By Raven Fon
I was recently discussing the differences between light-work, and shadow-work to a dear friend of mine, who had the idea that light-work was good, and shadow-work was bad. It seems to be a common thought running around. Perhaps it is because most people assume only good things happen within the light, and therefore only bad things must happen within the darkness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When it comes to shamanic practices, light, shadow, and dark do not hold connotations of good or evil. They just are.
While light-workers definitely do their share of helping people and inspiring personal growth, those who perform shadow-work and dark-work do as well. The Shaman’s Hearth describes the varying differences within each of these levels:
“Light work. The most common forms of shamanic work and the most generally useful. Practices include journeying for guidance for another, sometimes just counselling and generally working on behalf of another if entering the shamanic journey states of consciousness. Herbal medicine, physical therapy and the like are also in the realm of light work.
Shadow work is where one starts to work with other agents and other entities on behalf of a client. Soul retrievals are one of the best known of the shadow practices. This work is deeper, requiring not just work on behalf of those being aided but often with those being aided and other forces and entities within that person’s life. Healing in normal terms is light or shadow work.
Dark work is the deepest or most arcane of the shamanic practices. This is where one is dealing directly with entities other than the client, or in realms where the client is lost. Possessions, clearings, exorcisms and the like are the realm of dark work.
Think of water, the deeper it gets, the darker it gets.”
So what does shadow-work entail? Well, I like to think of it as a way to bring out and put attention towards the negative aspects of ourselves. Our tendencies to manipulate, belittle, and lie to ourselves and others, as well as the behaviours and patterns we would rather ignore, are all a part of shadow-work.
Connie Zweig, PhD says this about shadow-work: “In most therapies, you deal with abstract feelings, such as depression, anxiety, grief, and out-of-control behaviors, such as addictions, procrastination, repetitive fights. But with Shadow-work, you learn how to personify these into specific, concrete figures that you can see, hear, and feel within you. In that way, it becomes much easier to make the unconscious conscious — to seduce them into awareness, recognize them when they erupt, and make a conscious relationship to them, so that they lose their grip over you.”
And yes, it can be an unpleasant experience compared to a light-work journey, but certainly just as therapeutic. Life doesn’t always take place on a smoothly paved road, and sometimes the storms we encounter are just as beautiful as the sunshine.
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