in a rage, he accused me of being a fraud (and oh yeah, a pathetic bitch).
After the shock wore off, I realized what he most likely saw in me was his shadow.
His own fear (or knowing) that he was a fraud in his role as prophet was projected at me. And at the same time, I was given the gift of inspecting my own fears of being fraudulent, of not being transparent, honest and real with my readers, my You Tube viewers, the participants in my courses, and my clients. Because if I am honest, there are days where I feel I need to hide my emotional struggles, or put on some lipstick and blush to distract from my exhausted face, or to be a voice for optimism even when I am feeling wretchedly pessimistic.
How Does it Play Out?
The shadow of the human psyche plays out the same way—it’s relentlessly predictable. Just when you imagine your sainthood, some crafty, nasty, fearful, ugly, angry and mean part of you pops out of the woodwork. Surprise! Or not.
This divine play of god is not for the faint-hearted.
As you awaken, you begin the courageous journey of self scrutiny and self love. Not that new-age kind of self-congratulations, but rather the tender love a mother has for her young child or the mirthful acceptance that comes when we can laugh at the drama instead of cry.
Because at last, you simply do not take your self seriously or your life personally.
Vicki Woodyard speaks of this in her latest book, The Edge of Enlightenment. “When I totally accept every event, every flaw, every demerit, I will rise above the personal. It can be no other way. You cannot shed your shadow. Ask the sun”
What you see in me and don’t see in me is what you see and don’t see in you. It’s that simple, really. And one day, when all you see in me and all I see in you is love, then we have arrived together to what is real beyond our shadows, farther than our projections.
Rumi says it succinctly: “As you live deeper in the heart, the mirror gets cleaner and cleaner.”
Your’s in the magic of awakening,
Lori Ann — PS: Guess what? I’m offering a new online course this fall, Soul Unleashed. Curious? You can get on the early bird notification list HERE.