During our recent EmBODYment playshop one of the themes that emerged was the need for acknowledgement and integration of our “shadow”, or parts of ourselves that we find unpalatable, and often bury or repress as a result. These “issues in our tissues” may arise during healing and body work and need to be addressed, not so much with repeating the old painful stories or wounds over and again in excruciating detail, as that will just keep us in the energy of the problem, but more importantly, with complete presence with the energy of the feeling or emotion, mixed with ample tenderness toward self.

While many participants had really high consciousness states of joy and lightness of being, it is not enough to have a “bliss breakthrough” once and expect it to last without also doing the energy and spiritual practices and the resulting personal work as it arises.  So I decided to share the rest of the quote I mentioned in our EmBODYment playshop about enlightenment and shadow work. I wish I had written it 🙂

In her book “Embodied Enlightenment” spiritual teacher Amoda Maa writes:

“The striving for spiritual attainment while excluding the personal dimension of life is a big error. Ignoring unresolved psychological contractions is a danger that is frequently overlooked in the process of awakening. Of course, for some, awakening happens spontaneously even when psychological contractions have not been faced, but it doesn’t make your problems go away! Your life mostly continues along the same groove, and this is fine if there is a deep acceptance of that fact and you don’t expect any particular expression of your life to change.

What happens all too commonly, however, is that there’s a denial that there are any remaining inner blockages to attend to. When we disown the parts of ourselves that we believe to be unacceptable or unenlightened, they get thrown into a metaphorical shadow-bag. When these unconscious inner forces remain unacknowledged or unexamined, they inevitably take possession of the pristine peace of the unconditioned awake state and play havoc with our internal and external environment. These unconscious inner forces can become troublesome because they’ve been pushed away for so long.

Eventually, they will reveal themselves in distorted and catastrophic ways. Mental and emotional breakdowns are a symptom of this, as are power struggles, inappropriate and even abusive sexual relationships, and hidden greed or corruption. If there has not been an honest opening to all psychological contractions, then inner division will continue, even if you are awakened.

This is especially so in the initial stage of awakening, when the ego easily takes ownership and obscures any suppressed energies. If this subtle identification with the awakened state remains hidden, the full integration of awakening into ordinary life, as it descends from mind to heart to body, is hindered. Even Buddha had to sit under the Bodhi Tree, immovable, while Mara, the Lord of Darkness, tempted him with desires and tormented him with fears, before enlightenment became his living reality. Jesus had to meet his demons in the desert before he could abide permanently in the light of true spiritual awakening. The embodiment of awakeness requires a healing of inner division. This is more likely to happen if body-mind contractions are fully met and dissolved. Here, psychological work can be a great support.

Awakening is not about self-improvement; it’s about the intelligent investigation of hidden inner dynamics that may otherwise remain inaccessible. While awakening can happen in any moment, it doesn’t necessarily unstick things in the human realm or heal any woundedness that may be held within the subconscious. There is a need for the integration of the shadow, especially in the Western psyche. Where there is a pervading culture of dysfunction and abuse that solidifies the belief in the wounded self and stories of victimhood, there is still a constructive role for therapy that can facilitate the meeting of painful feelings that are habitually avoided. Anxiety, depression, traumas, and addictions can all be invited into the meeting place of psychology and non-dual spirituality. Here, there is a gentle allowing of all energies while pointing to the unconditioned space of awareness throughout it all.

When trauma or emotional suppression run deep, energetic blockages can often more easily be released through bodywork within the same context of awareness. In the vessel of love, without expectation of any particular outcome, there is a natural unfoldment and stabilization of awakened consciousness.

Many people hope that awakening will make all the pain disappear. But the wisdom and humility to allow support where it is needed, even after awakening, is a great support in itself. It is inevitable that the personality and sense of self reappear within awakened consciousness, and there may be ensuing disappointment or confusion, especially if there is unresolved trauma or addictive patterns and no previous inner work has been done.

Whether support comes in the form of therapy, the continuation of meditative practice, the reflection of unconditioned awareness from a spiritual teacher, or an openhearted conversation with a friend, the willingness to meet all that continues to reveal itself with tenderness is what matters. The invitation here is for you to do what needs to be done, without agenda. Very often we barter with life or with God, thinking that if we roll up our sleeves and dig into the dirt, we are guaranteed permanent enlightenment. But the embodiment of awakening is not a bartering system, because awakeness has no “self” invested in it.

The invitation is for you to allow support where necessary, to be honest with yourself, to be willing to be humble and tender, and to support awakeness as it seeks to become embodied through you, as you.”

A big shout out to all who are on this awakening path, with the courage to ask for support where needed, and the willingness to meet all aspects of our divine and human selves with great tenderness.

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