“With inner work [your ego accords] every element of life, including the dark elements…a place of dignity and worth.”
–Robert A. Johnson
If spirit persons throughout history are right when they say the nature of Divine Being is light and love, why can’t we see and feel it? Because our shadow blocks the light! Unfortunately, we can’t see our shadow either. In fact, we find the very idea of it difficult to comprehend. So how do we handle something we can’t see and don’t believe in?
Luckily, we each have an inner ally who can help. The Warrior archetype is a powerful pattern of psychological energy with the courage, commitment and self-discipline to show up to work every day. It wants to be active but it only has so much energy so we need to prioritize. We can begin by asking ourselves these questions:
1: What job(s) does my Warrior have now? In other words, what occupies the majority of my time, thought, activity and will power? My job? Family? Home? Appearance? Social standing? Relationships? Hobbies? Addictions? Making money? Acquiring material objects? Pleasing people?
2: Does using my Warrior’s energy these ways bring joy, meaning and fulfillment or do I yearn for something more?
We have two basic life tasks. During the first half our job is to acquire power and success in the material world. Our Warrior’s energy is meant to be directed into socialization, education, perfecting our skills, and establishing a comfortable home, satisfying job and loving relationships. Using some of our energy to disown what we consider negative while trying to act positive and loving is often helpful during this time, but it’s not enough to connect us with the mystery of Divine Love.
If your answer to #2 is that you’re still unfulfilled and yearning, you’re probably near the second half of life. Dissatisfaction at this time comes from having repressed some of our valid, and often valuable, potential. To complete ourselves we need to give our Warrior the new job of freeing our unlived life.First, we need to become intentional about acknowledging our true feelings, especially those which feel dangerous, for they are among the more accessible symptoms of our shadow. Then we need to begin a committed program of regular inner work that will help us see and restrain it. Inner work is a big job, in fact it’s THE big job, and it continues throughout our lives. Most of us find it painful at first, but it gets easier. Spirit persons have always demonstrated that growth pains are preferable to the child’s fear of switching on the light in the closet of nighttime monsters, for that is a choice to remain in spiritual darkness.
Inner work requires our Warrior’s commitment to practice, practice, practice! It can be anything that brings self-knowledge, empowers us to make healthy choices, and provides purpose, meaning and spiritual direction. Examples include journaling, dream work, active imagination, meditation, and psychotherapy. For more information, I highly recommend Robert A. Johnson’s Inner Work. Growing mindful of how and when our shadow shows up is like creating a special road map that highlights unnecessary detours and obstacles, and directs us to safer routes. No one else can make our roadmap and we can’t complete it for ourselves without self-knowledge.
“The theme of solar mythology is a great battle between light and darkness, good and evil.”
Befriending the dark side seems counterintuitive to most people today. After 4,000 years of conditioning by the Sky god’s mythology, our Warrior is far more comfortable trying to obliterate it! But when the sun of our life begins to set and the moon begins to rise, lunar mythology, with its theme of integrating dark and light, is meant to take over. Dialogues with our soul open our hearts. With practice they bring self-acceptance, humility, compassion, forgiveness and love. These qualities connect us to our Source—the Divine Ground in which we and the universe are immersed—and allow it to manifest its love for us. When we accept ourselves and learn to love, our shadow’s power ebbs away and holiness flows in.
You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
Photo: Antique Map of Hungary, Braun & Hogenberg
Photo: Fijian Warrior, Graham Crumb
As usual, your words are helping me prioritize and be conscious of what my work is. How do I say “thank you” to you for all you’ve been through? All I know I can say is thank you for being your best YOU!
I’m glad my words are helpful, Cindy. Thank you for seeing and appreciating what I’m trying to do! 🙂 Love and blessings to you.
Reading your post has reminded me that no matter how much or how little attention I’ve paid to inner images, whether in dreams or that come to me during the day, they continue their work in the unconscious, the process continues. It’s up to each of us whether or not to make this process conscious so that we can become more of what we already are. Thanks for helping me to become more aware of this.
Thanks for making that excellent point, Paul. The waking images that show up in our fantasies and reveries are every bit as valuable as the dreaming ones. Either way, they come from our unconscious so are reflections of some aspect of ourselves. It’s all about being intentional and mindful, isn’t it? I appreciate your stopping by.
Slowly, ever so slowly over the last four years, i’ve noticed that the ‘inner work’ has taken up residence on the main stage of my life and has become as you describe, THE big job. Today as I approach my 50th birthday I feel as though my life is being cut in two (before Jung and after Jung!) in order for me to begin again. These are exciting times as I find myself slowly eating my own life and arriving at a wonderful realisation that I am ‘food’ for myself.
Thank you Jeanie for sharing yourself so generously with us. Your words help me feel so much less alone in the work, the echo of them keeps me warm in my heart. I know I’m a long way from home. Thank you for paving the way and showing me where I might consider putting down my next step. Just ordered the book!
Oh, Deborah. Your words bring me so much pleasure. I was in my mid-forties when I began the work too! That’s when I had this dream. I love your shorthand for the two distinct eras: B.J. and A.J.!! I’m definitely going to have to adopt that! And I love your poetic realization that you are food for yourself. So beautiful. Thank you very much for ordering my book. I hope you’ll let me know if and how it helps you with your practice! Love, Jeanie
I brought your wonderful, inspiring book many months back Jeanie, I was referring above to your generous recommendation of ‘Inner Work’ by Robert A. Johnson….I scanned my book shelves and noticed it wasn’t there! I recommend your book to everyone I know. oxox
Aaah! THAT book! 🙂 Well, you won’t be sorry. It’s one of the earliest I read and among my favorites. I thought you meant Dream Theatres of the Soul. Someone else just told me they bought it after this post, so it’s the one that was on my mind. xoxo
Jeanie, this post is perfect for me today. I feel the necessity of prioritizing and figuring out where I want to put the warrior will in my life. I can’t do everything at once. I never could, but youth helped me force my way through. I’m also planning a ritual for a mythology class to mark the liminal threshold of Samhain or All Soul’s Day. In a writing exercise, we’ll explore where we find support and light within the darkness of the outer world and ourselves.
I recently wrote a blog about dealing with an elder relative who triggers shadow energy for me. I want to help her and keep my own balance, self-protection, and kindness? I feel uncomfortable when people speak of only light and love as though it is simple and there is no opposite. I’m interested in your thought that the shadow’s power ebbs away and light flows in. I have moments of that, but I also grapple with projected shadow energy and “having my buttons pushed.” As Pema Chodron says, “Don’t bite the hook,” but sometimes I take the bait. It’s always a mistake. Since I know these upsetting incidents will be funny later, why not find the humor now? And why not hold gratitude for these lessons I need to polish my rough edges?
Thank you for stirring up and clarifying so many ideas,
Thank you for these very rich and thoughtful comments. I also grapple with projected shadow energy and having my buttons pushed. But over the past 25 years I’ve gone from being a very serious-minded, self-critial perfectionist who found her shadow to be an unbearable burden and was totally in the dark about why it got empowered or what I could do about it, to easing up on myself for having a shadow and finding it easy to forgive others for theirs. My shadow will never disappear but I’ve made peace with it for the most part, and am generally pretty light-hearted. I see this attitude as being similar to your ability to find the humor in upsetting incidents…something I could rarely do 25 years ago.
I know I will always flow back and forth between high tide and low tide, dark and light, because both exist in me. But I’m not at the total mercy of changing tides and dark nights any more, I forgive myself more easily for being human, and after a dark episode I find comfort in knowing the light will soon return! This is what I mean when I say that as the shadow’s power ebbs away the light (by which I mean understanding, acceptance and mindfulness) flows in.
I read your latest blog post about your elder relative and was very impressed by your spunk! (I love that word! It makes me think of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.) You appear to be honest and respectful about sharing your feelings and opinions without being harsh or overly attached to outcomes. That sounds like the kind of balance and mindfulness that come from a lot of inner work!
This is a wonderfully sublime and insightful post which effortlessly offers guidance to ones inner knowing, therein; I personally extend a very big thank you for sharing such life changing alchemistic wisdom, sincere regards, Barry
You are most welcome, Barry. And I thank you so much for your kind and affirming words. You’ve made my day! Blessings, Jeanie